With all of the government, nonprofit, and business efforts to address issues like environmental degradation, the spread of global infectious disease, or improving educational outcomes for opportunity youth, why don’t we see real, sustainable progress? Do we spend too little money on these problems? Do we lack the essential knowledge to solve them? Or, perhaps, are the solutions available here and now, but we need to transform the ways that organizations work together, share knowledge, and implement evidence-based solutions?
These are the essential questions we seek to address in our blog posts. We are the Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact at Northwestern University, a research lab dedicated to understanding how organizations can work together to move the needle on social issues. We conduct large-scale research that has been funded by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and the Army Research Office into these questions. We work with hundreds of nonprofits and social impact organizations every year, and we want to bring that experience and knowledge to bear on these and other questions.
We hope that our blog will find its way into executive directors’ offices, nonprofit board rooms, policymakers’ staff briefings, and student clubs as they work towards social change. Maybe we already have most of the knowledge and solutions we need to address the biggest social problems of our day. Perhaps, we just need to scale up these solutions across networks of nonprofits, government agencies, and businesses.
Do you have a question for NNSI researchers that you would like to see addressed? If so, e-mail email@example.com.
Meet Jack Harris, a post-doctoral research associate at the Network for Nonprofit and Social Impact. Born and raised on the East Coast, he graduated from Rutgers University with a bachelor’s in history and a masters and PhD in communication. In the NNSI lab, Jack works on the Army Research Office grant on collective impact and … Continue reading NNSI Profile: Jack Harris
By: Michelle Shumate About a month ago, I had the opportunity to share my thoughts on the ways that funders influence the outcomes of nonprofit collaboration. I’ve synthesized some of my comments below and there’s a link to the full panel video at the bottom of this post. What do we know about philanthropy and … Continue reading How do funders influence the outcomes of nonprofit collaboration?
April 18, 2019 The only thing better than consuming good content is sharing it with others. Here are five pieces we came across recently that are worth the read: A Charity Accepts Uber Stock as Donations. Then Uses It to Pay Staff Bonuses. Is That OK? This riveting piece from the New York Times looks … Continue reading Bookmark This: 5 Articles We Read In April
Collaborations among organizations from public, private, and nonprofit sectors — formally known as cross-sector collaborations — are an increasingly popular method to impact social change. Below are three studies we’re working on in the lab that take a closer look at the impact of these networks: 1. The role of conveners in cross-sector collaborative governance … Continue reading Research Roundup
By: Anne-Marie Boyer We live in a society obsessed with numbers. In this day and age of big data, no longer are conversations around metrics and quantification limited to Silicon Valley or Wall Street. The social impact sector is also expected to legitimize and improve its efforts through strategies that involve iterative evaluation and assessment. … Continue reading What’s the (data-use) impact of Collective Impact on Nonprofits?
By: Jack Harris How do funders make decisions about which projects, organizations, or people to fund? Melina Moleskis, Ines Alegre, and Miguel Angel Canela in Crowdfunding Entrepreneurial or Humanitarian Needs: The Influence of Signals and Biases on Decisions provide some guidance and data on how funders on the crowdfunding platform, Kiva, make funding and lending … Continue reading What factors influence a funder’s decision-making process?
By Rong Wang During one of the keynote speeches at the Cross-Sector Social Interaction Symposium in June, the Secretary General of the Danish Refugee Council spoke addressed some of the major challenges faced in their line of work. One challenge discussed was about how to move from traditional Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) path to create … Continue reading Why are corporations reluctant to collaborate with each other in the global refugee relief effort?
By: Michelle Shumate I teach a class entitled Nonprofit Communication Management to a group of Northwestern undergraduates each year. What makes this class unique, and one of the highlights of my regular teaching year, is that I bring nonprofit clients into the classroom. The students’ final projects focus on real issues that nonprofit organizations are … Continue reading The Next Generation of Nonprofit Leaders
Prof. Rob van Tulder of the Partnership Resource Center at the Rotterdam School of Management asked this question during the typically questions and answer session following my presentation at the Cross-Sector Social Interactions conference at the Copenhagen Business School. It’s a loaded question, with proponents of collective impact publishing reports like this one (http://sparkpolicy.com/collective-impact-impact-cross-site-study-25-collective-impact-initiatives/) and … Continue reading Is collective impact just another management fad?
