Chicago Screening of Thailand Documentary Slated for May 16 on the University of Chicago Campus

'Emerging Thailand' features household entrepreneurs and their stories
March 28, 2013


(March 28, 2013—Chicago, IL) The Chicago premiere of Emerging Thailand: The Spirit of Small Enterprise—a documentary detailing the 15 years Prof. Robert Townsend has spent tracking the village economies of Thailand—is scheduled for Thursday, May 16 at 7 p.m. on the University of Chicago campus.

Since 1997, Townsend, an economist with dual appointments at the University of Chicago and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, has led teams of economists from around the world along with Thai researchers, traversing the country to conduct detailed assessments of Thailand’s villages, towns, and urban neighborhoods—and the economies within. Along the way, they have made extraordinary observations about the nature of emerging markets, what makes entrepreneurs successful, how their communities support them, and the large role they play in national growth and the creation of wealth.

This compelling documentary (34 minutes) reveals the emerging spirit and dynamism of the Thai people and shares discoveries that will change audiences’ perspectives on developing countries worldwide. Emerging Thailand takes viewers into the world of Thailand's small businesses and shows how the country's enterprises have diversified, grown and survived amid a rapidly changing marketplace and even led the marketplace itself. The film provides an intimate portrait of Thailand and its people, showcasing the country's diverse landscape, from rice paddies and farms to floating markets and chaotic urban centers. Viewers meet rubber farmers as they collect latex, watch silk growers cultivate their threads and see shrimp farmers netting their crops—all against a backdrop of breathtaking beauty.

The premiere will begin at 7 p.m., May 16, at the International House, 1414 East 59th St., on the campus of the University of Chicago as part of the Global Voices Lecture Program. There will be a reception at 6:30 prior to the screening. The event is free and open to the public. Immediately following the film, Townsend will answer questions. He will also sign copies of his new book, Chronicles from the Field (MIT Press, 2013), which tells the story of the challenges and rewards that come from tracking a country's economic development. The Townsend Thai surveys are one of the most extensive datasets in the developing world.


Emerging Thailand: The Spirit of Small Enterprise was made possible by The Enterprise Initiative, a research program that examines the role of enterprise in creating wealth and alleviating poverty. The Enterprise Initiative is a project of the University of Chicago and is generously funded by the John Templeton Foundation. The film was produced by {group theory} media out of New York.

The Consortium on Financial Systems and Poverty (CFSP) is a private research organization comprised of leading and emerging economists. Their goal is to improve the lives of the world’s poor and to reduce poverty through helping to identify, design and implement more efficient financial systems. Townsend is the Elizabeth & James Killian Professor of Economics at MIT and is the group’s faculty director. CFSP can be found online at or on Twitter @CFSPoverty.

The Internal House Global Voices Lecture Program presents prominent speakers and organizes round-table discussion groups and special interest conferences and seminars. As a part of this program, leading figures from the world stage come to share their thoughts and exchange ideas with students and members of Chicago’s civic community on major issues facing the country and the world. More about the Global Voices Program and be found at and