JPPM – Subsistence Marketplaces

Special Issue of Journal of Public Policy and Marketing on Subsistence Marketplaces


Overview of Topic

The term “subsistence” connotes the everyday struggle on the part of low-income individuals, households and communities to meet life’s basic needs. Much of the world’s population exists within subsistence marketplaces and a great deal of public policy has focused on improving the quality of life of individuals in these settings. Specifically, subsistence marketplaces consist of communities of consumers and entrepreneurs living at a range of low-income levels. Such communities are concentrated in developing countries and economies around the world (e.g. Brazil, India, China, Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa). Subsistence communities also exist side-by-side with more affluent communities in developed nations. “Subsistence marketplace” as a term also represents a mindset focused on understanding subsistence contexts in their own right, not merely as markets to sell to or as contexts for policy initiatives but as individuals, communities, consumers, entrepreneurs, and marketplaces from which to learn.

Distinct from macroeconomic approaches, or relatively meso-level business approaches to poverty (such as the Base-of-the-Pyramid approach), the subsistence marketplaces approach takes a micro-level approach to gain bottom-up understanding of subsistence consumers and entrepreneurs. Such a micro-level perspective has the potential to provide insights into market and policy initiatives that complement perspectives from macro-level and meso-level approaches.

By unpacking the life circumstances of people living with low income with particular emphases on marketplaces, economic systems, and related policy implications, this approach has led to grounded insights on thinking patterns associated with low income and low literacy; as well as affective elements, decision-making, relationships and marketplace exchanges, consumption and entrepreneurship, and market ecosystems. Such insights have been used to derive implications for product development, enterprise models, public policy, and sustainable development. The work reflects the bottom-up approach of deriving meso- and macro-level insights based on a nuanced, micro-level understanding of the phenomenon. Additional information is available at

In keeping with the mission of the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, this special issue seeks papers that identify policy implications of research and theory that focuses on and stems from an understanding of micro-level phenomena in subsistence marketplaces. While purely macroeconomic approaches to such marketplaces do not fit within this call, papers at the meso- or macro-level that are explicitly linked to the micro-level are welcome and encouraged. The goal of this special issue is to be inclusive, but with an explicit emphasis on the bottom-up approach to understanding marketplaces, policy, and the public interest that is often neglected in the study of poverty.

Background of Related Conference Series and Stream of Research

This call for papers especially welcomes papers presented at the Sixth Subsistence Marketplaces Conference held June 17-19, 2016, but it is open to any contributor(s) regardless of participation in this conference or prior conferences in this series. In the last decade, the Subsistence Marketplaces Conference has been a leading forum for evolving and sharing research and fostering best practices in subsistence marketplace communities. Specific themes of the sixth conference included:

  • Sustainability and Consumption from the Bottom-up
  • Disruption, Technology, and Innovation
  • Survival, Subsistence, and Transformative Entrepreneurship
  • Institutional and Organizational Dimensions of Enterprises and Partnerships
  • Subsistence Narratives, Incentives, and Agency
  • Integration and Visioning in Subsistence Marketplaces Research
  • Traversing Theory and Practice
  • Curricular Innovations

These themes span a number of issues that impinge on day-to-day living and basic needs of members of subsistence economies and the broader global community of which they are a part. Additional information about the conferences is available at

Suggested Topics

Potential topics may include the following:

  • Consumer behavior in subsistence marketplaces
  • Entrepreneurship in subsistence marketplaces
  • Substantive domains of subsistence (e.g., water, sanitation, energy, food)
  • Emergence of marketing systems
  • Environmentalism of subsistence consumers and consumer-merchants
  • Issues of environmental justice relating to subsistence marketplaces
  • Sustainable product design for subsistence marketplaces
  • Inventing and re-inventing new products and services for subsistence marketplaces
  • Organization design and re-design for operating in subsistence marketplaces
  • Collaborative models for business innovations
  • Supply chain and distribution challenges and opportunities
  • Pricing for value and sustainability
  • Marketing communication and education
  • Innovative research methods
  • Economic and financial perspectives on subsistence marketplaces (e.g. financial literacy)
  • Health, well-being and justice in subsistence marketplaces
  • Merging social and business missions through social innovations
  • Incorporating business practices in nonprofit organizations developing social innovations
  • Social innovation alliances and partnerships among NGOs, governments, and businesses

Other topics are also welcome. As noted in the JPPM guidelines for authors, papers submitted to Journal of Public Policy & Marketing should be explicit about the contribution to marketing and public policy (e.g., what policies are informed, which policy makers would find results useful, what is demonstrated or implied for policy decisions). In the context of this special issue, as consistent with the mission of JPPM, the term “policy” is used in a very broad sense and is not restricted to government actions; it also includes policy implications for NGO’s, corporations, professional associations, and religious organizations, among others. Policy may also include encouraging or facilitating market or other non-governmental mechanisms to work through regulation and/or de-regulation, incentives, facilitation, social marketing, social entrepreneurship or other approaches to improving quality of life and promoting public interest.

Submission Deadlines:

In order to assure publication of the special issue of JPPM in the fall of 2017 the timeline and deadlines for this special issue will be strictly followed. All papers will be peer reviewed. Papers in the review process will be rejected if the timeframe does not allow for timely revisions. However, such papers may be referred to the editor of JPPM for further review through the Journal’s normal review process.

  • October 1 to December 30, 2016: Deadline window for paper submission
  • February 28, 2017: Feedback to authors after peer review
  • April 15, 2017: Deadline for revised submission
  • June 30, 2017: Final deadline for subsequent revisions

Publication Submission Requirements

As per JPPM guidelines, which may be found at: