The health and safety of our members is our foremost priority. Given the general concern about traveling due to the spread of Covid-19, ISTR is extending the early registration deadline to Monday, April 27, 2020.
The Montreal Tourisme Office is keeping us informed about developments locally and we are monitoring other public health website. Montreal is currently a low-risk destination for community spread of Covid-19.
If you decide not to attend we will refund your conference registration in full. Due to the extraordinary circumstances, we will not charge the usual administrative fee on refunds.
We will keep monitoring the global situation and will provide updates.
We look forward to seeing you in Montreal. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact Margery Daniels, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Canadian organized philanthropy is significant in Canadian civil society. Among approximately 86,000 registered charities, we count over 10,000 registered public and private (primarily family) foundations, a proportion of all registered charities not dissimilar to that of foundations in the United States. According to the most recent data available (from 2017) these foundations gave a total of $ 6.7 Billion to other Canadian charities.
But the raw data says very little about the quality and impact of this philanthropy. Information remains patchy and anecdotal. Efforts are being made to amplify the research on the impact of organized philanthropy but as yet there are few university-based clusters of researchers in Canada. The Masters Program in Philanthropy and NonProfit Leadership at Carleton University has a node of researchers producing public material on philanthropic impact. And Philab Network at the University of Quebec at Montreal has been active for the past three years in publishing material on the impact of foundations. However, the academic literature remains surprisingly limited.
The literature may not make them visible, but we have a lively community of Canadian foundations and they are addressing some important issues for our society:
Transitioning communities in the face of climate change
Identifying sustainable growth strategies and policies
Reconciling with the legacy of colonialism and the challenges faced by Indigenous communities
Developing innovative approaches to the challenges of integrating young people into employment in a mature society shifting to a digital economy with new skills needs
Many of their stories are being told through Philanthropy In Action, on the site of by Philanthropic Foundations Canada, the philanthropy support organization for many public and private philanthropies. Here, we see evidence that Canadian funders are convenors, catalysts, policy developers and space holders, not simply grantmakers.
Earlier this year, I suggested that Canadian foundations consider three more specific challenges in 2020: media and democracy, non-profit leadership, and non-profit sector capacity.
1. What role can philanthropy play in promoting a more informed democracy?
Back in 2013, US-based observers suggested that “if a requirement of democracy is that all citizens have an equal opportunity to make their voices heard, then we must find ways to help that happen. A longstanding argument on the role of civil society is that it should do two related but somewhat opposite things: 1) serve as a means for bringing forward new ideas that with the support of the majority are put forward into government, and 2) serve as a place to support the ideas and interests of multiple minorities. Philanthropic organizations thus serve as a pipeline into democratic engagement, and as an incubator and home for ideas and communities that are still emerging or may not have found awareness or favor with the voting majority.”
Canadian foundations are working on media and democracy already. The Atkinson Foundation has supported the Public Policy Forum’s “Shattered Mirror” investigation into the long-term implications of shifts in digital technology, news and politics. Digital news platforms are upending media business models. How to regulate and manage these new digital media platforms in ways that support informed citizens and better policy? The McConnell and Rossy Foundations are supporting a digital democracy project at McGill’s Max Bell School of Public Policy. Might we see more of this being done in Canada in 2020?
2. The second challenge is building non-profit leadership.
How can Canadian philanthropy support the development of leaders from the millennial generation of people in their 30s today? The first millennials will be turning 40 in 2021. Are they ready to take on leadership positions in the Canadian non-profit sector? This generation of leaders will be the one to confront head on the impact of huge and complex challenges such as climate change. And this generation is also more focused on equity, inclusion and different ways of working. What do they need to build their skills?
