Immersion Conference FAQ

This is an informal description of the thinking behind the first subsistence marketplaces bottom-up immersion conference. We invite you to read and consider participating in this unique, one-of-a-kind forum.

Why is this conference unique?

This is a bottom-up immersion conference. What this means is that we emphasize field interactions. If we are truly bottom-up in the subsistence marketplaces stream, then our forums should push further and be spent in the field as well, gaining bottom-up insights.

What will happen at the conference?

We will spend much of the day in the field, then return to the city to reflect and regroup for the next day. We remain fluid in allowing ideas from the participants and insights from the field to emerge and guide the process. Our process is bottom-up in this aspect as well, but guided by much experience, which will provide appropriate top-down structure.

We will typically depart from the hotel at 7:30am and return around 4pm.

What else can we do?

Enjoy sightseeing, shopping, and local cuisines. Have a traditional South Indian meal off a banana leaf. Visit cultural sites. Extend your trip. Visit the Taj Mahal, the Jaipur Palace, or both.

Who makes this happen?

There is a symbiotic relationship between the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative at the University of Illinois (an academic entity), the Marketplace Literacy Project (MLP), and the Marketplace Literacy Communities, MLP’s partner in India which works in more than 60 villages and many neighborhoods in the city of  Chennai. This is a unique model and these entities are deeply embedded in communities providing marketplace literacy education, which will enable field interactions for conference participants.

What is the process building up to the conference?

We have track chairs recruiting people. Track chairs will be responsible for leading small groups of 4-8 people to the field with a trained translator. We envision rural and urban South India and rural North India as the venues for observations and interviews, with a period in the Fall when we realign groups based on interests and preferences. We aim for fluidity during the conference, for people to move between groups. We plan to seek initial preferences from each group as to what they want to see and with whom they want to interact – the latter ranging from individuals to households, communities, leaders/experts, and enterprises.

What this conference is NOT

This conference is not a forum for conducting research, which requires a variety of procedures and formalities. Therefore, the focus instead is on field interactions, which are intended to stimulate discussion but do not constitute the basis for any formal research.

What are the travel logistics?

Our official travel agent for the conference, Mr. Jagat Mehta, can book your hotel rooms for the discounted rates and secure your passage on the group discounted flight from Chennai to Delhi. You can also reach out to him to plan your international flights while giving thought to possible tourism in considering specific dates. He will be at the Chennai conference beginning in the evening of January 3 night and you are welcome to consult with him before and during the conference as you plan your visit, with the alert that planning well in advance will open up many more options.

If you wish to be received at the airport January 3rd, you need to contact Jagat and arrange payment later for this or make your own arrangements. There will not be any common shuttle at arrival as travel times are very different.

If you are traveling to Delhi with the group (the only air travel for which a common shuttle will be provided), you need to contact Jagat. In addition, please let us know if you will only be attending the conference in one city.

Information for the Agra excursion on January 10 is available on the Travel page.

For those applying for visas, please let us know if you need any documentation from us.

How will we interact with tracks and track chairs before the conference?

We are initially assigning you to a group based on a variety of considerations (representing different sectors like academicians and practitioners, different geographies, etc.). Track assignments have been sent in an email to registered attendees. Note that you can move around between groups even during the first day as we will all use one base village or urban center to start out. The grouping helps us immensely in knowing who is in which vehicle.

We are asking each group to interact with the track chair choosing your preferred communication platform. We ask each group through their chair to communicate back to us no later than October 22 as to an initial list of:

  1. Whom you want to talk to – e.g., home-makers, farmers
  2. What you want to see – e.g., harvesting, cooking
  3. Places you want to visit – e.g., clinic, social enterprise of a particular sort
  4. Any other suggestions about field interactions
  5. Any suggestions for conference outside of field interactions
  6. Any suggestions for entertainment related activities – food, shopping…

What will we do each day?

We plan rural and urban visits in Chennai/Tamil Nadu January 4-6, the 7th is a travel day, and then we have rural visits near Delhi, January 8 and 9.

We meet to debrief, report back, plan the pathway forward January 4, 5, 6, and 8, from roughly late afternoon to mid evening. There is no debrief on the 9th. This is a time when you can discuss insights, as well as how this conference, essentially a stimulating platform, will help you in your individual paths forward. Again, our goal is to be fluid and bottom-up.

Dinner each day will be on your own in small groups as per your choice of cuisine. Our hotels are ideally situated.

Where will we meet first?

In the lobby of the conference hotel in Chennai at 7:30 am, January 4th, ready to depart to the villages and organized by tracks.