‘Making markets work for the poor’ (M4P) is a generic approach to developing market systems that benefit poor people. Interest in M4P is increasing but there are still many misconceptions over what it is and why it is important. This article sets out to address these issues. The foundation for M4P lies in real world changes, new conceptual thinking and learning from the wider experience of development agencies. More recently, the positive experience of M4P in practice - and the results generated - are a strong argument for the approach. From an operational perspective, M4P presents a framework to define market systems, emphasizes the facilitation role of agencies and offers guidance in each element of the implementation process. Although there are a number of caveats associated with it, M4P has considerable potential to bring about pro-poor systemic change.