What is the lab?

The lab is a three-year research and knowledge generation project on how to measure and maximise labour market outcomes while working in value chains and sectors. The project is implemented by the ILO with funding from Swiss SECO.

It aims to advance knowledge on:
  • Evidence of the poverty reduction impact of work in value chains, focusing on the number and quality of jobs created;
  • How working conditions can be improved through intervening in value chains;
  • How to best select sectors to intervene in to create more and long-lasting employment in future, particularly where a ‘business argument’ can be made for improving working conditions;
  • How to transfer capacity for facilitation to national-level institutions.

The lab promotes a systemic approach to working in value chains. This approach takes the value chain as the centre of a market system, where the core exchange of products and services is influenced by an array of players, roles, rules and relationships. Projects seek to identify and work on the root causes, not just the symptoms, of why sectors are not currently producing more and better jobs for the poor - intervening to build the incentives and capacity of key players in the system to uphold behaviour change in the long-term.

The lab also supports the use of the DCED Standard for Results Measurement, which allows projects to build a system capable of ‘proving’ impact, particularly on the end-goal of job quality and quantity in a way that balances rigor with practicality; at the same time as providing the basis of a system to ‘improve’ impact that can monitor changes in incentives and capacity and zero-in on the ownership and sustainability of change.

Collaborating with the lab

Knowledge, products and tools generated by the lab will be empirical, based on learning from projects both within and outside the ILO.

The lab will partner with projects and countries that want to co-invest to better understand and assess the sector they are intervening in and the results they are achieving through their work.

What can we offer?

  • Support to carrying out market systems analysis, with a ‘quick scan’ methodology to identify and understand those sectors with the highest potential for sustainable labour market impacts;
  • Value-added services to ‘step up’ and improve M&E frameworks to both ‘prove’ and ‘improve’ results; as well as coaching to help projects comply with and pass audits against the DCED Standard;
  • Support to embedding capacities for effective market systems facilitation within key national institutions;
  • Support to projects interested in shifting from a narrower tool-driven focus to a broader market systems-driven focus in order to maximise prospects for sustainability and scale.

The nature of support from the lab will vary from project to project. It will likely centre around a mix of technical assistance (including in-country guidance and hands-on advice), co-investment to carry out research activities and fund-matching for national positions dedicated to furthering the lab’s knowledge creation agenda.

The lab will draw on a global network of practitioners in market systems and value chain development; and is run by a team with experience of managing large multi-sector market systems programmes and taking projects through successful DCED Standard audits.

How to collaborate?

Work with projects will be on a demand basis, with specific areas of collaboration discussed between the lab and projects and set out in Collaboration Agreements. Projects collaborating with the lab will be expected to:
  • Appoint a dedicated focal point to work with the lab;
  • Demonstrate a commitment to monitoring and measuring results, not just to ‘prove’ impact (for accountability to donors), but to ‘improve’ results (as part of a measure-learn-adjust approach to project management);
  • Have a willingness and ability to co-invest;
  • Be using, or have a desire to adopt, a systemic approach to working in value chains.

Disclaimer: The boundaries shown on this map do not imply endorsement or acceptance by the ILO.