Sustainable Marketplaces Laboratory – Seeking Actionable Knowledge to Enable Sustainable Marketplaces
Students, faculty, and practitioners seeking actionable knowledge to enable sustainable marketplaces through research, teaching and social initiatives.
Sustainable Marketplaces Laboratory61 Wohlers Hall
Department of Business Administration
1206 South Sixth Street
Champaign, IL 61820
Sustainable Product and Market Development for Subsistence Marketplaces
Students in the Sustainable Product and Market Development for Subsistence Marketplaces program are challenged to understand the most unsustainable of conditions, i.e., subsistence marketplaces, and design solutions. They work for a year to produce a product prototype and a business plan tailored to the needs of a sponsoring company. Business, engineering, and industrial design students collaborate in this carefully guided program to produce insightful and actionable materials based on the latest scholarship and sound business intelligence.
We have worked successfully with small startups as well as large companies, such as Unilever, Motorola, Microsoft, and Kraft, and social enterprises. Our passionate students begin the course by experiencing virtual immersion in subsistence contexts through such means as a poverty simulation and analysis of interviews and videos of subsistence individuals. In the next emersion phase, they grapple with principles elicited from a rich set of case studies and guest speakers including social workers, technologists, and entrepreneurs. In parallel, each project begins with extensive idea generation, followed by filtering to a family of ideas that students evaluate on a one-of-a-kind international immersion experience during which they interview subsistence consumers and entrepreneurs and observe urban and rural subsistence contexts. Once fully prepared, in the spring semester, students apply their business and technical skills to design a product prototype and a related business plan. Projects to date have dealt with information technology, education, energy, food, and health. From a company’s perspective, projects that fit well with this course are those that involve product design.
Professional Responsibility Through Sustainable Global Business
This module is part of a larger course on professional responsibility that is required for all the incoming first semster undergraduate students in business (approximately 600 students). It combines the twin issues of sustainability and poverty alleviation to highlight professional responsibility organized around developing a sustainable business for a subsistence context. It is framed within the larger course in terms of professional responsibility involving “me,” “us,” and more than “us,” with busines having an important role to play in addressing global problems while being profitable. Students participate in a poverty simulation, and analyze interviews and videos to understand the subsistence contexts. Using a number of assignments and class discussions to understand subsistence and sustainability, groups generate product ideas, develop a short business plan, make presentations and participate in a poster session.
Sustainability Case Competitions
Teams of undergraduate students participate in international trips related to case competitions on sustainability. These competitions allow students to explore the relationships between government, business, social enterprises and the university as they develop solutions to address climate change and sustainability issues. The students work collaboratively with students from other universities around the world creating a cross disciplinary, cross cultural learning experience. Students then travel for an intensive immersion experience where their business plans are evaluated by a panel of external judges.
Certificate for Excellence in Sustainable Management and Technology
This certificate is awarded in recognition for outstanding achievement in sustainable management and technology through completion of field work and projects. Eligibility for this certificate is based on completion of field work and a set of projects including but not restricted to the term project in the course, Sustainable Marketing Enterprises, the commercial or social enterprise-sponsored project in the course, Sustainable Product and Market Development for Subsistence Marketplaces, international immersion experiences offered through the course, Sustainable Product and Market Development for Subsistence Marketplaces, or projects and fieldwork through independent study.
Interactions with Practitioners
Through visits to campus by leading practitioners from companies, social enterprises and government and assignments designed around challenges their organizations face, students learn about cutting edge sustainable practices.
Sustainable Marketplaces Laboratory
The Sustainable Marketplaces Laboratory brings together students, faculty, and practitioners from a diverse set of backgrounds to seek actionable knowledge to enable sustainable marketplaces through research, teaching and social initiatives. We focus on sustainability with an emphasis on learning from subsistence marketplaces which represent the most unsustainable of contexts. Learning from these contexts which have faced extreme resource constraints and deteriorating environments can help the design of sustainable solutions to face the challenges of the 21st century. We offer a number of educational experiences to a variety of audiences.
