Deadline Approaching: ISTR 2016 Conference Working Papers Series

Please be reminded that submissions to the ISTR Conference Working Papers Series are due no later than this Friday, 30-September.

Please submit your paper to   All papers will be reviewed by a small committee (this is not a blind review) and posted on the ISTR website in December, 2016.  The ISTR Working Papers Series can be found at     For any questions regarding the Working Papers Series, please contact the Secretariat.  We look forward to your submissions.


Launch of the ISTR’s International Comparative Project on Institutional Philanthropy

At the ISTR Conference in Stockholm, a capacity-filled roundtable engaged a dialogue between researchers and a panel of foundation leaders about the state of knowledge about institutional philanthropy at the occasion of the ISTR’s launch of its Institutional Comparative project on Institutional Philanthropy. Session moderator Bernard Enjolras from the Institute for Social Research in Oslo and coordinator of the ISTR’s International Comparative project on Institutional Philanthropy provides a description below.

Though knowledge about the world of institutional philanthropy, especially the world of foundations, is relatively available in the U.S. and to some extent in Europe, we lack knowledge about the importance of institutional philanthropy in many parts of the world. Additionally, even where knowledge about institutional philanthropy is available, this field has received much less scholarly attention than the public and business sectors and their organizational forms. The task of comparing institutional philanthropy in a cross-national perspective is largely unachieved and impeded by two persistent obstacles: the imbalance concerning the availability of empirical data between countries and world-regions, and the diversity of institutional forms and cultural understandings and practices characterizing institutional philanthropy in different national settings.

Insofar as much of scholarly research on institutional philanthropy has been informed and influenced by the American understanding of the grant-making foundation, a comparative perspective needs to develop a concept which, from the outset, does not limit the investigation to a subset of institutions and practices bounded to a cultural and national setting, but, on the contrary, encompasses the very diversity characterizing its research object. ISTR’s International Comparative Project on Institutional Philanthropy aims at improving our knowledge of institutional philanthropy worldwide (differentiated from individual giving and other third sector manifestations), understood as the use of private resources oriented toward the public good within an institutional setting.

ISTR International Comparative Roundtable

Because philanthropic institutions have limited resources relative to the issues they address and the causes they pursue, they increasingly seek to maximize their impact by fostering policy innovation and social innovation. Correlatively, for philanthropic institutions, having access to accurate and up-to-date information about philanthropic activity in different countries and fields is critical for enabling them to actualize their innovative potential and to maximize their impact. In spite of the strategic importance of reliable and relevant knowledge on philanthropic institutions’ activities and capacity to innovate, results from systematic cross-country comparisons studies are few.

Hence, the ISTR’s International Comparative Project on Institutional Philanthropy aims at improving the state of knowledge about philanthropic institutions’ innovative capacity globally and in a comparative perspective. More precisely, the project will consist in (i) clarifying the concept of “institutional philanthropy” in its diverse manifestations, (ii) mapping of the world of institutional philanthropy worldwide, and (iii) an inquiry into the ways by which institutional philanthropy  innovate worldwide, and (iv) building research capacity and facilitate cooperation among researchers and research institutions.

  • Clarifying the concept of “institutional philanthropy”

One a most challenging issue when it comes to comparative research is the definitional one. Indeed the definition of foundation and the requirements in foundation law vary from country to country. Given the definitional complexity inherent to comparative research, as well as the tendency shown by comparative research to focus mainly on grant-making foundations both for reasons of simplicity and because of the influence of the American tradition, the project emphasizes the need of conceptual clarification under the conceptual umbrella of “institutional philanthropy”.  A central objective of this project is therefore to find common ground around a consensus “working definition” of the institutional philanthropic sector that can be applied cross-nationally.

  • Mapping of the world of institutional philanthropy worldwide

Philanthropic institutions and especially foundations are in many ways the backbone of civil society; they play a critical role in canalizing private funds to value-oriented projects emanating from civil society initiatives. In spite of national studies and partial comparisons across countries there exists no systematic international comparative knowledge about the size, composition, structural features, and developmental trends of the institutionalized philanthropic sector on a global basis. Consequently, a main uncompleted task for the project will consist in mapping and measuring the world of institutional philanthropy in its different manifestations and to contribute to the standardization of data collection at the global level. Such an effort will allow examining cross-national and regional variations in the size, composition, assets, financing, and staffing of the philanthropic sector.

  • Identifying the innovative capacities of institutional philanthropy worldwide 

As many philanthropic institutions and foundations seek to maximize their ability to bring about positive social change, they find themselves emphasizing their capacity to support new ideas, new needs and new solutions, and to influence public opinion and public policy. The project will consequently proceed to a mapping of philanthropic institutions’ innovative initiatives worldwide and address the central issues related to their innovative capacity: How do philanthropic institutions’ innovate? Which types of innovation do they initiate in the fields of education, higher-education and research, health, social welfare, arts and culture, religion, and international philanthropy? By which channels do they innovate, through single issue projects, cooperation with governments – policy development, with other foundations – pilot projects, with the business community or jointly, in collaboration with business, government and other philanthropic actors?

