May 24-27 (or 28), 2019
Mount Meru Hotel
Arusha, Tanzania


This is an informal description of the thinking behind the second subsistence marketplaces bottom-up immersion conference. We invite you to read and consider participating in this unique, one-of-a-kind forum.

Conference Description

The stream of subsistence marketplaces has pioneered a unique, bottom-up approach to research, education, and practice at the intersection of poverty and marketplaces. Building on seven biennial conferences and one immersion conference in the last 12 years and accompanying publications, we now announce the second immersion conference on subsistence marketplaces. True to the bottom-up approach that characterizes the subsistence marketplaces stream, this new series of conferences is envisioned to take place in different continents over time, thus providing an opportunity for researchers, educators, practitioners, and students to engage directly with urban and rural subsistence marketplaces, through conversations and observations.

Our second immersion conference will be held in Arusha, Tanzania, with field visits in rural, semi-urban and urban settings, such as to tribal communities, as well as social enterprises.  This is enabled by the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative, University of Illinois, the Marketplace Literacy Project, USA, and OIKOS, East Africa, who have worked together for more than five years with tribal communities in the Arusha region.

Why is this conference unique?
This is a bottom-up immersion conference. What this means is that we emphasize field interactions. If we are truly bottom-up in the subsistence marketplaces stream, then our forums should push further and be spent in the field as well, gaining bottom-up insights.

What will happen at the conference?
We will spend much of the day in the field, then return to the city of Arusha to reflect and regroup for the next day. We remain fluid in allowing ideas from the participants and insights from the field to emerge and guide the process. Our process is bottom-up in this aspect as well, but guided by much experience, which will provide appropriate top-down structure.

What else can we do?
Enjoy safaris, shopping, and local cuisines. Visit cultural sites. Extend your trip or arrive early. Visit Serengati, Ngorogoro Crater, Lake Manyara, Tarangire or Arusha National Parks.  Hike Mount Kilimanjaro.

Who makes this happen?
A symbiotic relationship between the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative at the University of Illinois, and the Marketplace Literacy Project (MLP), partnering with OIKOS East Africa. Together, our marketplace literacy program has reached thousands of Masai women in the Arusha region of Tanzania. This is a unique model of symbiotic academic-social enterprise and these entities are deeply embedded in communities, which will enable field interactions for conference participants.

What is the process building up to the conference?
Track chairs will be responsible for leading small groups of 4-8 people to the field with a trained translator. Please email us if you are interested in being a track chair. We envision rural and urban Arusha region as the venues for observations and interviews, with a period in the Spring when we align groups and encourage interactions based on interests and preferences. We aim for fluidity during the conference, for people to move between groups. We plan to seek initial preferences from each group as to what they want to see and with whom they want to interact – the latter ranging from individuals to households, communities, leaders/experts, and enterprises.

What this conference is NOT
This conference is not a forum for conducting research, which, of course, requires a variety of procedures and formalities. Therefore, the focus instead is on field interactions, which are intended to stimulate discussion but do not constitute the basis for any formal research.

How to Apply

First, complete a simple form that asks the following:

·         An overview of your interests (research, education, social enterprise, business, government, other) as they relate to subsistence marketplaces.

·         An outline of how your topic enhances understanding of and well-being in subsistence marketplaces.

·         A description of how/why immersive experiences will help you develop deeper insights into your topic of interest.

·         Your prior experiences in subsistence marketplaces (if any). Note that prior experience in this area is NOT a requirement. In fact, we want to encourage those without prior experience to participate.

In addition to indicating your intention to participate which can be done right away, we will need you to complete a separate registration form to process your payment for the conference that will be open soon. Both forms can be found on the conference website


Background Information

For more than a decade, the Subsistence Marketplaces Conference Series has been a leading biennial forum for evolving and sharing research, education, and fostering best practices for social and commercial enterprises in subsistence marketplace communities.

Scholars and practitioners around the world have participated in these forums through conferences, publications, and educational initiatives, beginning with the first Subsistence Marketplaces Conference in 2006. Research by this community has appeared in a variety of outlets, sustained through a series of special issues/sections in academic journals (with more than 50 articles in conference-related special publications and many more in other outlets).

Since its origin, subsistence marketplace research has accumulated a substantial body of knowledge paralleling other approaches to poverty, such as the capabilities approach and base-of-the-pyramid research, providing unique and complementary insights.

The term “subsistence marketplaces” was deliberately coined to reflect the need to study these marketplaces across resource and literacy barriers in their own right, beyond being new markets for companies. Business and exchange happens in many different ways across the world. Such exchanges are worthy of study from the inside out as well as the outside in. The term “marketplaces” denotes this focus and emphasizes the need to understand preexisting marketplaces before designing or presuming solutions.

More information on the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative can be found at

Madhu Viswanathan, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

(217) 333-4550 | [log in to unmask]


Ronika Chakrabarti, Lancaster University

Ronald Duncan, Marketplace Literacy Project & Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative, Illinois

Ramadhani Kupaza, Marketplace Literacy Project and OIKOS, East Africa
Francesca Lucchi, OIKO East Africa

CONFERENCE  track CHAIRS to date

Aravinda Garimella, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

Sandra Loeb, Kings College

Felix, Nandonde, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania

Jacob Park, Green Mountain College

Steven Rayburn – Texas State University

Entrepreneurship – John Clarke, Tulane University, and Srinivas Venugopal, University of Vermont

Social Innovation – Valeri Werpetiniski, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign


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