Martin Herrndorf

Advancing Young Research on the “Next Billion”

Some years after CK Prahalad’s book, business activities and entrepreneurial initiatives targeting low-income communities have been blooming, being covered extensively on and other sources. Looking into leading journals on economic and management issues, the issue is less prominent and the debate apparently has been slow in reaching wider circles of scholars. Poverty is still a neglected topic in areas like international business research, for example.

Does this matter? Some feel it does. Very early in the debate, a team of academics warned that Prahalad (and 4 billion people more…) might “wake up disappointed” if we do not develop a sound understanding how business and poverty really interact. Research on inclusive markets at the BoP is a challenging task, however, especially for young researcher and PhD students. Luckily, innovations are out there. Some researchers set up elaborate experiments to see what is working for the poor – handing malaria nets out for free in some, selling them in other villages. While the complex and entangled realities of poverty make it hard to apply classic tools in a straightforward manner, young researchers need to find their way through a jungle of methods, disciplines and new research designs and also get their field work done in the conditions of developing economies.

Targeted at PhD students and young faculty working on poverty and sustainable development from a management or economics perspective, oikos and UNDP have launched the oikos UNDP Young Scholars Development Academy. The academy will feature one-week intense discussions of their ongoing research projects with fellow students and senior faculty. Invited faculty are Jonathan P. Doh (US), Ashok Som (France) and David Wheeler (Canada), who will work together with the aspiring young scholars. To assure that results are relevant, participants have the opportunity to apply their insights and skills in a practitioner day with responAbility Social Investments from Zürich, Switzerland. Scholarships covering travel, participation fee and housing are made available by UNDP’s Growing Inclusive Markets initiative.

For those not going for the academic track in live: What open question of yours would you ask an aspiring academic to spend his precious PhD years on? The call for papers is out and submissions will be accepted until September 15.