The Market Context of Microjustice4All: Justice for those at the Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP)

In the last decades, there has been a movement which recognizes that there is a big market at the bottom of the social pyramid[1]. This has led to movements for service provision to the poor, including Inclusive Finance[2] and Microjustice. Inclusive finance entails providing financial services to the poor, while Microjustice entails providing legal services for the poor, in a sustainable, donor-independent way. The bottom line of this movement is that products for the poor are not donor-dependent but become sustainable through income from the client group

 

In the market context, the Microjustice4All Legal Unit can be seen as a product development and implementation unit, the Microjustice4All Social Unit can be seen as a marketing and distribution unit and legal education and awareness-raising can be seen as a form of marketing. In addition, the MJ4All Methodology is based on the following market-inspired concepts, such as economies of scale, cost-efficiency and clients (rather than beneficiaries).

 

 

MJ4All as a BoP Product

 

The Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP)[3] refers to the people in the lowest economic sector of society. According to Paul Collier, approximately one billion people across the globe are at the BoP. Most businesses have traditionally ignored people at the BoP, as they were perceived to be too poor to be viable consumers. However, in order to survive, they still need certain basic products. This opens up a market with one billion customers, albeit a market for very low priced products. Penetrating the BoP market requires an innovative, and yet simple, approach, based on the following concepts:

 

  • Be ready to collaborate with non-traditional partners
  • Include local partners that can actively contribute to identify the needs of the potential consumers.
  • Must enable local partners to build the business based on their own capacities.

 

The philosophy behind the BoP theory is that innovative businesses can be created to reduce poverty and support society and the environment. While this can be achieved by creating employment opportunities for the poor, they can also be considered as partners and as a valuable resource for innovative technology. It must be recognized, however, that these are long processes which do not offer immediate results[4].

 

Microjustice4All aims to reach those at the BoP and the MJ4All Methodology follows the reasoning of the BoP theory to bring justice to people with limited resources. This enables marginalized people to fully enjoy their rights.

 

Access to rights can only become a BoP product if the target group has an interest in accessing their rights. Traditionally, these people have been excluded from the system and, therefore, there is no culture of accessing rights. Those at the BoP perceive access to their rights as impossible or unnecessary. In order to change the culture of exclusion, the rights need to be connected to a specific benefit through an effective awareness-raising campaign.

 

The principles of the BoP theory are reflected throughout the MJ4All Methodology. For example:

 

  • Affordable prices: since those at the BoP have very limited resources, Microjustice4All products and services must be affordable. 
  • Joint development of Microjustice4All Products: one of the principles of the BoP theory is that the services and products must be created and developed within the specific community as they are in the best position to identify their needs. Microjustice4All must aim to establish an open dialogue with members of the community to find adequate solutions to their needs and leave behind any pre-conceived ideas as to what people’s basic needs are.
  • Innovation: Microjustice4All can reach the BoP, offering innovative products and services, tailored to the needs of people. This requires a deep understanding of the needs of the target group. 
  • Investment in education: providing products and services for the BoP market requires investment in educating people about the benefits of these. Most people at the BoP have no legal education and are unaware of the benefits of legal protection.

 

 

Whereas Microfinance offers people the means to getting access to a number of development issues, Microjustice is the precondition for obtaining such access.

 

 

 

 

 

 

[1] This movement was started by C K Prahalad, Professor of Corporate Strategy at the University of Michigan, USA, and S L Hart, Professor of Management at Cornell University, USA.

[2] This is also known as Microfinance.

[3] ‘The Bottom Billion’ as defined and described by Paul Collier in his book of 2007.

[4] C K Prahalad, The Fortune at the Bottom of the Pyramid, (Pearson Education India, 2009); S L Hart, Capitalism at the Crossroads, (Financial Times/Prentice Hall, 3rd edition, 2010).

 

 

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