Conference aims to bolster consumer, poverty discussion

By Molly Packer

Changing the way the world looks at consumerism is on Baylor’s summer agenda this year. As hosts of the third Transformative Consumer Research Conference, Baylor will host professors from across the country June 24-26 to talk about prominent consumer issues facing the business world.

Though the conference has been held three times before, it has never been hosted by Baylor.

“The first time it was at Dartmouth and then at Villanova,” Dr. Brennan Davis, a marketing professor, said. “This really builds Baylor’s place as a world-class institution.”

The conference allows attendees to talk about the problems at hand in small groups. Davis calls it a “dialogue-ical” conference. Nine sectors of the conference are dedicated to separate issues, including poverty, addiction, obesity, youth risk and consumption and sustainable products. Every sector has 12 conference attendees to discuss and try to solve the problem.

Transformative research came about with help from the Association for Consumer Research, a major consumer-focused guild in marketing.

“The Association for Consumer Research decided that the work to be done within consumer research was not focused enough on changing people’s lives in a positive way,” Davis said. “The conference started to, in a sense, pull professors out of the Ivory Tower and into a very practical and transformative work.”

Chris Blocker, a marketing professor, will be guiding discussion in the Poverty and Subsistence Marketplace sector of the conference.

“What we’re really looking at is poverty in general and how that affects customers,” Blocker said. “There’s been a lot of research on consumers with discretionary income and lots of abundance, but there hasn’t been much research at all on impoverished customers.”

Blocker and the other members of the group will be looking at consumerism of people doing what they have to do in order to survive. Those who produce their own food or sell their crops at a local marketplace go through a series of complex interactions simply to make a living.

“We’re really trying to spur dialogue and research that would have a transformative impact on them,” Blocker said. “We really want to spur research that understands the lives of impoverished consumers and helps them in a more human way.”

Helping others through transformative research is one way that Davis believes the conference will be good for Baylor, she said.

“It matches Baylor’s mission by committing this research to helping others,” Davis said. “We give feet to Baylor’s motto, Pro Ecclesia, Pro Texana, by expanding the reach beyond our great state to effect change around the world.”

Research findings from done at the conferences will be published in a journal.

“Public policy makers on the state and federal level are looking to these journals for their scientific knowledge about how to change,” Davis said. “If we can get information into the right hands, changes can be made.”