Some foundations are paying close attention to helping youth prepare for the workplace. RBC Future Launch and PwC Canada Young People Project are providing philanthropic support to mentoring, coaching, skills acquisition and work experience opportunities for young people. The Counselling Foundation of Canada provides extensive support to youth planning their careers and developing their skills. What about developing non-profit leaders themselves in mid-career? The Rozsa Foundation through its Arts Leadership Programs provides targeted assistance to leaders at all stages of their careers in arts organizations. No reason why this approach could not be considered for other parts of the non-profit sector. And a small philanthropic investment such as this has very long-lasting impact.
3. The third challenge is building non-profit sector infrastructure.
Elsewhere, I have argued for foundation support for intermediary organizations that provide collective action on rules and standards, gather intelligence, mobilize knowledge, and advocate with policy-makers. Relatively few private foundations in Canada have chosen to do this as a primary goal. The Muttart Foundation and the Lawson Foundation are examples of philanthropy that recognizes the value of strengthening the philanthropic and charitable sectors. Other foundations work to support infrastructure within their areas of interest. But there is still a major gap. These organizations and platforms are fragile. Small investments bring big dividends, especially if the investment is in capable leadership.
Viewing philanthropic strategies through these three lenses faces us with an important question for future research: How are foundations contributing to the development of informed citizens, capable young leaders, or a stronger non-profit sector in Canada overall? Perhaps the discussions at ISTR in Montreal in 2020 will provide us with some answers.
Guest post by Hilary Pearson, Canadian expert on foundation philanthropy in Canada. She was the founding President of Philanthropic Foundations Canada, advises the federal government on policy and regulatory issues, has been a director on several major non-profit boards, and has worked with many of the largest private charitable foundations in the country. Ms. Pearson serves on the Advisory Committee to the Masters in Philanthropy and Nonprofit Leadership program at Carleton University.
ISTR’s professional development workshops are designed by our own members, and respond to perceived needs within our own community. This year we have a number of special sessions and workshops planned for the conference – you can read all about them on our website.
This year, one ISTR member is organizing a special kind of professional development workshop entitled “The impact from within – voicing our emotions in research.” The intention of this workshop is not to propose a theoretical discussion, but rather to create a space where PhD students, scholars at different career stages, and practitioners may voice some of the personal issues they have experienced while doing research, such as experiencing feelings of rejection, failure, judgement, isolation, procrastination and pressure to excel. Through a fishbowl format of interaction, we will start off the conversation and invite participants to join the conversation at any time. And then together the group will discuss and share different strategies for coping with these stresses.
The workshop is being organized by Fabio Prado Saldanha, a PhD student at HEC Montréal. He writes, “As a PhD candidate doing research with vulnerable young people living in the deprived outskirts of a huge metropolis, I was confronted with realities that had never before been tangible for me. Doing research in places where barricades were built to prevent police from getting into the territory, and where drugs and weapons were deliberately displayed made me reflect beyond my role as a researcher while staring at structural social inequalities that I hardly feel able to change. After collecting my data in such environments, I came back to my hometown in Canada, and started to transcribe my interviews. The shock I felt was even stronger then. As I sat in front of my computer in a well-equipped house, I started to feel different emotions than I had when I was in the field. Feelings like injustice and impotency really hit hard on me, culminating in even further negative moods that arouse throughout different periods of the day, until the moment that I searched for medical help and I was diagnosed with depression.”
The aim of this workshop is to create a safe, respectful, and welcoming space where participants may feel comfortable voicing the emotions they have experienced in research. Discussants are not previously determined: the audience itself will co-create the discussion. Although themes will be emergent-oriented, some topics will be proposed – such as family-work balance, insecurities about choices made, etc. –, with the intention to share strategies that we have developed to cope with our vulnerable situations in research.
As a community of researchers, if we intend to create impact in society with our research, it is also useful to take a look at these impacts from within.
If you plan to attend this workshop and would be willing to help get the conversation started, please email Secretariat@istr.org and let us know.
The following is an overview of a special roundtable ISTR is hosting at this year’s conference.