  • Building research capacity and facilitate cooperation among researchers and research institutions

In order to meet the needs of building research capacity within the field of institutional philanthropy, plans to establish a “young professional” fellowship program, offering internships to academics with foundations worldwide, as well as a PhD program associated to the overall project allowing selected research topics to be analyzed by PhD candidates in the academic institutions associated to the project.


Bernard Enjolras is Research Professor with the Institute for Social Research in Oslo and coordinator of the ISTR’s International Comparative project on Institutional Philanthropy.

Finding a Place for Critical Perspectives in Nonprofit Management Education

Finding a Place for Critical Perspectives in Nonprofit Management Education was the topic of a roundtable discussion at the June 29-July 12016 ISTR conference in Stockholm, Sweden.  Session moderator Angela M. Eikenberry, University of Nebraska at Omaha, provides an overview below.

Einkenberry roundtable

Photo Credit: Marty Sulek

In a time of perceived austerity across many countries in the world, with growing economic and social inequalities and ethno-nationalisms, perhaps more than ever, students of nonprofit and civil society organization management need tools and methods that enable them to critically think about how to not only cope, but also challenge and change, the environments in which they work.

An international panel of scholars at an ISTR conference session argued that integrating the work of critical theorists and using critical-theory informed approaches in the classroom is needed to this end.

While critical theory is a multidimensional term that continues to take on different connotations and uses, an underpinning any critical perspective is an attempt to dig beneath the surface of (often hidden) historically-specific social structures to illuminate how they lead to oppression and then to also reveal ways to change these structures. Another key aspect of a critical perspective is that it is based on a belief that knowledge is not simply a reflection of a world “out there,” but is an active social construction based on certain ideologies and assumptions that are not strictly value free and that can be changed. At its essence, critical theory necessarily requires critical thinking.

Integrating a critical perspective into nonprofit and voluntary organization management education means, for example, that instructors help students understand that situations are not inevitable, but social constructions that can be changed by being aware of (management or other) ideologies and issues of power, control, and inequalities. This differs from mainstream approaches to nonprofit management education, which often assume the inevitability of management environments, ignore ideologies and oppressions, and encompass a predominantly instrumental, one-size-fits-all approach to understanding management issues.

The panelists provided several examples of ways they’ve integrated critical perspectives into their classrooms. Florentine Maier, from Vienna University of Economics and Business, described a method she uses to help students start thinking in different ways by making courses research-based, and assigning students to read and critically assess scientific articles from leading journals in the field. She asks students to answer questions in relation to these articles such as:  What did you find interesting?  What do you criticize about this article? Is there anything you had difficulty understanding?

Billie Sandberg, from Portland State University, discussed how she integrated critical perspectives on social entrepreneurialism into a course on social entrepreneurship, having students read materials that broaden an understanding of social entrepreneurship and asking students to address questions like: How do we bring in more democratic values into social entrepreneurship?

Roseanne Mirabella, from Seton Hall University, provided an example of using Derrida’s idea of “the gift” in her religion and philanthropy class as a way to discuss power dynamics between givers and receivers as well as to discuss the importance of thinking about and doing philanthropy from a less instrumental, “effectiveness” point of view.

Charlotte Holgersson, from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, and Johan Hvenmark, from Ersta Skondal University College, described their experience integrating a critical and gender perspective into organization courses in a business school—they ended up facing a lot of pushback from students and administration—but at a social work school, they found the students welcomed and asked for more of this perspective. The lesson here is that different contexts require different strategies for introducing critical approaches.

Attendees of the roundtable provided several thoughtful comments and suggestions for other ways to integrate critical theory into courses. These were too numerous and far-ranging to summarize here; however, some conclusions were that critical perspectives can ultimately help students to be better leaders and mangers by helping them to be aware—of their own biases and assumptions, of the social construction of systems that can oppress or liberate, and of the power they have in various situations to change these systems.

This roundtable session is connected to a project in progress to create a companion textbook on critical perspectives on nonprofit and voluntary organizations and their management, to be published in 2018.





Angela M. Eikenberry, University of Nebraska at Omaha


New Regional Network and Affinity Group Meetings

New Regional Network

Members of ISTR’s regional networks will meet on Thursday at 6:15pm.  Just announced is a meeting of those who wish to consider the formation of a new regional network group focused on Russia, Central Asia and the other former Soviet republics beyond the EU’s eastern borders.

To gauge interest, the organizers will convene an exploratory meeting of researchers with interests in this region. The meeting will be held concurrent with the other regional network meetings on Thursday, 6:15 pm, in the Aulan room on Campus Ersta.

Many scholars working on Central and Eastern Europe may well feel at home in the Europe regional network at this point, but would also be welcome to help discuss common issues and the proper boundaries of a potential new regional interest group.

The other existing Regional Networks and PhD Seminar alumni will meet at the same time – Thursday at 6:15pm – on Campus Ersta:

  •  Africa (Sal 2)
  • Asia Pacific (Sal 1)
  • Europe (Stora Salen)
  • Latin America and the Caribbean (Sal 4)
  • PhD Seminar Alumni (Sal 3)

New Affinity Group on Research on Volunteering

This year the ISTR Conference will convene the first meeting of the new affinity group for those with an interest in research on volunteering.  The affinity group is open and free for anyone to join who is interested in networking with a community of academics and practitioners advancing the field of research on volunteering.  The group will meet on Friday at 12:30 at the Ersta Conference Center in Clara Eckerstromstromsalen.