Sustainable Business Enterprises
At the dawn of the 21st century, business and society is confronted with a confluence of factors ranging from environmental degradation, widespread poverty, and the need for renewable sources of energy. Through a first-year MBA course and a junior or senior level undergraduate course, we seek to address these issues and engender an appreciation among our students for the challenges that lie ahead for businesses. Although the primary focus is on sustainable business in all contexts, the course begins with and is informed by insights from subsistence marketplaces where individuals find ingenious ways to reuse and conserve in order to survive. Through lectures, case discussions, guest speakers, and a course-long project, each week, we examine and critically evaluate contemporary trends in sustainable business practices and discuss such topics as sustainable consumer behavior and product design. Using the realm of sustainable business practices, we address related issues of incorporating social values into business objectives, social responsibility, and the need for businesses to meet triple bottom lines relating to people, planet, and profit.
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Madhu Viswanathan has been on the faculty at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, since 1990. His research programs are in two areas; measurement and research methodology, and literacy, poverty, and subsistence marketplace behaviors. He has authored books in both areas: Measurement Error and Research Design (Sage, 2005), and Enabling Consumer and Entrepreneurial Literacy in Subsistence Marketplaces (Springer, 2008, in alliance with UNESCO). His research program with a methodological orientation on measurement and research design paralleled many years of teaching research at all levels. It culminated in a book directed at the social sciences that provides a most detailed conceptual dissection of measurement error. This work is a striking departure from the existing literature, which emphasizes a statistical orientation without sufficient elucidation of the conceptual meaning of measurement error.
His research on subsistence marketplaces takes a micro-level approach to gain bottom-up understanding of life circumstances and buyer, seller, and marketplace behaviors. This perspective aims to enable subsistence marketplaces to move toward being ecologically, economically, and socially sustainable marketplaces. His research is synergized with innovative teaching and social initiatives. He teaches courses on research methods, on sustainable product and market development for subsistence marketplaces, and on sustainability in general. He is part of the faculty team teaching a unique course on Sustainable Product and Market Development for Subsistence Marketplaces. He cochairs conferences on subsistence marketplaces and is coeditor of a book and a special issue of a journal based on these conferences.
He founded and directs the Marketplace Literacy Project, a non-profit organization that aims to enable consumer and entrepreneurial literacy for low-literate, low-income individuals. Initiatives of this organization include the development of a consumer and entrepreneurial literacy program offered in Tamil Nadu, South India, to low-income. low-literate individuals. Working with the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension, his research and dissemination efforts have also focused on developing user-friendly nutritional education materials for programs for low-income individuals in the US.
John Clarke is the executive director of the Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership at the University of Illinois. The academy for entrepreneurial leadership is focused on developing an entrepreneurial culture in the students, faculty, and staff of the University of Illinois. The academy views entrepreneurship as a process that can lead to creative solutions for social problems or the formation of new and innovative enterprises. John has been teaching at Illinois since 2004 as a Clinical Professor in Business Administration, his teaching interests include entrepreneurship, product development, consulting, sustainability, and project management. He has been involved in the Subsistence Marketplaces Initiative since its inception and has co-taught in the program since 2008.
Dr. Clarke focuses on creating curricular and co-curricular opportunities for students that enable the development of market relevant experiences, attitudes, and leadership skills. He has led the development of several new courses and programs targeting students from across the campus. He is the executive director of Illinois Business Consulting, a premier student consulting organization and executive director of The Hoeft Technology & Management Program and joint initiative between the colleges of engineering and business. He has developed international immersion experiences for undergraduate, graduate, and executive MBA students and led more than 300 students on intensive learning experiences in China, India, and Korea.
Clarke has over 20 years of executive leadership in both industry and academia. He has significant experience in consulting, professional advising, management, business development, and teaching. Prior to working at the University of Illinois he worked as a management consultant in Asia, Europe, and North America.