How can nonprofit networks be rewired for maximum social impact?

This is the main question that the Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact is dedicated to answering. Located at Northwestern University, the research team includes undergraduates, graduate students, post-doctoral fellows, and faculty members. NNSI uniquely focuses on research that emphasizes collaborative efforts and network structures that include nonprofit organizations and their many organizational and community partners.

Meet the Team

Michelle Shumate

Founding Director

Kate Cooper

Affiliated Faculty

Amy O'Connor

Affiliated Faculty

Annie-Marie Boyer

Graduate Research Assistant

Marwa Tahboub

Graduate Research Assistant

Yeha Kim

Graduate Research Assistant

Current Projects

Help Seeking and Navigation Support

Technology and human-centered navigation solutions have emerged in the last decade as ways to support individual help-seeking. The key idea behind these interventions is that it is confusing for individuals to identify which organizations offer benefits, programs, and services that they are eligible for and that the enrollment processes for these benefits, programs, and services may be a barrier. This pilot project examines the experiences of individuals who have received help or sought help but didn’t receive help. We will interview individuals about their experiences with help-seeking during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Examining the Outcomes of Repeated Client Referrals Based on the Trajectories of Care

The proposed study aims to introduce and validate a system-derived measure of the quality of client outcomes based upon trajectories of care. The focus will be on network performance, defined as “the longitudinal improvement of client well-being across multiple service episodes.” We will analyze data from Combined Arms, a collaborative network that provides support for veteran transition. This study will then aim to answer three questions: (1) What is the effectiveness of different pathways in the network over time? (2) Which referrals should be made first? (3) Which providers are most effective at each stage along the trajectory of care?

Collective Impact and Common Goals: A Study of Education Reform Networks

Collective impact suggests that cross-sector networks of businesses, government agencies, and nonprofits can work together to move the needle on educational outcomes in new ways. This research examines 26 education reform networks in communities across the United States. This mixed-methods research examines the factors including structures, governance, and processes that influence organizational, network, and community-level outcomes.

Improving Veterans Referrals by Optimizing Network Design in Response to COVID-19

AmericaServes is the United States’ first coordinated system of public, private, and nonprofit organizations working together in communities to serve veterans, transitioning service members, and their families. We will analyze data collected in their shared referral management and analytics platform. First, the study will examine how referral networks adapt to a substantial increase in the number of cases as a result of the secondary impacts of COVID-19 (i.e., economic downturn, disruption of service delivery mechanisms). Second, this research will utilize high-level analytics to understand how different network structures perform in the face of a surge of cases.

Key Insights

Systems of Care
How policymakers and organizations can better address social determinants of health (SDOH)
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Networks for Social Impact in Education Series
How organizations across sectors work together to improve multi-level educational outcomes
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