A team at NNSI is conducting a research project to examine how Global 500 Fortune Corporations implement Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs and form partnerships with nonprofits and government agencies to help relieve the global refugee crisis. In the recent International Communication Association Conference (May 2018) which took place in Prague, there was a related … Continue reading Communication Touchstones: The Cycles of Emotion in Human Service Work with Refugee Women Experiencing Intimate Partner Violence
Northwestern University and NNSI alumna Emily Comstock (’18) started out as a college athlete — a fencer — but after two years, she left the team in order to make time for working jobs on campus. Comstock graduated this year and recently began a new job with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago. “When I was … Continue reading NNSI Profile: Emily Comstock
By: Katherine Cooper In recent years, funders and consultants have emphasized building nonprofit capacity – that is, the processes, practices, and people that a nonprofit has at its disposal that enables it to produce, perform, or deploy resources to achieve its mission. Many organizations have developed their own tools for assessing capacity; however, despite having … Continue reading NNSI Research Report: The Nonprofit Capacities Instrument
By: Michelle Shumate, J. Sophia Fu, Katherine R. Cooper Over the past several decades, nonprofits have been encouraged to partner with other organizations to increase their capacity and effectiveness. Funders and nonprofit consultants alike take for granted that partnering with nonprofits, businesses, and governments breeds nonprofit capacity, defined as the “processes, practices, and people that … Continue reading Does cross-sector collaboration lead to higher nonprofit capacity?
by Katherine Cooper Here at NNSI, we hear a lot about collective impact – what is it? What role should nonprofits play in collective impact? Our researchers have been interested in this phenomenon for some time; this week, we provide an overview of what we know about collective impact – and our efforts to explore … Continue reading Collective Impact: What is it, and why is it of interest to NNSI researchers?
As Weinberg junior Evan Taylor was getting ready to fly back to his home state of Washington after a vacation in Mexico, he realized his pockets still held leftover pesos that he no longer had use for. His mother asked him, “How many people do you think have this same exact problem?” and with that, … Continue reading Two NU undergrads combat educational inequality using leftover foreign currency
Innovation has become a buzzword for nonprofit organizations seeking to obtain funding, improve service delivery, and enhance performance. In this research, we asked one question: how can nonprofit organizations be more innovative? To answer this question, we conducted surveys among a random sample of 2,000 nonprofit organizations with a revenue above $250,000 in the United … Continue reading NNSI Research Report: Catalyzing Organizational Innovation in the Nonprofit Sector
Nonprofit mergers are often presented as a last-ditch attempt to save organizations that would otherwise be forced to close. A new study on nonprofit mergers instead explores the possibility of mergers as a nonprofit strategy to achieve mission and increase outcomes. NNSI researchers Kate Cooper and Rey Maktoufi worked with Professor Don Haider of the … Continue reading Nonprofit Merger Study released: Implications for nonprofit management
As collaborative partnerships become commonplace for Chinese nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) to address a variety of complex social problems and foster the development of the Chinese civil society, the question of how they can expand their partnerships emerges. A recent study by NNSI researchers, Sophia Fu and Michelle Shumate, highlight the significance of guanxi to help … Continue reading NNSI Research Report: How to Expand Chinese NGO Collaborative Partnerships?
by: Katherine Cooper Not too long ago, I sat in on a meeting of local leaders as they wrestled with an education initiative that they were trying to implement in the community. Although the group’s goal sounded simple enough – introducing literacy programming into existing school and community projects – the conversation soon became complicated. … Continue reading “Wicked” problems: What are they, and why are they of interest to NNSI researchers?
by Sophia Fu While some scholars argue that the Internet is transforming China’s civil society landscape, a recent study by NNSI researchers challenges this claim. Sophia Fu and Michelle Shumate studied the websites of 410 Chinese nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and how Chinese NGOs hyperlinked with each other in 2014. Their findings suggest that Chinese NGOs … Continue reading NNSI Research Report: Civil Society 2.0? Winners and Losers on the Chinese Internet
by: Michelle Shumate As nonprofits consider partnering with businesses in a variety of ways, including sponsorships, cause-marketing, or more integrative arrangements, two important questions emerge. First, which businesses should they partner with? Second, how many business partnerships do most nonprofits maintain and talk about? In other words, how many is too many? Shumate, Hsieh and … Continue reading NNSI Research Report: Nonprofit Business Relationships