Entry Date:
July 17, 2007

Global Value Chains (GVC) Initiative

The Global Value Chains (GVC) Initiative seeks to consolidate and foster the GVC perspective, an industry-centric view of economic globalization that highlights the linkages between economic actors and across geographic space. It is an ongoing effort to test and develop the GVC perspective with the aims of creating greater analytical precision, intellectual impact and policy relevance. Our efforts include a research agenda, a publishing thrust, the development and dissemination of industrial upgrading handbooks for practitioners, and an ongoing series of intensive workshops convened to test and broaden the framework through interactions with our network partners and with the broader academic, policy-making and activist communities.

The Global Value Chains Initiative has received support from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation. The Initiative consists of a dynamic network of researchers, activists, and policymakers that began working together in 2000. The co-organizers of the Initiative are Gary Gereffi of the Center on Globalization, Governance & Competitiveness (CGGC) at Duke University; John Humphrey of the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex; and Timothy Sturgeon of the Industrial Performance Center at MIT.


The research on global value chains can be divided into two very broad categories: research on governance and upgrading and sector case studies. As the tools for practitioners become better developed and, hopefully, become the basis for entrepreneur, worker and policy-maker trainings, a third strand of research will emerge: GVC benchmarking and policy tool effectiveness.

Research on Governance and Upgrading -- Governance is a central concept to value chain analysis. Governance can be defined as non-market coordination of economic activity. The starting point for interest in global value chains is the fact that some firms directly or indirectly influence the organization of global production, logistics and marketing systems. Through the governance structures they create, they take decisions that have important consequences for the access of developing country firms to international markets and the range of activities these firms can undertake.

Upgrading is also a key concept for value chain analysis. Upgrading refers to the acquisition of technological capabilities and market linkages that enable firms to improve their competitiveness and move into higher-value activities. Analyses of upgrading from a value chain perspective pay particular attention to the ways in which value chain linkages facilitate or obstruct upgrading.

Sector Case Studies -- Value chain studies now cover a broad range of sectors and countries. These sectoral studies are one of the most distinctive characteristics of global value chain work. The research is rooted in empirical analysis of inter-firm relationships in the global economy, examining governance structures and upgrading trajectories. Sectors studied by global value chain researchers include agricultural commodities, apparel, automobiles, electronics, footwear, furniture, horticulture, and surgical instruments.