Can markets work for people living in extreme poverty?

New research suggests how.

How do we reach the 800 million people trapped in extreme poverty and living on less than $1.90 a day? Many of these people are highly marginalized due to their gender, disability, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, sexuality, caste or geographic isolation. As well as being a great injustice, this represents a huge pool of unrealised human potential.



16.01.2017 by Susie Bennett
From team ADD
Markets can’t solve inequality alone. However, if we are really committed to the ‘leave no one behind’ agenda then markets have a critical role to play in making sure the most marginalised people are given opportunities and they must work harder to reach those left behind.

New research funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, that included a 9-month study of how market-based approaches can work for the most marginalised – specifically disabled women in Uganda – identifies four key enabling factors that need to be put in place.

1. Upholding rights and tackling stigma. For markets to become more inclusive they need to operate in environments where there are active programmes to uphold rights and legal entitlements, as well as actions to shift social norms and stigmatisation that exclude the most marginalised from market participation.

2. Building capacity to participate. Marginalised people living in extreme poverty must be empowered with the skills, confidence and opportunities for collective action needed for market participation. This can be facilitated through effective social supports, social movements and intermediary organisations.

3. Social protection policies. The fundamental purpose of social protection is to ensure everyone’s basic needs are met. However, the important role of social protection, in supporting people living in extreme poverty to participate in markets, must also be recognised and promoted.

4. Core infrastructure. Access to core economic infrastructure and public services (that are often extremely limited in the areas where the extreme poor live) is critical to facilitate sustainable access to markets.

Making markets more inclusive will require a global response. It will mean rigorously researching best practice, building innovative collaborations across civil society and the private and public sectors and accepting short term costs for long term human rights and social and economic benefits. It will mean breaking down the social stigma that keeps excluded groups marginalised and creating the right infrastructure so that poor people can access and participate in markets, as well as building their capacity to do so.

There is a lot of work to do. It will require sustained global focus, momentum and action. But if we are serious about fulfilling the aspiration to ‘leave no one behind’ then it has to be done.

Read our 'Leave no on behind' paper outlining a road map forward. 


Leave no one behind.