Philanthropy’s role in advancing sustainable development attracts a lot of attention. However, very few figures are available to date on the volumes and sectors of philanthropic flows supporting development. To address this lack of reliable and comparable data, the OECD produced the report on Private Philanthropy for Development. The report calls into question long-held assumptions about the volume, nature and potential of foundations’ engagement in developing countries, and the role they can play to support the SDGs.
The report examines philanthropic resource flows for development purposes, as well as foundations’ priorities, practices and partnering behaviors. It presents fresh perspectives and action-oriented recommendations to optimize philanthropy’s role in support of sustainable development.
This report offers practical insights for government policy makers and decision makers in civil society organisations, social enterprises and foundations. It results from close co-operation between the OECD Development Centre’s Network of Foundations Working for Development (netFWD) and the OECD Development Co-operation Directorate.
The ISTR Conference will host a round table introducing and presenting the 2018 OECD Report on Private Philanthropy for Development. Lorenzo Pavone, Head (Acting), Partnerships and Network Unit, OECD Development Centre, will present the report’s ground-breaking data and fresh perspectives on how to optimise philanthropy’s role in support of sustainable development.
Following this, the panel will discuss the report’s findings and its implications. Panel participants include:
Whenever I go to a conference, the thing I dread most is panels.A typical panel is a show about nothing. Sure, it worked on Seinfeld—but they had comedic geniuses obsessing over the perfect script and a whole cast of skilled actors and producers making it sing. (Though panels do have some recurring characters: I’m sure you’ve met The Rambler, The Spotlight Hog, and The Mansplainer.)
Panels aren’t going away any time soon. Since I end up sitting on them and moderating them on a regular basis, I decided to see if I could fix them.
And by fix them, I mean run a panel that doesn’t ruin your day. Here are my guidelines:
CHOOSING THE CAST
1. Keep it small. In my experience, the best panels have a moderator and no more than two or three guests. Just like in teams, less is more. Larger panels create more communication and coordination difficulties. It’s impossible to find a rhythm with six people on stage. People just sit there waiting to make their point.
2. Invite people who complement each other. I’ve suffered through panels that flop because the participants have nothing in common and because they have totally redundant perspectives. You need a mix of similarities and differences. In psychology it’s called optimal distinctiveness. Every panelist should fit into a common topic but stand out based on having unique insights or experiences.
3. Design for relationships between the panelists. A group of strangers sitting on stage together is a recipe for disaster. A great panel feels like being a fly on the wall for an actual conversation between friends or sparring partners.
Don’t just think about the qualities that you want in individual panelists or moderators; invite people who actually know each other. They’re used to having conversations together, they’re familiar with each other’s views, and they’re more likely to be comfortable debating and disagreeing respectfully.
If they haven’t connected before, have them spend some time getting to know each other. Even a quick email exchange followed by five minutes face-to-face backstage can help build rapport and give time to compare notes on what to cover (and avoid).
SETTING THE STAGE
4. Encourage the panelists to talk to each other. A rookie mistake is when panelists are all having individual conversations with the moderator. That’s just a bunch of one-on-one interviews slapped together—you would never do that in a meeting or at a party.
Maryellen Reilly introduced me to a creative way of nudging authentic discussion: invite each participant to ask a question of one other panelist. Along with catapulting them into a natural back-and-forth, it’s fascinating to see what they most want to learn from one another.
5. Ask them to keep their comments short. The most compelling responses are usually no more than 60 seconds. That’s where you start pushing the limits of conversational attention span and violating the natural flow of back-and-forth. Go longer and you’re just doing sequential monologues. Short answers open the door for burstiness, where it sounds like the panel is literally bursting with ideas. The energy picks up, people veer off script and actually build on one another, and there’s more room for unexpected wisdom and spontaneous humor.
6. Don’t let every panelist answer every question. That immediately devolves into mind-numbing turn-taking. No one has something interesting or informative to say on all the topics.
