I Revel in Making Sense of Complexity

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At NPQ, respect for our readers’ work, intelligence, and insight is core to all we do. And, indeed, research says that the nonprofit workforce is motivated differently than the other two sectors. So, we thought we would go out and ask them. The result is this special online series that will run every workday for the next month, illuminating what motivates each of twenty profiled workers.

We think much of what they say will resonate with you, but this is also who NPQ serves each day. They are why our work is so important, and NPQ can’t exist without your contributions.

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shena-ashley

Shena Ashley is Director of the Center on Nonprofits and Philanthropy at the Urban Institute.

Why NPQ serves Shena proudly…

It’s the complexity of the public/private, professional/voluntary, local/scale, evidence/heart dynamics in nonprofit and philanthropic action that has made me passionate about this field and is what motivated me to build a research career in this area. I’m fascinated by how nonprofits organize themselves internally: how they fundraise to support their activities, how they communicate their value and their effectiveness and delivery, how they negotiate the relationships and power dynamics between funders like government or corporations, and how they establish their legitimacy over and over again to be community-based organizations taking on some of the biggest tasks in our society right now. My work here at the Urban Institute is to help the public and policymakers understand these complexities and their implications for the public good.

I think the work that nonprofits are doing in public service is something that could be done either by nonprofits or government, but what I’ve learned in doing this work is that the way nonprofits approach it and the complexity of the way that they have to perform these same functions for the public good is so intellectually interesting to me.

The gift of working in the nonprofit sector is that I’ve been able to bring both my skills and my passions to work every day. Also, I’ve been able to operate in pretty flat organizations where my ideas have an impact on leadership decisions and what has happened in those organizations.

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Why Shena cares about NPQ…

NPQ has always been the resource that I’ve relied on to give me that gut check or “practice check.” People like me who study the nonprofit sector from the 10,000-foot level can get so caught up in theory and in what’s happening in our datasets that we forget about the experiences of the people working in the sector. It has always been a part of my daily activity to read NPQ just so that I’m aware of what the current issues are. NPQ helps me to generate ideas and identify cases for my research and teaching.

Beyond that, I value NPQ because it is a venue for different ideas and even disagreements to be expressed. This makes for a much more lively and reflective sector and, I think, helps to make us all better.