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Brenda Spotton Visano - York University. Toronto, ON, CA

Brenda Spotton Visano

University Professor of Economics and Public Policy, Faculty of Liberal Arts and Professional Studies | York University

Toronto, ON, CANADA

Spotton Visano engages a variety of research methods to examine ways to improve access to basic financial services for low income Canadians.



Brenda Spotton Visano Publication Brenda Spotton Visano Publication



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Brenda Spotton Visano is a University Professor in the School of Public Policy & Administration and the Department of Economics at York University. A graduate of McGill University, Iowa State University and University of Toronto, she is a member of the National Research Sub-Committee advising the National Steering Committee on Financial Literacy.

Professor Spotton Visano was the Inaugural Director of the Transition Year Program at York University (2010-2015) and a Director of the ACCESS Community Capital Fund (2009-2015). Other previous leadership positions include the President, Canadian Women Economists Network and the Chair of Senate of York University.

Among her publications is her 2006 book “Financial Crises: Socio-economic Causes and Institutional Context” and her 2009 co-edited book “Room to Grow: Celebrating Atkinson’s Living Legacy,”a collection of reflections on the contributions of Atkinson College to advancing higher education for non-traditional students. In addition to publishing many book chapters and articles in top-tier refereed academic venues, she is the author of 16 government, professional, and technical reports for various government ministries and agencies in Canada, UNESCO and NGOs.

Professor Spotton Visano has been invited to contribute to various government consultations including those held by the Alberta Ministry of Finance, Ontario Ministry of Finance, Ontario Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration, the Federal Task Force on Financial Literacy and the Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Her current research project in Community Finance and Consumer Financial Services is a multi-faceted project focused on Canadian micro-financial services delivery, regulation and education.

Collaborating with community partners in the Black Creek Financial Action Network and numerous graduate and undergraduate students, Professor Spotton Visano engages a variety of research methods to examine ways to improve access to basic financial services for low income Canadians.

Industry Expertise (4)



Public Policy

Financial Services

Areas of Expertise (11)

Macroeconomic and Monetary Policy

Alternative Financial Institutions (Payday Lenders Microcredit)

Financial Literacy

Economic Literacy

Social Justice

Financial Education

Community Outreach

Community Development


University Teaching

Adult Education

Accomplishments (3)

Status of Women Award of Distinction (professional)

2012 Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations

Award for Dedicated Service (professional)

2004 Canadian Association of University Teachers

Teaching Award (professional)

2000 Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations

Education (3)

McGill University: Ph.D., Economics 1993

Iowa State University: M.S., Economics 1986

University of Toronto: B.A., Economics 1983

Affiliations (1)

  • Principal Investigator : York University Community Finance Project

Media Appearances (4)

A Vision for a Better Canada Requires Cooperation

Huffington Post  online


What is our vision for a better Canada? Do we even have one? As the leaders of our major political parties enter these last few days of the race to become prime minister, wouldn't it be wonderful if we were inspired by a vision offered by one of them? We could vote for the leader who captures our imagination of a Canada in which we can see our collective selves thriving now and in the future. But a vision for Canada is missing from the national debates. And in the absence of one, many Canadians are looking to see "what's in it for me?"

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Ottawa’s financial literacy strategy is noble, but it’s not enough

The Globe and Mail  


If only it were enough. The federal government’s national financial literacy strategy – “Count Me In, Canada” – is an ambitious plan with the noble intention of empowering Canadians to meet their financial goals head-on, and banks are offering millions of dollars in support ...

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Canada learns from Bangladesh about ways to tackle poverty

Thomson Reuters  


Brenda Spotton Visano, an economics professor at York University in Toronto, said that microcredit really began to take off in Canada after Grameen Bank and Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi economist who developed the concept, jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006 ...

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Encouraging the entrepreneurial spirit

The Globe and Mail  


No conventional bank in its right mind would give Cleoni Crawford a loan ...

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Event Appearances (5)

The Pedagogical Consequences of the Crisis: Is Economics Changing?

Progressive Economics Forum Summer School  Ottawa ON


Gender Budgeting and Analysis

Presentation to Delegation from the Ministry of Gender Equality & Family of the Republic of Korea  Toronto, ON


Financial Crises: Socioeconomic Causes and Institutional Context

Progressive Economics Forum’s School for Union Activists and Public Policy Makers  Vancouver, BC


The Global Economic Crisis: Can Canada Escape a Lost Decade?

Alternative Federal Budget Roundtable 2012  Ottawa, ON


Knowing where you stand before knowing where to go...

Presentation to the Federal Task Force on Financial Literacy  Ottawa, ON


Articles (7)

From Challenging the Text to Constructing it in a Large Economics Classroom: Revealing the Not-so-Common Sense of the Capitalist Mode of Production

Social Science Research Network

2016 Multiple challenges confront the instructor seeking to introduce pluralist content and more engaged modes of delivery in today’s large economics classroom. This paper recounts one in-class, small group exercise of negotiating ownership claims on a capital good and its output.

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Gendering Social Location in a Post-Keynesian Theory of Financial Crises

Studies in Political Economy 97:1, 95-103

2016 This paper speculates about the meaningful integration of gender into a post-Keynesian macroeconomic theory of economic crises. It links main themes in feminist and other works with key elements of a post-Keynesian theory of crisis and highlights an important methodological sticking point. It argues that if the post-Keynesian approach is understood to be consistent with a non-positivist philosophical approach to economics, gendering post-Keynesian macroeconomics will readily enrich this theory.

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Building and Sustaining Community-University Partnerships in Marginalized Urban Areas

Journal of Geography

2013 This symposium explores and examines the challenges and opportunities of building community-university collaborations in marginalized urban areas. The selection of short essays highlights different experiences of building and sustaining community-university partnerships in a variety of cities as vehicles for enhancing experiential learning in geography, urban studies, and cognate disciplines.

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Is There a Best Fit? Assessing Alternative Entrance Pathways into an Undergraduate Degree for Non-Traditional Students at York University

Higher Education Quality Council of Ontario

Medovarski, Andrea, Leslie Sanders, and Brenda Spotton Visano. 2015 This pilot study examines alternative entrance pathways into York University undergraduate degree programs for students who apply from outside the formal education system. These alternative pathways are designed to facilitate university access for students from under-represented populations (for example, low-income, first-generation, Aboriginal, racialized minorities, differently abled, newcomers to Canada, sole-support caregivers, students with incomplete high school education, or some combination of the preceding).

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Advancing Critical Financial Literacy with Marginalized Youth


2013 Thinking critically about finance and financial literacy helps people to make genuine financial choices. To be effective, FL teaching methods need to engage youth and value their knowledge. Creative teaching tools that build on a person’s lived experience help to empower marginalized youth.

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Quantitative Results for a Qualitative Investor Model – A Hybrid Multi-Agent Model with Social Investors

Proceedings of the World Congress on Engineering 2010

2010 A standard means of testing an economic/financial model is to see if its simulation can reproduce quantitatively observed phenomena. It is generally easier to produce quantitative results from quantitative models, so qualitative models are often less highly regarded – they are more difficult to test and verify.

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A Hybrid Multi-agent Model for Financial Markets

New Frontiers in Applied Artificial Intelligence

2008 Economic models attempt to represent the aggregate behaviour of individual actors engaged in an economic activity. To ensure tractability in the subsequent mathematics, restrictive assumptions on the modelled phenomena are often required. Economic features that cannot be modelled mathematically can be difficult to verify experimentally.

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