Category Archives: ISTR Programs

ISTR 2020 – Early Registration Deadline Extended, ISTR 2020 Remains Scheduled

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 ISTR International Conference and ISTR PhD Seminar remains scheduled for July 2020.  Extending the author registration deadline will offer participants more time to consider their plans to travel to Montreal.

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 mdaniels@istr.org.

Please stay in touch!

With best regards,

Ruth Phillips
ISTR President

Celebrating the Award Winners at the ISTR Conference

Several awards were presented at ISTR’s 13th International Conference at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam back in July and we would like to take this opportunity to tell you about the award winners.

Emerging Scholar Dissertation Award

This award, established in 2006 by an anonymous donor, is given once every two years at the biennial ISTR conference to the author of the best dissertation in the field of comparative study of civil society organizations, nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, and voluntarism and related issues.  The purpose of the award is to encourage young scholars to enter the field of nonprofit and philanthropic studies throughout the world.  The winner this year was chosen from among 60 other entries from 28 countries. The overall quality of the entries, the diversity of the topics approached, the scope of areas addressed, as well as the spectrum of research methods utilized, left a very positive impression with the members of this year’s Selection Committee.

This year’s winner is Andrew Heiss, Brigham Young University, for his PhD thesis Amicable Contempt: The Strategic Balance between Dictators and International NGOs.

andrew-heiss-2016Examining the activities and adaption of international nongovernmental organisations (INGOs) in the context of increasing global restrictions on civic space, Andrew’s dissertation addresses the paradox that while INGOs’ service and advocacy activities can threaten the legitimacy and power of authoritarian regimes, numerous autocratic states still allow the work of INGOs; similarly, despite limitations and restrictions on their own activities, numerous INGOs continue to operate in these countries. Thus, the idea put forward and explored throughout the dissertation is that the relationship between INGOs and autocratic regimes is a state of amicable contempt: each party is aware that the other both threatens and supports their existence.

Focusing on the timeframe of 1991 to 2014, and on the three cases of Egypt, Russia and China, the dissertation addresses questions about: Why do regimes allow INGOs to work in their country? What influences INGO decision making in restrictive environments? How do regimes reap the benefits of INGOs programming? How do INGOs adapt to restrictions? A creative, detailed and thorough examination of an increasingly important international issue, the dissertation thereby provides a strong theoretical basis for examining INGO-dictator relationships. Additionally, it offers a diversity of practical findings that can be used by local and international NGOs to manage risk and to improve their likelihood of survival and impact of their work.

The Selection Committee also acknowledges the merit and achievements of the two other finalists.

Nora Derbal, Freie Universität Berlin, Charity for the Poor in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, 1961–2015.

Sara Compion, University of Kentucky, Volunteering And Democratization In Southern Africa: A Structural And Cultural Analysis.

Best Articles in Voluntas 2016 & 2017

 These articles will be open access and available to the public for August and September.  Patricia Mendonca, University of Sao Paulo and chair of the awards committee, presented awards to:

  • Abdulrazak Karriem, University of Western Cape Town, South Africa and Lehn M. Benjamin, Indiana University, United States, for their article, “How Civil Society Organizations Foster Insurgent Citizenship: Lessons from the Brazilian Landless Movement,” February 2016, Volume 27, Issue I, pp 19-36.
  • Jasmin Slootjes, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, The Netherlands and Thomas Kampen, University for Humanistic Studies, The Netherlands for their article, “Is My Volunteer Job Not Real Work? The Experiences of Migrant Women with Finding Employment Through Volunteer Work,” October 2017, Volume 28, Isuue 5, pp 1900–1921.

Best Poster

Stefan Toepler, George Mason University, and Publications Committee Chair presented the award to Andre-Anne Parent; Stéphanie Tourillon-Gingras; and Christian Jetté, Université de Montréal for their poster The Entre-Maisons Ahuntsic – A Collaborative Project at the Hearth of Low-rent Housing Units. Click here to see the award-winning poster!

best poster “It is the task of the publications committee to select and confer the best poster presentation award.  Doing so is a very delightful task; our only regret is that we cannot offer any publications opportunities along with the award.  That said, in selecting our awardee, we look for both intellectual and visual appeal of the poster. Intellectually, we look for clearly presented statements of the research question and approach that also convince through concision. Visually, we like posters that utilize different design elements without being distracting and that easily guide the eye along … bonus points go to posters that manage to do so without overtaxing the eyes of the grey-haired crowd and do not force us to open the magnification app on our iPhones.  There were many highly fascinating posters, but this one had the best overall package.”

PhD 3 Minute Thesis

3 minute thesisRuth Phillips, University of Sydney in Australia and President-Elect of ISTR, presented the award for the PhD 3 Minute Thesis to Fanny Dethier for her presentation titled Seeing Through NPOs. A new innovation for ISTR, this experimental competition offered a light-hearted way for students in the ISTR PhD Seminar to practice the art of distilling their ideas down to the core questions and concerns in 3 minutes and 1 PowerPoint slide.  Ten students all gave very good presentations during the seminar and the experience was fun for the audience.  A prize was awarded to the person who made the case for their research in the most clear and compelling manner, and the winner made her presentation to the entire plenary. You can view a video of her presentation (at the end of the opening plenary) by clicking here.

