I was on a conference call for the Next Generation Leadership Forum, a coalition of many US nonprofit infrastructure organizations (Idealist, CompassPoint, NCN, BoardSource, GVSU, YNPN and more) all passionate about nonprofit leadership resources and research in the sector.
One person on the call mentioned: Have you seen the most recent Nonprofit Quarterly where David Renz and his team mapped the US Nonprofit Infrastructure?
Only one person answered yes. Let me repeat that...only one person on a call of nonprofit infrastructure organizations was aware of the research that Renz and his team did to map the US Nonprofit Infrastructure.
Does this seem a little odd to you? It did to me, in fact my stomach sunk and I thought why weren't these infrastructure groups involved in creating this map?
To create the map, the researchers looked at the organizational websites, 990 forms, and annual reports. Then they decided on 10 key areas that are needed to keep the nonprofit sector moving forward. I can't list the ten items because of NPQ copy write issues, however I wonder if the infrastructure organizations had been involved in this study, would these 10 areas be the same?
This is a complex issue and something that is tough for me to blog about because I do believe the map is a step in the right direction and what we need in the sector, however I also strongly believe there is a continued disconnect between research and practice that needs to be brought to the surface.
It pains me for researchers and funders to not involve practitioners in research studies because it takes time and money to do so. However if Renz and his team involved US infrastructure groups or coalitions of US infrastructure groups in this research, the findings would be better informed, more comprehensive and much more robust. I realize the editors and editorial board did not want the map to be comprehensive (which is disappointing), however what would the map really look like if Renz and his team involved more infrastructure organizations in the process?
For example: The Education and Leader Development category is missing many national organizations that do mentoring a leadership development: see the Nonprofit Congress's Nonprofit Leadership Sampler for a list.
Also, why aren’t Commongood Careers or Nonprofit HR Solutions (two national organizations that have released important research about the nonprofit employment and workforce) included on the map?
As a caveat: I am a huge fan of David Renz for he has done a lot of great research on nonprofit governance and I like Erin Nemenoff too she's a next gen doctoral student who worked on the project, however I think capacity and funding issues prevented Renz and his team from doing a comprehensive study and involving (many) infrastructure groups during the research process.