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The current global crisis of economic exclusion and inequity has millions of people in poverty with limited opportunities to escape. The questions of how markets work, and who they work for, have never been more pressing.

Truly inclusive markets lead to expanded opportunity for more broadly shared prosperity, especially for those facing the greatest barriers. With support from The Rockefeller Foundation, we analyzed historical cases where such inclusive transformations actually occurred in order to understand the ways in which they were achieved. Using these insights, we offer practical recommendations for funders and intermediaries seeking to enable more of these shifts in the future.

Top Takeaways

  1. A single innovation being scaled is not enough for a market shift. Rather, these shifts occur as a result of many innovations coming together over time, interacting with and building on each other, in order for the market to evolve. 
  2. Innovations can occur in relation to 3 areas: business models and practices; formal laws, regulations, and policies; and informal norms that guide the behaviors of various actors.
  3. The complexity of this work requires an iterative approach, where strategies and goals are continually refined as the system is better understood and as the system itself evolves. Organizations must remain in a state of dynamic learning and adaptation to achieve more inclusive markets.
When we approach a market system, we should not think that we are bringing change to an otherwise static system. In reality, we are joining a system in motion, at a point on its journey, and with a range of possible future paths and outcomes.