ISTR in Amsterdam, here we go!

The biannual conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research will gather researchers from all over the world. Our team at The Center for Philanthropic Studies at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam  is delighted to welcome you all to our campus and introduce you to the Dutch society of third sector practitioners and academics. For us, it will be a great opportunity to showcase the relevance of research in this field, contributing to the rise of modern philanthropy at the societal, political and policy agenda’s in the Netherlands.

Platanenhof

Philanthropy in the Netherlands blossomed during the Dutch Golden Age (17th century) when many initiatives were undertaken for the socially disadvantaged. The picture above is the ‘Platanenhof’ a neighbourhood built for the elderly in the Jordan district of Amsterdam.

The civil society sector in the Netherlands has be receiving growing attention in recent decades, but can it still cannot be considered a mature sector. Philanthropy and the civil society are an unquestionable part of Dutch history, but because as it has been largely neglected for years, and has also insisted on its freedom to operate independently, civil society organizations haven’t focused on developing their own coherent sector. The quality of organization in the CSO sector is still in its early adolescence. What stages do organizations have to go through to be able to present a coherent and collective front? The sector needs a mission and a vision.

The sector has to be integrated into our welfare state model – a very difficult step to take. The philanthropy sector is barely organised, which makes it very hard to present a collective front to the authorities. Official bodies have a difficult time working out who they should deal with and who they should consult.

Also, the philanthropy sector, and CSOs more broadly, have to professionalize in order to become a mature sector. To do this, the sector urgently needs help from the scientific community, because scientific research and teaching are ‘conditio sine qua non’  to gain prestige.

More serious is the fact that many policymakers know little about what CSOs and philanthropic organizations actually do. In addition to this knowledge gap, government agencies and policymakers are often very hesitant about making contact with philanthropic organizations and reaching agreements with them. This attitude can be explained partly by the prejudice that still exists with regard to ‘philanthropy’. Wasn’t the welfare state created precisely in order to put an end to charity and philanthropy? Didn’t the welfare state mean the defeat of patronizing attitudes, paternalism and dependence?

 These questions are being addressed by scholars, not only in the Netherlands, but all around the world. The ISTR conference offers us the opportunity to reflect on lessons learned in other country contexts and strengthen our own work at home.

Democracy and Legitimacy:  The Role of the Third Sector in a Globalizing World is the 2018 theme of the ISTR conference. With the aim of addressing the potential and existing shortcomings of the organizations we study, the Amsterdam conference of ISTRs will offer suggestions for a way forward for sure.

See you in Amsterdam!

On behalf of the hosting committee,

foto © Bart Versteeg 14-06-11

Theo Schuyt

Professor Philanthropic Studies

Center for Philanthropic Studies

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

 

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Call for Papers – Deadline 27 October

This is a friendly reminder that abstracts can be submitted until 27 October 2017 for the 13th International Conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 10-13 July 2018.
Conference theme: Democracy and Legitimacy:  The Role of the Third Sector in a Globalizing World
Please click on this link to read the full call with instructions for submission: CALL FOR PAPERS 
We look forward to seeing your abstract for Papers, Panels, Roundtable, and Posters

 

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 ISTR_Secretariat@jhu.edu.   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 http://www.istr.org/WPSeries.     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

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-eikenberry-profile-image

 

 

 

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.