The formation of this affinity group results from an increasing interest in the distinctive features of research on volunteering, an increased awareness that there is a benefit in connecting the diverse research components in the field, and an increased awareness that stronger efforts must be made to build connections among those carrying out this type of research in all regions of the globe.  A major factor underpinning this interest results from the adoption in September of the new United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which recognizes the important role of volunteers in the achievement of the goals and the publication in June of a report by the United Nations Secretary General on Integrating Volunteering in the Next Decade, which calls for increased research and policy action on volunteering.

The other existing affinity groups on Gender and Law and Regulation will meet at 12:30 at the Ersta Conference Center in Norrbysalen and the Biblioteket, respectively.

A very warm welcome to Ersta Sköndal University College and the 12th ISTR Conference

In this final blog post from ESUC we wish to make two observations: one of a rather practical nature regarding the practical arrangements for the conference, and a second one that concerns the current political and social situation in Sweden. However, first and foremost we wish to extend a sincere welcome to all of you.

Victims of success: many participants bring practical challenges

As local hosts we started this journey two and a half years ago. Since then we have managed to raise the necessary resources as well as enlisted the help of many volunteers, to whom we are extremely grateful. However, what we did not fully anticipate is that we would have more participants than ever before at an ISTR conference. We are proud and very happy about this level of interest and enthusiasm. However, because of the limited campus space at our disposal we have, in close cooperation with the ISTR board and staff, been forced to come up with creative solutions to a number of logistical challenges. We hope everything will work smoothly, but in case of occasional problems we kindly ask for your forbearance and good cheer.

These four days in Stockholm will be very intensive, filled with many academic events along with two receptions and surely many more informal occasions for networking and socializing. We are looking forward to all this and we hope you will enjoy it immensely as well.

 The Refugees Crisis and the Role of Civil Society

Finally a few words about the current socio-political situation here in Sweden. Stockholm, along with the rest of Sweden, is presently struggling with issues related to the recent extensive wave of refugees fleeing the war in Syria as well as difficult conditions in other countries around the world. Sweden has also received a large number of migrants from within the EU, many of whom lack both work and housing. While many think and hope that this will be good for Sweden in the long-term, the immediate difficulties are considerable and entail huge challenges to local governments in charge of providing schooling, healthcare, and social services. Even a well-developed welfare state such as the Swedish one cannot handle this situation without the manifold support of organized civil society as well as the more informal engagement by citizens in a variety of ways.

Given this situation, let us keep in mind that we, as engaged citizens but also as critical social scientists, have a special role and an important responsibility to contribute to a credible, long-term and sustainable policy with respect to the possible role of civil society in a crisis like this. This is not the occasion, we would argue, to simply celebrate civil society and “third sector” initiatives; it is equally important to maintain a critical stance and consider equally the limits as well as the potentials for civil society to play a part alongside public sector and for-profit actors. At the Institute for Civil Society Studies we have always worked with these critical points in mind. Here the long-standing Nordic tradition to foster collaboration between state and civil society might well be an advantage for society as a whole.

But now at last, we are very happy to see you here in Stockholm and you are most welcome!

Lars Svedberg & Lars Trägårdh


Travel options from Arlanda airport & ISTR discounts

For those ISTR Conference participants flying into Arlanda airport in Stockholm, we remind you that ISTR has negotiated discounts on the Arlanda Express train. Even with the discount, this option is pricey, but it is fast if you need to get downtown in a hurry.  You will need to book your ticket in advance to obtain this discount. The train departs from the lower level of each airport terminal every  15 minutes and arrives at Stockholm Central Station in 20 minutes

 Please use online code ISTR2016 when booking your Arlanda Express ticket at, to receive a 15% discount. This code is applicable towards travel dates between 23-June-2016 and 6-July, 2016

Other methods of getting to and from the airport: 

1. Express Buses – Flygbussarna runs buses frequently to and from the City Terminal, just next to the Central Station Swebus – runs buses to and from the City Terminal, 1-4 times/hour Mon-Fri,  1-2 times/hour on Sat-Sun.

2. Taxis –  A number of taxi companies operate in Stockholma taxi ride to central Stockholm  takes approximately 40 minutes. The Swedish taxi industry has been deregulated. Some companies have fixed prices but they can vary depending on the time of day and if it is the  weekend. For this reason, it is recommended that you confirm the taxi fare before setting off.   Credit cards are usually accepted.

Taxi Stockholm Ph: +46 08 15 00 00

Flygtaxi (Airport taxi) Ph: +46 08 120 920 00

           Taxi 020 Ph: + 46 0 20 20 20 20

You may also request transportation via an “Uber” taxi by downloading the Uber Application on your mobile phone.

4. Regular Rail – Regular trains serve the airport through a third station, Arlanda Central, located  under Sky City between terminal 4 and 5.

Safe travels and see you soon!