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He proposes that private sector can contribute towards poverty alleviation by focusing on the people living in poverty as producers as well as by creating employment opportunities for them.An “alternative but complementary” perspective which evolved parallel to Prahalad’s concept of BOP markets is subsistence marketplaces perspective, articulated by Viswanathan and his colleagues (e.g. This subsistence marketplaces perspective emphasises a micro-level approach through an understanding of individuals, consumers, sellers or entrepreneurs, communities, marketplace behaviors, and their broader context.In his book ‘Design for the Real World’, Papanek, an industrial designer, urged designers to address problems faced by the people in the Third World.
In his book ‘Bottom-Up Enterprise: Insights from Subsistence Marketplaces’, Viswanathan () elaborates on bottom-up approach for designing products and services for subsistence marketplaces.
Subsistence marketplaces, in contrast to markets in developed countries or relatively affluent regions, are characterised by a multitude of deprivations, such as deficits in infrastructure and capabilities of individuals and societies.
This has created an important need to know what has been examined and learnt so far and to plan for further investigation.
To address this, we review a broad range of literature, with close examination of 30 design studies in this field.
The concept of appropriate technology (AT) was initially articulated by the economist E. Schumacher, and was a basis for his well-known book ‘Small Is Beautiful’.
In 1966, Schumacher established Intermediate Technology Development Group which now works under the name Practical Action where they aim at designing sustainable technologies to alleviate poverty in developing countries (Practical and Action ).
Such products include, among others, smokeless cookstoves, income-generating products, medical devices, educational devices, communication products or any other products that support development of resource-poor individuals or enhance their capabilities (e.g. Such design is undertaken, for instance, by governments as their obligation to provide public services, by NGOs as a social service or charity, by companies as their persistent activity of exploring and tapping new markets, or by marginalised people for their livelihood (e.g. Although design investigations tend to be carried out in the context of developed countries or relatively affluent markets, numerous design studies have also been undertaken in the context of marginalised and resource-limited societies (e.g. This design research into marginalised societies is discussed under a variety of names, such as ‘community development engineering’, ‘humanitarian engineering’, ‘design for extreme affordability’, ‘appropriate technology’, ‘design for development’, ‘design at the Base of the Pyramid’, etc. This is addressed by reviewing the relevant literature, focusing on contextual and methodological aspects, while considering the roles of resource-poor individuals—all these aspects are crucial in undertaking design research in this field and in developing and evaluating methods to support the practice of designing products for enhancing social and human development of resource-poor societies.
We identify important areas that are still unexplored, and highlight concerns that design researchers ought to have about this field.
Whilst Mahatma Gandhi called the problems faced by these resource-poor people as ‘the worst form of violence’, Amartya Sen defines them as lack of freedom and inability to make life choices (Sen ).
These marginalised people generally cannot change their living conditions and livelihood opportunities, as their access to financial and other resources is weak, with pressing need for immediate consumption (Karelis ). Although there is a great deal of design research in this field, its analysis is lacking, making it difficult to gain an overview of what has been investigated, how these investigations were undertaken, in what context they were undertaken, and how marginalised people were engaged and positioned in such investigations.