Business Development Services (BDS) programmes have become big business for international donors and NGOs. Focusing on small enterprises in developing countries, the current BDS approach assumes that the development of commercial markets is the key to success. Yet many of these programmes continue to have a limited impact. A review of modern theories of innovation and services marketing management suggests that this may be because current BDS support practice reflects a rather limited understanding of how new markets actually develop. Drawing on the insights that these theories offer, the authors suggest that BDS practice should develop a more evolutionary approach, recognising that service innovations develop through active, on-going interaction between suppliers and customers. The article concludes with practical policy guidelines and a discussion about tools that could help BDS to adopt this more successful approach.
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