Sunday, November 22, 2009

ARNOVA: Fund for our Economic Future

David Abbott, CEO of the George Gund Foundation spoke during Thursday evening's plenary session about the Fund for our Economic Future, a collaboration of over 70 philanthropists & organizations in Northeastern Ohio created to revitalize businesses and bring new jobs to the region. This collaboration has been going on since 2004 and has raised over $90mil.

David's speech was inspiring and honest. He spoke about how the fund is working balance its collaboration efforts and mission fulfillment of of supporting business growth, talent development, and inclusion activities. David explained how the fund is growing and changing rapidly including in this stage of the work it is:
  • showing signs of traditional foundation behavior
  • working to balance group decision-making & personal egos
  • interacting in meaningful ways
  • holding a real mirror to itself
This fund truly exemplifies a learning organization. I hope it has many successes as it continues to support revitalization in Northeastern Ohio. As David said during his speech, "[successful] collaboration is striking a balance between individual and collective action."

ARNOVA: The state of nonprofit education

I spent most of Thursday and Friday of the ARNOVA conference in the "Blossom" room for all the nonprofit education focused sessions.

Since I'm studying what impact and use experiential learning components (e.g. applied projects, internships, practicums, capstones) have on nonprofit organizations, I enjoyed learning about what other nonprofit education scholars are studying in the field. Here's a synopsis:
  • Melissa Gaeke from the University of Southern California assessed what types of civic engagement and activities that students do on campus. They she surveyed students participating in these civic activities to assess if their motivation (ability, interest, and utility) changed over time and if their participation in these activities influenced their future civic engagement. She found that students were different before they participated in civic activities, and that participation in civic engagement influenced their motivation and interest in current and future civic engagement.
  • Anita Frederick and Judith Milleson from Ohio University shared about the process their University took to integrate project based learning into three different Masters programs in the Voinovich School for Leadership and Public Affairs. They also spoke about the time that faculty spend with students in order to present stellar projects to the clients. There are many teachable moments for the students and opportunities for students to integrate theory and practice in the work that they do.
  • Kathleen Fletcher from the University of Francisco surveyed 117 of her current students and alumni from the University of San Francisco's nonprofit masters and certificate program about the impact that the downturn in the economy has had on their job and nonprofit organizations. Here are some of her interesting findings:
    -21% were laid off or furloughed from a nonprofit job in the last 12 months.
    -50% of the organizations had not cut back on services or laid off staff.
    -Over 50% of the respondents had seen a decrease in funding from individuals,
    corporations, and foundations.
    -55% had their job role partially or entirely changed as a result of the economy
    -43% were concerned about future of their job.
    -Many mentioned their degree/certificate program was helpful in getting and keeping
    their jobs.
  • Jennifer Alexander and Jeffrey Brudney from Cleveland State University shared about a pilot study they had conducted with nine hospital HR directors about the competencies that managers should posses across sectors. The developed a list of competencies from MBA, public admin, and nonprofit curriculum. Many of these managers expressed the importance of soft-skills, team skills, and skills for specific jobs. They also found that financial management skills was an important competency for managers to possess.
  • Roseanne Mirabella from Seton Hall University and SueAnn Strom from American Humanics reviewed undergraduate nonprofit course syllabi and weekly course content. They compared these syllabi to the American Humanics competencies and NACC undergraduate guidelines. This study has important implications for the American Humanics certificate program in determining how much certain competency are being taught and which competencies should be covered more in the course syllabi.
  • Connie Campbell from CV Interventions, Scott Helm from University of Missouri, Kansas City and SueAnn Strom from American Humanics discussed a two part study. They surveyed the participants of the American Humanics Next Gen internship and the impact that internship had A) on the nonprofit employers and B) on student success. American Humanics is located at 63 campuses, and the next gen internship has placed 600 interns so far. I did not write down the survey response rate, however, out of the x# of respondents 52 interns were currently employed. Scott and Connie discussed how the internship provided signaling (one party conveys some meaningful information about itself to another party) to employers that Next Gen interns were more prepared for the job that other candidates. On the student side, interns felt their internships made them more prepared to work in national affiliate organizations (e.g. Red Cross, YMCA, Volunteers of America) rather than local unaffiliated agencies. Scott also spoke about where the American Humanics certificate program was housed, whether it was in a specific department or spanned across many departments.
  • Roseanne Mirabella from Seton Hall University and Mary McDonald from University of San Diego also assessed nonprofit masters course syllabi and weekly course content. They compared these syllabi to the NACC masters degree guidelines. The competencies listed the most were Fundraising, Nonprofit Management, and History and the competencies listed the least were Economics and Technology. Roseanne and Mary also expressed the importance of the relationship between each competency as well as the relationship of the competencies across Universities.
  • Jennifer Wade-Berg from Kennesaw State University and Judith Weisinger from New Mexico State University also looked at how diversity was being taught in the nonprofit masters course curriculum. They spoke about the importance of looking a diversity within the context of students becoming a global citizen and being culturally competent individuals. They encouraged programs to assess students' Intercultural Competencies when students enter the program and create diversity initiatives and opportunities for students to build up their intercultural competencies, more specifically, their perceptions, thoughts and actions.
My brief notes about these presentations do not do justice in explaining the importance this research has on the field of nonprofit management education as a whole. American Humanics just launched the Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership and I hope these studies will be included in the journal soon.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Take-Away Points from Colloquy: “Challenges of Developing New Theory in Nonprofit and Voluntary Action Studies”

Guest Blog post from Taylor Peyton Roberts, University of San Diego.

