The Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative seeks to develop and disseminate actionable knowledge for creating sustainable solutions for subsistence marketplaces. The radically different context of subsistence and the emphasis on sustainable solutions provides a very challenging setting for research, education, and practice in management. Our work is at the intersection of subsistence and sustainability, and the lessons learned are likely to be useful in all contexts to collectively face the challenges that confront humanity. The foundation for our work is deep engagement in research, educational, and social initiatives in specific locations in North and South America, East Africa, and India.

Unique to our approach is a bottom-up orientation that begins with a micro-level understanding of buyers, sellers, and subsistence marketplaces. We adopt a marketplace rather than a market orientation, viewing subsistence contexts as more than markets to sell to, rather as individuals, communities, and preexisting marketplaces to learn from. Our focus should be distinguished from macro-level economic approaches, and mid-level business strategy approaches such as base-of-the-pyramid (BOP) research. Our goal is to understand and enable the progress from subsistence marketplaces to sustainable marketplaces, i.e., marketplaces characterized by sustainable production and consumption that enhance individual and community welfare and conserve natural resources.

Our work on subsistence marketplaces over the course of more than a decade and a half has created unique synergies between research, teaching, and social initiatives. In all three arenas, our work involves engagement of students, businesses, and social enterprises as well as a diverse set of faculty and campus entities across different disciplines. We have also created forums to connect a community of researchers and practitioners and enable outlets for publication. We describe our initiatives in the rest of this website.

The history of our project is shown in the following timeline.