Sustainability innovation at the base of the pyramid through multi-cited rapid ethnography

Minna Halme (Corresponding Author), Arno Kourula, Sara Lindeman, Galina Kallio (Corresponding Author), Maria Barbosa Lima-Toivanen, Angelina Korsunova

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)


    The past decade has seen a proliferation of suggestions for market-based solutions to global poverty. While research emphasises that sustainability innovation aimed at poverty alleviation must be grounded in user needs, few studies demonstrate how to study the poor for purposes of early phase innovation in business enterprises, especially in multiple locations comparatively. This study suggests that the necessary understanding of low-income users and their practices can be gained through multi-sited rapid ethnography. We exemplify how the process moves from an understanding of the needs of the poor towards innovation and offer a general framework for evaluating the success of these types of projects. The paper describes the challenges and solutions found in a multi-sited rapid ethnography research in urban base of the pyramid (BOP) contexts in Brazil, India, Russia, and Tanzania. It suggests businesses can learn about the poor with the help of this method and conduct sustainability innovation on the basis of the needs of the poor, rather than start with existing products.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)113-128
    JournalCorporate Social Responsibility and Environmental Management
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2015
    MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


    • base of the pyramid
    • BOP
    • CSR
    • ethnography
    • innovation
    • methodology
    • poverty
    • stakeholder engagement
    • sustainable development


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