Building Partnerships to Create Social and Economic Value at the Base of the Global Development Pyramid

Journal of Business Ethics 117 (4):721-733 (2013)
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This paper builds on London and Hart’s critique that Prahalad’s best-selling book prompted a unilateral effort to find a fortune at the bottom of the pyramid. Prahalad’s instrumental, firm-centered construction suggests, perhaps unintentionally, a buccaneering style of business enterprise devoted to capturing markets rather than enabling new socially entrepreneurial ventures for those otherwise trapped in conditions of extreme poverty. London and Hart reframe Prahalad’s insight into direct global business enterprise toward “creating a fortune with the base of the pyramid” rather than at the BoP. This shift in language requires a recalibration of strategic focus, we argue, and will necessitate implementation of “moral imagination” to formulate new mental models that can frame the possibility of local entrepreneurs working collaboratively and discursively with development partners drawn from civil society, corporate, and government sectors. Successful partnerships will arise from interactive processes of emergent, co-creative learning within a shared problem domain or “community of practice”. We call attention to three related pluralist framings of situated learning within such communities of practice: decentered stakeholder networks; global action networks; and a focus on “faces and places” as a cognitive lens to humanize and locally situate diverse inhabitants within base of the pyramid partnership projects.



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Author Profiles

Patricia Werhane
DePaul University
David Bevan
Royal Holloway University of London