How might we equip Heifer International leaders to disrupt traditional market systems so that they include and benefit the poor?

Preparing Country Leaders to Disrupt Market Systems


For more than 71 years Heifer International’s direct intervention approach has included livestock donation, training, and community development. While this approach has successfully helped millions of individuals across the globe, the organization has recognized a need to increase its scale so it can impact more of the 800 million people living in extreme poverty worldwide. To do this, Heifer plans to combine its direct intervention approach with indirect, facilitative market systems approaches to leverage a multiplier effect in the coming years. However, Heifer country leaders have a wide variation in knowledge of and comfort with market systems. As a result, the Heifer leadership team faced a challenge in designing a Global Leadership Summit that built a shared understanding of market systems amongst all and resulted in a mutual understanding of needs between country teams and Heifer International Headquarters.


Heifer invited GKI to serve as a strategic partner in designing and facilitating the Heifer Global Leadership Summit. In November 2018, over 140 Heifer International leaders from across the globe arrived in Little Rock, Arkansas for the 3-day summit. GKI designed sessions to equip participants with an understanding of market systems and the mindset and tools to disrupt those systems to benefit the poor. First, participants were led through a general overview of market systems development. Then, GKI utilized the case learning approach to draw from the experiences of several Heifer country teams. GKI presented several interactive sessions to help participants understand how to analyze a market system and implement inclusive, facilitative interventions using adaptive management approaches.

“Market systems analysis poses many challenges…[But], the bigger the challenge, the bigger the opportunity.” ~Pierre Ferrari, President and Chief Executive Officer, Heifer International

To turn learning into practice, participants went through a half-day action planning process. Participants mapped out their priority goals to determine what actions needed to be taken when and by whom to hold one another accountable for reaching those goals. Over the course of the Summit, participants (1) learned about the foundational concepts of market systems development; (2) tested new ways of analyzing market systems; and (3) developed detailed, time-bound action plans to guide their use of market systems development in their programming in the coming weeks, months, and years to come.

Results / Outcomes

  • Facilitated the Heifer International 2019 Global Leadership Summit, focused on equipping over 140 participants with knowledge about inclusive market systems development.
  • Directed participants through building a systems map that depicted actors, resources, and interventions in the market system
  • Guided participants through a process of analyzing the resources they have and the resources they need to achieve their goals.
  • Developed an interactive resource-sharing session resulting in over 200 ideas for resource allocation shared amongst participants.
  • Supported Heifer’s country and regional teams to commit to three goals that support the adoption of market systems development approaches globally.