My research interests focus on how philanthropic and associational action can shape and influence societal transformations. I am particularly interested in the ways private actors exercise an influence in public life through associational and philanthropic vehicles in times of political, cultural, and economic crises. This broad-based approach and the reliance on historical methods has allowed me to track changes over time in associational action and philanthropic strategies, to better understand today’s philanthropic practices. This research interest has developed along various trajectories.
Conceptually, my work is influenced by my reading and understanding of the concept of civil society. I have engaged with these theoretical questions in studies published in Voluntas, NVSQ, and Journal of Civil Society, where I define civil society heuristically as the way individuals – with their own economic, social, and political interests – participate in public debates with the explicit aim to shape societal transformation for the common good. These practices can take the form of philanthropy, associational life, and behavioral norms. This approach guides my investigation of a set of interrelated themes that run through all my work.
The possibilities for individual agency through philanthropy and associations, as by definition they connect the individual sphere of action and the public sphere.
The attention to civil society as a combination of civil society practices and discourses, that is, how discourses influence practices driven by an understanding of the common good and aiming to shape society.
The role of public affairs and nonprofit studies programs in establishing civil society by addressing the root causes of political contentiousness.
My research relies on historical methods to better understand today’s philanthropic practices and enhance the efficiency and impact of organized philanthropy.
Institutionalizing Nonprofit Studies
The project investigates the contributions of US philanthropic foundations to the growth of the field in the United States and beyond. The project aims to stimulate a reflection on how academia, the nonprofit sector, and philanthropy have worked together over the past three decades to increase the capacity and quality of the many and varied organizations committed to the public good.
Global Development Solutions
The research project examines current capacity-building activities for civil society organizations (CSOs) in Liberia and utilizes a participatory action research approach to develop a context-based nonprofit management education (NME) curriculum that will better meet Liberian civil society’s capacity-building needs.