Sustainable Innovation for Subsistence Marketplaces (Coursera)

Sustainable Innovation for Subsistence Marketplaces is an online MOOC Course, Offered by the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign via Coursera. This course 1 of 7 in the Global Challenges in Business Specialization.

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Course Overview

Sustainable Innovation for Subsistence Marketplaces online course by Coursera focuses on understanding subsistence marketplaces and designing business solutions for the billions of people living in poverty in the global marketplace.

To develop an understanding of subsistence marketplaces, we use exercises to enable participants to view the world from the eyes of subsistence consumers and entrepreneurs, facilitate bottom‐up understanding generated by participants, and provide insights from extensive research.

More broadly, the course uses the context of extreme resource constrained contexts to learn about the bottom-up approach pioneered through the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative, and apply it in any context.

The course will involve virtual immersion in subsistence contexts, emersion of unique insights, bottom-up design, innovation, and enterprise. A parallel project will focus on understanding a specific need in a subsistence marketplace and designing a solution and an enterprise plan.

Upon successful completion of this course you will be able to:

  • Develop an understanding of subsistence marketplaces
  • Design solutions for subsistence marketplaces
  • Develop enterprise plans to implement solutions for subsistence marketplaces
  • Apply the bottom-up approach for subsistence marketplaces as well as other contexts

Course Syllabus

WEEK 1  – Course Orientation

You will become familiar with the course, your classmates, and our learning environment. The orientation will also help you obtain the technical skills required for the course.

Introduction to Subsistence Marketplaces and Bottom-Up Immersion: In this module, you will be introduced to the importance of studying subsistence marketplaces as well as the unique nature of a bottom-up approach to studying it.

WEEK 2  – Bottom-Up Immersion and Emersion

In this module, you will learn about unique aspects that characterize marketplace interactions between buyers and sellers in subsistence marketplaces. You will also learn about understanding needs and markets in subsistence marketplaces.

WEEK 3  – Bottom-Up Design

In this module, you will learn about gaining marketplace insights in subsistence marketplaces. You will also learn about environmental issues in subsistence marketplaces.

WEEK 4  – Bottom-Up Enterprise

In this module, you will learn about understanding needs in subsistence contexts. You will also learn about a structured approach to generating ideas for addressing the needs in subsistence marketplaces.


  • Madhu Viswanathan

Additional information

Course Delivery


Course Efforts

32 Hours

Course Enrollment


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Course Length

4 Weeks

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Course School

Course Subtitles

Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish

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