7. Tell them you might interrupt them. The moderator’s job is to guide the conversation to make it worthwhile for the audience. So if panelists start rambling, you need to jump in with a comment, a fresh question, or a redirect. At first I struggled to do that—I was afraid of being disagreeable. But I found that when I told panelists in advance that I might interrupt them, the awkwardness melted away. It’s not rude to interrupt them once you have their permission.
PREPARING THE SCRIPT
8. Start by asking for a story. Panels fall flat when participants never get to share their knowledge—and the audience has no context for why they’re there. Sometimes moderators try to solve that by reading lengthy bios for each panelist, which is a huge waste of time. Just introduce them with a few highlights that explain why they’re on stage, and invite them each to tell a story on the topic.
9. Pose questions that make the audience—and the panelists—think. The richest questions often start with why (to get at motivation/purpose) and how (to get at strategy/tactics). It can also help to surface tension, which doesn’t have to be with other panelists; you can prompt them to challenge conventional wisdom or their own past experiences.
Two of my favorite questions are “What’s the worst career advice you’ve gotten?” and “What’s something you believed early in your career that you now think is wrong?” Sometimes it helps to give them the questions in advance, both for peace of mind and for reflection time.
Another trick is to have the audience ask their questions at the beginning of the panel instead of the end. As Kumar Gargpoints out, it helps the panelists get more specific and more practical.
10. Run a lightning round. Come ready with a few questions that panelists can answer in a word or a sentence. Other than an opening story, that’s the only time you want everyone to chime in: it’s a great way to get diverse ideas on the table swiftly and represent everyone’s voice. It can be a fun appetizer early on if there’s a burning question where you want to surface a range of views, a nice interjection to keep the conversation moving if it’s dragging in the middle, or a strong closing if you want to wrap up with a light, memorable Q&A.
It’s always reassuring to hear successful people open up about their vices. What was your worst idea ever? What task do you procrastinate on? When do you feel the most self-doubt?
Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist at Wharton, a #1 New York Timesbestselling author, and the host of the TED podcast WorkLife. He shares insights in his free monthly newsletter, GRANTED.
The following is a guest post reflecting on one of the roundtable sessions at the upcoming ISTR Conference organized byAlan Fowler, Honorary Professor Chair in African Philanthropy, Wits Business School and Professor Emeritus, International Institute of Social Studies andKees Biekart, Associate Professor International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) at the Erasmus University Rotterdam.
The problem of trust. Can non-governmental organisations dedicated to development and humanitarian relief (NGOs) be trusted? Does their legitimacy matter! NGOs will surely answer that their credibility is essential. Without it, fundraising becomes more difficult, supporters retreat, governments become (more) suspicious and media thrive on adding to the negativity. A recent highly publicized flurry about the behaviour of a few NGO staff and remedial actions taken are a bit of a distraction from the systematic forces that appear to be eroding the legitimacy and credibility that these organisations have built up over many decades. What is going on and why now?
Ending of a golden era? A golden decade of NGO legitimacy, public standing and support from official aid agencies started to ebb away as one millennium gave way to another. Four erosion processes appear to weave together.
Comparative advantages. Really? One is a challenge to NGO efficacy. Doubts about NGOs being more effective than other development actors in reaching and working with the billion poor at the base of the pyramid are growing. Compelling evidence to the contrary is difficult to find. Faith in NGOs’ comparative advantages in relief and development faded and gave way to many demands to demonstrate results. Despite the significant investments in monitoring and evaluation, technical difficulties hamper convincing responses.
The accountability challenge. Legitimacy is also challenged by issues of inadequate accountability to the complex mix of stakeholders involved in who NGOs are and what they do for who. Participation principles notwithstanding, feedback mechanisms from intended beneficiaries on the relevance and quality of NGO work remained overshadowed by accountability to those providing resources. The Accountability Commitments set up by leading international NGOs with its twelve commitments shows the range of demands to be met and promises to be kept. The seriousness of accountability for reputation and negative consequences when perceptions of inadequacy arise should not be underestimated.
