Dr. Elizabeth Castillo is an Assistant Professor of Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies at Arizona State University. She studies organizational leadership through the lens of complex adaptive systems. Her current research investigates capitalization of organizations, particularly how intangible assets like social, cultural, and political capital contribute to the production of social and financial returns. Her scholarship is inspired by two decades of management experience in the nonprofit sector, including the San Diego Natural History Museum and Balboa Park Cultural Partnership. Her mission is to repair the world through research that promotes thriving organizations, engaged employees, connected communities, and a world we can be proud to pass on to our children.
At the annual conference of the leading international academic trade association for the study of nonprofits, a group of panelists, including NPQ’s Ruth McCambridge, took a hard look at why nonprofit governance in the US remains white-dominated and what to do about that.
Nonprofits often act to mend problems within a given system, but what if the system as a whole is decaying? The role of nonprofits is likely to become different than what we have been used to. To preserve our values, we need to enter the fray and re-embed the market in society by restoring social norms of reciprocal obligation and commitment.
If what we measure matters, then standard economic measures leave out a whole lot. In response, communities, nations, and international bodies have developed well-being indicators that include community-identified social and environmental metrics. Done well, these indices provide valuable data that highlight nonprofits’ value and help us improve our overall quality of life.
In the attempt to prove our performance, practitioners often are pulled between using frameworks, definitions, and measurements that are meaningful to us and our communities and those that are more generalizable and comparable to other programs but may feel slightly off base. The sector as a whole does need bigger and more coherent data, but how might that compromise the work of individual nonprofits that have worked hard on a tailored approach and don’t see the fit? This article is a peek into a high-level conversation about these tradeoffs.
To Access the Full Article, Please Login or Subscribe