Working With Lead Firms to Improve Value Chain
Competitiveness and Generate Sustainable Impact for MSMEs

In the field of private sector and value chain development, practitioners frequently come across dynamic firms that play a critical role in moving their industry, and other value chain participants forward. These include buyers, traders, agricultural input suppliers, processors, veterinarians, craft exporters, tour operators, etc. Through collaboration with these firms, development organizations (DOs) can generate positive impact for large numbers of small-scale producers that these firms transact with – that will be sustained through ongoing market relationships. The objective of this workshop is to present principles, tools and strategies for working with such lead firms (LFs) in a value chain framework.

The workshop will present:

  • Tools and criteria for identifying and selecting LFs
  • Guiding principles and good practices for working with LFs
  • Strategies for building the capacity of LFs to improve or expand the products, services or support they provide to MSMEs they transact with
  • Methods for soliciting and evaluating proposed LF initiatives
  • Tools for structuring and monitoring technical support and cost share agreements with LFs
  • Strategies that can be used by DOs to “facilitate” different kinds of LF initiatives
  • Typical mistakes that DOs make when working with LFs


Session 1: Opening and Introduction

By the end of the session participants will be able to:
  • Describe general terms and concepts related to:
    • lead firm characteristics
    • rationale for collaborating with lead firms
    • entry points of working with lead firms
    • where lead firms fit in value chain program design and implementation process
  • List key steps in working with Lead Firms

Session 2: Selecting Lead Firms (LFs)

By the end of the session participants will be able to:
  • List criteria for selecting LFs to collaborate with
  • Describe tools for identifying LFs based on selection criteria
  • Describe how structured interview guides can be used as a LF assessment tool

Session 3: Identifying and Facilitating LF Initiatives

By the end of the session participants will be able to describe:
  • the importance of facilitation
  • examples of LF interventions that can increase their competitiveness and ability to support MSMEs they transact with
  • factors to consider in evaluating proposed LF interventions as well as components of LF applications
  • examples of DO facilitation activities to support LF interventions
  • guiding principles for DOs working with Lead Firms

Session 4: Structuring LF Collaboration

By the end of the session participants will be able to:
  • Describe documents for DOs to structure collaboration with LFs
  • List components of successful MOUs with LFs
  • Describe and list elements of Addendums to MOUs with LFs (specific technical and cost-share agreements)
  • Describe tools for monitoring LF agreements


For me the workshop was perfect. I expected a detailed analysis of the collaboration between the MSMEs and LF’s and I honestly believe that the workshop answered a lot of my queries. The part about Facilitation will help me most in the future. The way of conducting the training was perfect.

My impression of this workshop – in one word – excellent. Content is excellent, facilitation is excellent.

This is new for me. I got value chain program design training before but there was a gap for me in linking the procedure of Lead Firms with value chains. So it is very much helpful for me to complete value chain activities.

An eye opener, helpful in knowing the do’s and don’ts when dealing with Lead Firms. It was informative, participatory and had good practical examples and cases. It was appropriate to the needs of my organization and exceeded my expectations.

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