Sustainability Innovation at the Base of the Pyramid through Multi-Sited Rapid Ethnography

Minna Halme*, Arno Kourula, Sara Lindeman, Galina Kallio, Maria Lima-Toivanen, Angelina Korsunova-Tsaruk

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

27 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
Number of pages16
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2016
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • Base of the pyramid
  • BOP
  • CSR
  • Ethnography
  • Innovation
  • Methodology
  • Poverty
  • Stakeholder engagement
  • Sustainable development


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