Who We Are

Here is an incomplete list of individuals who contribute to our initiative, with affiliations to the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign or other institutions and organizations.


madhuMadhu Viswanathan, Founder and Director

Madhu Viswanathan is the Diane and Steven N. Miller Endowed Professor of Business at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He founded and directs the Marketplace Literacy Project, a non-profit organization that pioneers the design and delivery of marketplace literacy education to low-income consumers and subsistence marketplaces. Through his organization and partners, tens of thousands of women have received marketplace literacy education – with ongoing programs or pilots in Illinois, India, Tanzania, Uganda, Argentina, and Honduras. He has received awards for research, teaching, curriculum development, social entrepreneurship, humanitarianism, leadership, public engagement, international achievement, and career achievement; in addition, his course on subsistence marketplaces was ranked one of the top entrepreneurship courses by Inc. magazine. He serves on the Livelihoods Advisory Board for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and is designing marketplace literacy education for refugees and a course for UNHCR staff on subsistence marketplaces.

Madhu directs the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative and has pioneered the area of inquiry and practice entitled subsistence marketplaces, taking a bottom-up approach to the study of the intersection of poverty and marketplaces and developing unique synergies between research, teaching, and social initiatives. He teaches courses on research methods and on subsistence and sustainability, with educational experiences on the latter reaching almost a thousand students each year at the University of Illinois, and tens of thousands of students around the world through Coursera. Educational materials on subsistence marketplaces for educators and students is disseminated through a unique web portal, and innovations include a one-of-a-kind international immersion experience. 

Madhu holds a PhD in marketing from the University of Minnesota and a bachelor of technology degree in mechanical engineering from the Indian Institute of Technology. His research interests are in measurement and research methodology as well as in literacy, poverty, and subsistence marketplace behaviors. He has authored books in both areas: Measurement Error and Research Design (Sage, 2005), Enabling Consumer and Entrepreneurial Literacy in Subsistence Marketplaces (Springer, 2008, in alliance with UNESCO), and Subsistence Marketplaces (eText and eBookPartnerships, 2013).


Ron Duncan, Associate Director

rduncan140x200Ron Duncan is the Community and Economic Development Educator for the University of Illinois Extension in Unit 27, serving the counties of Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski and Union. He brings almost 35 years of experience in engineering and educational administration to this office, directing marketplace and maker education in southernmost Illinois for the Illinois Marketplace and Maker Literacy Program. He holds a master’s degree in management science and a bachelor’s degree in human resource management from Oakland City University, as well as post-graduate studies in workforce education and development from Southern Illinois University and an associate’s in mechanical engineering technology from the University of Southern Indiana. He also holds US patents on motor controls for refrigeration appliances.

Recently, working with both government and industry, Ron has been instrumental in formulating strategies for 21st-century business development in Illinois and fostering broadband deployment across the state. As the founding president of the Partnership for a Connected Illinois, he led this group to be the award-winning grantee of the federal ARRA grant for broadband deployment in Illinois, securing and/or leveraging more than nine million dollars for infrastructure and adoption activities. He is a co-author of The Marketplace Literacy USA Education Manual and Support Materials (forthcoming) and the author or co-author of other publications on topics related to economic education and advocacy. He was recognized in 2009 by the US Department of Labor for his assistance in helping the agency broaden the scope of its efforts to improve the national online labor database (O’NET) in the area of college and professional educators.