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  • Aju Nyachhyon, Market System Analyst, Local Consultant, Nepal

A Unified Whole – Market System Symposium 2023


Aju Nyachhyon, Market System Analyst, Nepal

MSS2023 Scholarship Recipient (MSS Scholarship Program supported by Supported by Feed the Future Market Systems and Partnerships Activity (MSP))

Context setting from Mike Field, Senior Systems Specialist, Vikāra Institute:

Maybe one of the more important elements of the Market Systems Symposium in 2023 was the greater focus on building a pipeline of emerging systems thinkers through the rollout of the Scholarship Fund.  There have been a lot of conversations about the challenges of building a pipeline of good systems thinkers that can effectively apply systems-thinking approaches, but not a lot of coordinated industry action.  While the conversations have taken some odd turns especially related to an overvaluing of individual leaders, there is no question that building a robust career pathway for systems thinkers in development is essential.  The blog provides important insights into why and how the symposium and other events can and should be an important component of such a pathway.  Hopefully, the focus on building a pipeline of emerging systems thinking talent will continue and expand, including even more scholarships being made available for next year’s symposium.   


Since collaborating with Vikāra Institute in 2022, I've been a keen follower of their insightful posts and innovative work. They have a knack for making even the toughest concepts easy to understand, like with their awesome Market Systems Development (MSD) cartoon series. Plus, Vikāra’s workshops are always super engaging. So, when they awarded me a scholarship to attend the Market Systems Symposium (MSS2023) in Cape Town, I was over the moon!

Getting there was a whole story in itself, though. There's no South African embassy in Nepal, so applying for a visa requires applying through the embassy in India. Deadlines were tight, it was peak season, and everything felt crazy. Luckily, with the help of some amazing people—the supportive South African Consulate in Nepal, a kind visa agent in Delhi who made things happen, a reliable travel company, and the awesome folks who brought my passport back to Nepal—I made it!

The Market System Symposium 2023, hosted by Vikāra Institute in Cape Town from November 13 to 15, brought together over 270 market system professionals from 80+ countries. The event delved into key themes like climate change, conflict-affected contexts, and food systems & security. From plenary sessions to deep dives, the discussions were rich and diverse, covering topics like inclusion, adaptive management, disruptive technologies, and more. Networking during breaks was engaging, and the breakout sessions on food systems, disruptive technologies, and climate finance were eye-openers.

The Deep-Dive session I participated in on the complexity of challenge funds hit close to home, addressing issues I've encountered in Nepal. Valuable insights like the need for a "bad boys and girls club—the risk-takers, the boundary pushers" in MSD projects and seeking solutions beyond the usual patterns stuck with me. In the enlightening Burning Issues session focused on migration and MSD, I gained profound insights into numerous causes and effects of migration globally. The discussion on trade-offs between value chain specific interventions versus commodity agnostic programming was particularly engaging, exploring the pros and cons of each approach.

The symposium went beyond my expectations as I witnessed the versatile application of MSD in sectors beyond agriculture. The practitioners from the housing sector, skills and employment, and renewable energy introduced captivating dimensions, sparking meaningful discussions. This means that the system's thinking space is growing, and that too for good.

In conclusion, the symposium was a fantastic gathering of systems thinkers from around the globe. The picturesque location, stimulating discussions, fruitful networking, and abundant learning made it an unforgettable experience.

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