PhD, University of Chicago (2002)
Sociology 248C | 617.358.0651 | email@example.com
BIO AND RESEARCH
I received a B.A. in history and sociology from the University of British Columbia (1991), a MA (1994) and PhD (2002) in sociology from the University of Chicago. My research focuses on the social organization of altruism and philanthropy. Rather than take it for granted that altruistic giving is the simple and straightforward outcome of individuals’ benevolence, my research probes how social organization can impede or facilitate such giving, structure the direction and patterns of philanthropy, and shape the very goals that nonprofit organizations pursue. For example, in my book, Contesting Communities (Stanford University Press, 2006) – winner of the 2007 best book award from the National Association of Fundraising Professionals — I show how society’s changing conceptions of community have fundamentally transformed the goals and practices of workplace charity. I have published in American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, Voluntas, and Nonprofit Management and Leadership, as well as other journals and edited volumes.
My current book-length project investigates how the value of social goods gets established. We know much about how the economic value of goods and services is set in the market, but much less about how the worth of social goods gets determined. Comparing across nonprofits, social enterprises, and socially responsible businesses and drawing from interviews, content analysis, and secondary data, I examine the central logics and practices used to establish social value across the three fields. As the production of public goods has dispersed from the nonprofit sector and into the private sphere, I ask how the proximity of producers to the market affects what regimes of justification are employed by actors to demonstrate the value of goods and activities.
A related project investigates the shifting meanings and metrics of success for nonprofit organizations. With funding from the American Sociological Association/National Science Foundation Fund, this study focuses on the history of how nonprofits have sought to demonstrate they are doing well at doing good. Drawing from archival, survey, and interview-based research, I argue — contrary to the general view — that nonprofits have never been free to engage in social welfare without providing some numerical account of their activities. However, the criteria of success have changed over time – the history of the nonprofit sector in the US is replete with shifting and often conflicting metrics of organizational performance and success. These shifts in practices of measurement result from contestations between actors over the meaning of and control over the proper role and purpose of the nonprofit sector.
With Heather MacIndoe (University of Massachusetts Boston), a corresponding study, funded by the Boston Foundation, consists of the first survey of Boston-area nonprofits in over two decades, with a focus on service-providers’ use of performance measurement. Current papers in progress include an investigation of the role of organizational capacity in patterns of diffusion of outcome measurement, a study of how managers’ accounts of influences towards evaluation affect organizations’ patterns of implementation, and the use of QCA to specify how organizational mission mediates the effect of environmental pressures towards performance measurement.
Future research will continue to investigate the social organization of philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. My next book project will analyze the provision of humanitarian goods and services by non-governmental organizations to afflicted areas and populations. As humanitarian aid moves from Northern funders to recipients in the South, the funds tied to a specific project by institutional philanthropists are exchanged across a variety of intermediary organizations before reaching recipients on the ground, with little governance or coordination of that process. While the complexity of this journey is well-established, we know little about the actual structure of and dynamics shaping the trajectory of specific donations. The book will examine questions such as: at each step of this global philanthropy chain, how are decisions made as to which needs to address, which solutions toemploy, and which organizations or networks to select? How do the differing locales and logics of the actors involved in the exchange of funds vary and shape outcomes at each stage? Can we characterize the field of humanitarian aid as cohesive (i.e. shaped by a homogeneous global culture), or as a set of autonomous interactions shaped by distinct rationales of action?
Forthcoming. “Classification Struggles in the Nonprofit Sector: The Formation of the National Taxonomy of Exempt Entities, 1969-1987.” Social Science History.
Forthcoming. (with Heather MacIndoe). “Why Nonprofit Managers Use Outcome Measurement: a Multidimensional Measure.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly.
2012. (with Heather MacIndoe). “Institutional Pressures and Organizational Capacity: The Case of Outcome Measurement.” Sociological Forum .
2009. “Partnerships and Performance: The State of the Boston Nonprofit Sector” (with H. MacIndoe). Boston: University of Massachusetts Boston Research Report
2008. “With Strings Attached: Nonprofits’ Adoption of Donor Choice.” Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly 31(1):39-56.
2008. “Organizational Genesis in the Nonprofit Sector: An Analysis of Demand, Supply, and Community Characteristics.” International Journal of Organization Theory and Behavior 11(1):40-63.
2007. “An Institutional Approach to Donor Control: From Dyadic Ties to a Field-Level Analysis.” American Journal of Sociology 112(5):1416-1457.
2007. “What is the Bottom Line for Nonprofit Organizations? A History of Measurement in the British Voluntary Sector.” Voluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 18(2):101-115.
2006. Contesting Communities: The Transformation of Workplace Charity. Stanford University Press. Winner, 2007 AFP Skystone Ryan Research Prize.