Marleen Wierenga

Project researcher / Doctoral candidate


Entrepreneurial innovation processes, field work in impoverished communities, social innovations


Developing country settings, more precisely India, Tanzania, Kenya

Work sectors

Sustainable development, entrepreneurship and poverty

My research for the New Global project concentrated on the grassroots perspective. On the one hand, I studied low-income innovators and entrepreneurs who have developed, commercialised and scaled an innovation. I also explored how these entrepreneurs are supported. For this, I went to India to interact and interview the entrepreneurs and the organisations they work with. On the other hand, I studied startups from developed countries with potentially impactful innovations for low-income settings in developing countries. 

The imitative, small-scale activities of necessity-motivated entrepreneurs with low profit margins serve as income even though highly unstable and fluctuating. Hence, this type of entrepreneurship serves as reinforcing the stereotypes associated with people living in poverty. These are for instance informality linked with criminality, poor quality products and unreliability. However, innovation-driven entrepreneurship does serve as a tool for poverty reduction, when appropriately supported, not only for the entrepreneurs but also for their communities through job creation. Furthermore, entrepreneurship can also have a positive impact through the innovations developed.

Being part of the New Global project these past years, I have learned more about the complexity of the world, the interlinkages between different organisations and policies, and the ways to capture these complexities through research. 

I had the opportunity to visit remote and rural parts in India – even one village where I was the first foreigner that had ever visited that village – and learn from the people there. Also, seeing how my colleagues approach research as a profession with responsibility, compassion and curiosity has formed the scholar I am.


Marleen Wierenga worked for the New Global project as a doctoral candidate at the Aalto University, School of Business. In her dissertation she studies how innovations from and for the low-income population emerging economies emerge when different stakeholders work together. 

Prior to her doctoral studies, Marleen completed the multidisciplinary Creative Sustainability Master’s program at the Aalto University School of Business and worked as a trainee for organisations such as the Finnish Embassy in Croatia, Accenture and an European Union institution.