Chair: Margaret Harris
Presenters:Jeff Brudney, Bob Donmoyer, Angela Eikenberry, Paul Kabalo, Lucas Meijs, Laurie Paarlberg, Jo Anne Schneider, Nidhi Srinivas

Although this session was so rich with discussion that it would be impossible for me to do it justice in a blog, the meeting was such a thought-provoking treat that I have been inspired to collectively summarize some key highlights:

• In nonprofit research, borrowing from theories of other disciplines requires accurately interpreting the languages of those disciplines.

• There is great value in adopting a pluralist view in the field, as opposed to a positivist view.

• Leave open the possibility for interpretation. Meaning is constructed.

• Include qualitative studies in your lit reviews, not just quantitative studies.

• The nonprofit sector may lack evidence-based practice for four reasons:
  • much atheoretical work exists,
  • many studies are disconnected geographically,
  • qualitative studies (i.e., those that examine process) are lacking, and
  • academic work needs to be more accessible to practitioners.
• Attempts to develop a theory before historical research is examined are pretentious.

• Three challenges to nonprofit theory are:
  • disciplinary chauvinism,
  • the gap between nonprofit theory and practice
  • the failure for US scholars to pay attention to work from other countries.
• Theory is general, but practitioners must make situation-specific decisions.

• For practitioners, theory must be used as a tool for thought.

• We should create theory that addresses practical problems. Two possible approaches could be:
  • the use of thick descriptions (anthropology),
  • relying more on logical reasoning and case-studies (law).

2009 ARNOVA-Goers: Meet Your Wordle.

Guest Blog post from Taylor Peyton Roberts, University of San Diego.

If you haven’t already spent enough time perusing ARNOVA’s 38th Annual Conference Program today, here’s a colorful twist on the program’s content.

For those of you who are not familiar with Wordle, it is an online application that allows users to transform text into word cloud graphics. In the final product, the most frequently-appearing words are largest in size.

I couldn’t resist the temptation to discover the Wordle-flavor of ARNOVA’s detailed conference program this year. Check out the snazzy result!

Wordle: ARNOVA - 38th Annual Conference

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

ARNOVA: What’s in a name? Involving the community in research.

Tonight during the teaching section workshop we learned about Research Service Learning that was defined as “a collaborative teaching and learning strategy designed to promote academic enhancement, personal growth, civic learning, and the development of research capacities. Students render meaningful service—which include research activities—in community settings that present them with experiences related to academic material” (Clayton & Metelsky, 2009 Arnova Handout).

Many people may know this type of research by a different name “Participatory Action Research.” This type of research is different than traditional research and involves community members as co-researchers. I’ve been a fan of this type of research for sometime.

In order to create this pedagogy, a nonprofit-focused degree program would need “intentional design” for this type of research. This design would help address the challenges associated with community-based research. Clayton & Metelsky recommend the following components.

1) Students’ educational level (Undergraduate, Masters, etc.)
2) Scope of project
3) Partner involvement (Student, Faculty, Community partner)
4) Impact on issue(s)
5) Impact on partners (Students, Faculty, Community Partner)
6) Level of research capacity required

Deb Beck also covered this workshop over twitter

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Countdown to ARNOVA

I'll be blogging at the ARNOVA Conference from November 19-21st in Cleveland, OH and will be joined by:
and guest bloggers Taylor Peyton Roberts, Alice Walker, and Debra Weiner

Additionally, we have several conference attendees who will be tweeting about the conference using the #arnova09 hashtag.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Way to go ARNOVA!!

Next week I'll be attending the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organization and Voluntary Action ARNOVA annual conference in Cleveland, OH and I am super excited!! This year I'll be part of ARNOVA's social media team so stay tuned for updates via this blog, the ARNOVA website, and twitter #arnova09.

I have to say ARNOVA has made amazing progress this past year to connect with younger nonprofit scholars and to establish a social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Ning. This mostly due to the efforts of John Ronquillo, way to go John!

Stay tuned for live posts about the conference from John, Lindsey McDougle and myself. If you're planning to attend the conference and would like to join our social media team please let me know. Additionally, this year I (along with Jennifer Shea) have organized a dynamic networking event for conference newcomers on Friday evening of the conference. It's shaping up to be a fun and informative event!