But besides the fun, the 3-minute thesis teaches important lessons – research should be designed to be useful, and in order to be useful (and in order to funded!) the users need to understand it and believe in it.  Sometimes 3-minutes are all we have to get the attention of our audience.

It is ISTR’s hope that this competition provided an opportunity to make the wider conference attendees more aware of the PhD seminar, and hopefully inspired the students to feel more connected to the larger group of scholars and begin to see it as their research home into the future.

Congratulations to all the award winners!

The PhD Seminar: A bit like coming home for me

The following is a guest post by Mieke Berghmans, former ISTR PhD Seminar participant.

I am one of those PhD students who had the chance to attend two ISTR PhD seminars: a first one in 2012 in Muenster and a second one, two years later, in Stockholm.  Needless to say,  I am very enthusiastic about the whole program. I have been encouraging fellow PhD students to apply too.

The ISTR PhD seminar meant a lot of different things to me. Let me share a few with you.

The ISTR PhD seminar was a great chance for me to meet other academics who are passionate about the same things that I am passionate about. At my home university, my colleagues have a shared interest in education, society and culture. They are all great people with interesting subjects of study. But unfortunately, not one of my colleagues is working on international NGOs, the topic that I love. This made me feel quite ‘lonely’ in the beginning of my research. Attending the ISTR PhD seminar and meeting folks who can talk endlessly about the difference between social movements and NGOs and other ‘sector related’ issues was really a bit like coming home for me.

What I also loved about the ISTR PhD seminar is the ‘formula’ of the small group sessions. In these sessions, students quickly – in five minutes or so – present their work to the group members. After that, the members of the group ask them questions. I hadn’t come across this way of working until I participated in the ISTR PhD seminar. Before that, I had always participated in debates where one person presents his or her work extensively and then a shorter time period is reserved for critical comments, questions and suggestions of the public. The formula used in the ISTR PhD seminar turned this upside down. It reserved more time for the discussion than for the presentation and it allowed the presenter to ask questions to the group.  I must say I found this a very fruitful approach. In this formula, students were not pushed in to a defensive mode. Rather, we could openly present the issues that had us stuck and that we were struggling with, and our fellow group members would spend 45 minutes constructively working with us to look for alternative perspectives and solutions, helping us to get ‘unstuck’ again.

Most importantly, both ISTR PhD seminars were a lot of fun. I had a great time and laughed a lot during the sessions, in the pub, and in the park. Through the seminar I met some great people who became good friends. I look forward to meeting them again in July. See you in Amsterdam!

mieke photo

Mieke Berghmans

Writing a PhD on ‘accountability in international NGOs’ at KU Leuven, Belgium

Reflecting on the PhD Seminar experience: Building a community of emerging scholars

Guest post by Christiane Rudmann, 2014 PhD Seminar participant and organizing member of the PhD Seminar Alumni Network

IMG_4657 final 2x3When I received the email that I was accepted to ISTR’s PhD Seminar in Muenster in 2014, I couldn’t believe my luck! I had already been working for 2 years on my PhD at a smaller German university that did not have a nonprofit faculty. It will hardly come as a surprise to hear that I struggled to find the “right” literature, the appropriate conceptual frameworks, or like-minded researchers to discuss and eventually advance my project. The opportunity to attend ISTR’s PhD Seminar changed all of that.

We worked in groups of about 6 PhD students with our always-encouraging faculty members, discussed everyone’s project, asked and were asked many of the critical questions. And I believe we all received valuable advice on how to best proceed, solve a problem, rethink an approach, and just get it done.

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What was striking to me is that never before had I had to chance to work with a group of fellow researchers – graduate students and senior faculty – in such a respectful, collegiate, and encouraging atmosphere. We came from many a different country and with that from, at times, very different academic backgrounds. Some PhD students had the chance to work on a daily basis with the leading scholars in the field whom others only knew from the books they were reading for their literature review, yet it was always an atmosphere of true peer support where no question was ever off limits or “too simple” to ask.

I had the chance to attend and present at a few other conferences in the field in recent years, including at ISTR in Stockholm, and have to say that, to me, ISTR provides the most welcoming and encouraging setting for researchers to come together, think critically, and leave inspired for future projects. Yet the most wonderful aspect is that some of those researchers have become some of my best friends.

 

It is in that spirit of friendship and collaborative research that we are working towards establishing the ISTR PhD Seminar Alumni Network. We hope to see many of the PhD Seminar alumni in Amsterdam and are thankful that ISTR made sure all the PhD Seminar students and alumni can stay at the same hotel for the duration of the seminar and the conference, with that, providing lots of opportunities to network and to get to know each other.

 

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.