Political suspicion. A further source of erosion for NGO legitimacy is coming from many governments, particularly those whose own legitimacy is open to question. The ‘shrinking of civic space’ – that is the freedom for citizen action – is tracked by the Civicus Monitor project. Far more countries limit such freedoms than enable them, while the list and range of restrictive repertoires is growing. One government strategy delegitimizing NGOs is to declare them as being unelected as well as acting as ‘foreign agents’, beholden to external funders. Another is to call into question NGO credibility to represent the interest, if not the voice, of those in whose name they operate. Countering these politically inspired messages to shape public opinion is made difficult by the fact that NGOs are often ‘disassociated’ from the population at large. In other words, there is often a lack of a strong bonding with the people from which legitimizing support and action should come.
A vulnerable moral high ground. A fourth force working against NGO legitimacy is associated with organisational morality. For the past decade or more, a zeitgeist has taken hold that the private sector and market principles may be a better solution to poverty reduction. The moral underpinnings of the logic of non-profit organisations working for the public good rather than private gain bring an uneven vulnerability to charges of immoral behaviour than is the case when, for example, corporate corruption is exposed. This might also hold true for #metoo within NGOs. Their reputations can suffer more from a bad press because business behaviour is not strongly associated with an ethic of fairness or justice.
The knock on effects of reputational set-backs for the NGO community as a whole should not be underestimated, nor should the degree of collective solidarity be over-estimated. It seems that many NGOs choose for an individual solution to a problem that can better be viewed as collectively shared.
The roundtable will take place Wednesday 11th July, 09:00 – 10:30 in Room 12A 33 and will feature an interactive discussion with Prof. Thea Hilhorst, of ISS, Dr. Irene Guijt of Oxfam UK, Anabel Cruz of Civicus (Uruguay) and Dr. Patricia Mendoça from the Universidade de São Paulo (Brazil). Kees Biekart of the International Institute of Social Studies (ISS) will facilitate. Clickhere to see the full ISTR Conference Schedule.
We are thrilled to announce that our keynote speaker for the upcoming conference is Donatella Della Porta, professor of political science, Dean of the Institute for Humanities and the Social Sciences, and Director of the PD program in Political Science and Sociology at the Scuola Normale Superiore in Florence, where she also leads the Center on Social Movement Studies (Cosmos).
Among the main topics of her research are social movements, political violence, terrorism, corruption, the police and protest policing. She has directed a major ERC project Mobilizing for Democracy, on civil society participation in democratization processes in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Latin America, and she co-edits the European Journal of Sociology (Cambridge University Press) as well as the Contentious Politics series at Cambridge University Press.
In her keynote, Innovations from Below: Civil Society Beyond the Crisis, Dr. Della Porta’s keynote will discuss the impacts of the long financial crisis on civil society organizations, which were challenged to address social and political emergencies with declining resources. Despite these challenges, the sector experienced a resurgence of civil society organizations with a high capacity to build alternative knowledge and prefigurate social innovations. Bridging literature from social movement studies and voluntary associations, this keynote will single out new visions and practices of solidarity in the third sector.
Born in Catania (1956), she graduated in Political Science at the University of the same city in 1978. In 1980, she received the Diplome d’Etudes Approfondies at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris and in 1987 her PhD in Social and Political Sciences at the European University Institute.
Dr. Della Porta was formerly a professor at the European University Institute and co-editor of the European Political Science Review (ECPR-Cambridge University Press). In 2011, she was the recipient of the Mattei Dogan Prize for distinguished achievements in the field of political sociology. She is Honorary Doctor of the universities of Lausanne, Bucharest and Goteborg. She has supervised 80 PhD students and mentored about 30 post-doctoral fellows.
She is the author of 85 books, 130 journal articles and 127 contributions in edited volumes.
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.
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 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.
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