This article aims to improve the understanding of how micro-level subsistence activities might be related to higher-level
phenomena to increase the well-being of individuals and communities in contexts characterized by institutional gaps. Using
coffee as illustrative case, it explores the link between local entrepreneurial activities in developing countries and global
marketing systems, with specific attention to the role of institutions. In this way, the article also sheds some light on
broader research challenges identified in the marketing and society area on the role of marketing in addressing sustainability
and poverty, especially institution-building and failure in development. Insights from coffee projects to help small farmers,
undertaken in different settings all characterized by institutional gaps, exemplify the emergence of "compensatory structures"
- new/different networks, intermediary entities, and partnerships. They further knowledge transfer, market access, and capacity
building; combine forces through producer groups and cooperatives; and create links with trading/exporting companies, sector
organizations, and government agencies. While positive outcomes are found, the article also discusses limitations related
to certification, access to finance, and extension in time and scale, as well as implications for research and practice.