A Bottom-up Perspective on SDGs: The Subsistence Marketplaces Approach

Roland Gau, Madhu Viswanathan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE: This paper outlines the unique bottom-up perspective that the subsistence marketplaces stream provides on the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

APPROACH: We present an overview subsistence marketplaces stream, referring to people and communities who live in the broad range of low income, and its implications for the SDG.

FINDINGS: Taking a bottom-up perspective in contrast to other approaches at the intersection of business and low income, the subsistence marketplaces stream begins with understanding at the micro-level of life circumstances. Unique synergies have been developed in this stream between research, education, and social enterprise, connecting a diverse set of stakeholders. The subsistence marketplaces stream emphasizes how the SDG can be addressed while
listening to the voices of those living in subsistence contexts as sustainable solutions are developed for large challenges such as poverty, hunger, education, justice, and equality.

LIMITATIONS: A challenge in being bottom-up is how to identify what is generalizable across contexts versus idiosyncratic to some contexts.

IMPLICATIONS: The bottom-up perspective of the subsistence marketplaces stream is useful in directly addressing SDGs that are focused on basic needs (e.g., poverty, hunger, water, education), i.e., domains of subsistence, and indirectly addressing higher-order goals.

CONTRIBUTION: This paper highlights a stream of research that has focused on subsistence individuals, who have long been underserved by business and are often overlooked by academic scholarship. This stream of research uses a unique approach to connect a diverse set of stakeholders in such a way that orients understanding of the everyday life circumstances of subsistence individuals and communities. This approach offers insight into how the SDG should be approached to have a greater, more meaningful, impact on subsistence communities.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)429-444
Number of pages16
JournalSocial Business
Issue number4
StatePublished - 4 Nov 2018


  • subsistence
  • poverty
  • sustainable development goals
  • marketing education
  • marketplace literacy


Dive into the research topics of 'A Bottom-up Perspective on SDGs: The Subsistence Marketplaces Approach'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this