Our purpose is to create a space for the unique bottom-up approach from micro-level foundations that this stream of work represents with a number of defining characteristics.
- Studying individuals and communities in these contexts in their own right and not as a means to another end, i.e., inside out
- Focus on consumers, entrepreneurs, and marketplaces in the broad range of low income – from extreme poverty to the lower end of lower-middle income
- Starting point of micro-level foundations of thinking, feeling, coping, relating, and sustaining
- Bottom-up approach to generating and aggregating insights
- For designing solutions
- For developing enterprise models
- For sustainable development
- An inter-sector, interdisciplinary orientation aimed toward an audience of researchers, educators, and practitioners in all sectors
- Synergies between research, teaching, and practice
- A multi-media portal that provides supporting material and presents voices from these contexts
- An active collaboration with practitioner partners interested in such insights
What are Subsistence Markets?
We use the term subsistence to cover the broad range of low income, covering individuals who are barely making ends meet. Whereas a number of definitions focus on such metrics as daily income in dollars, our orientation is qualitative in this regard, with the term subsistence emphasizing this focus and allowing for local variations that quantitative metrics aggregate across. As such, we also examine the edges of the phenomenon in terms of sheer survival at the one end of the continuum and movement out of poverty into lower-middle class status as the other end. This contrasts with relatively macro-level approaches such as macro-economic perspective that examine country and region level trends or meso-level business strategy approaches such as the bottom of the perspective, which examines issues of business strategy of organizations working in these contexts. Instead we adopt a micro-level approach and begin with life circumstances at the individual and community level, with a particular focus on marketplace interactions.
A Bottom Up Approach
Not all subsistence marketplaces are the same. Some exist because of conflict and oppression; others because of climate severity; others because of chronic apathy or for other reasons. Therefore, subsistence marketplaces cannot be approached in the same way for a number of reasons. That's why we believe in a bottom-up approach - one in which we examine consumer, seller, and marketplace behaviors as our starting point.