Civil Society Workshop, November 29: Susan M. Chambré, Historical Trends in Volunteerism: Continuities and Discontinuities in Rates, Styles and Motivations

Join us Thursday, November 29, at 12:30 pm for a discussion with:

Susan M. Chambré, Professor Emerita of Sociology, Baruch College, CUNY

Historical Trends in Volunteerism: Continuities and Discontinuities in Rates, Styles and Motivations

Abstract. Discussions of volunteering in the U.S. commonly accept the idea that volunteering has evolved in a linear fashion from a traditional, communally oriented and altruistic activity into a more opportunistic and self-reflexive one.  Discussions of civil society organizations suggest several features of traditional volunteerism: volunteers were highly committed, altruistic, a significant source of unpaid labor and participated in cross-class organizations. This presentation considers two major questions concerning the idea that volunteering has changed. First, does historical evidence provide support for a “golden age” of volunteering with broad participation and a shift from traditional volunteers to a dominant pattern of reflexive, self interested and episodic volunteering?  Second, what have been the social, cultural and institutional forces that influenced patterns and styles of volunteering at different periods of American history? This paper addresses these questions based on a review of historical and contemporary studies of communities, voluntary associations, unions, social movements, charities and events that mobilized volunteers. It describes numerous ways that volunteering has not changed but one important difference: contemporary volunteering is more transactional and motivated by a desire to “give back” or “give forward” to organizations that benefit oneself or one’s family and friends.  The data also point to a relative inelasticity of both the supply and demand for volunteers except when rapid social changes and events like disasters, epidemics and broad-based social movements mobilize volunteers.

Meets in room 5401, Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, the Graduate Center.

Civil Society Workshop, November 7, at Baruch College: George Mitchell and Thad Calabrese

November 7, Wednesday, meets at 12pm at Baruch College (There will be lunch at 12:00, with the presentation starting at 12:30 in room 308, 135 E. 22nd St)

George MitchellMarxe School of Public and International Affairs, Baruch College

Thad Calabrese, Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, New York University

Outcome-Oriented Philanthropy and the Problem of Institutional Design

George Mitchell
George Mitchell
Thad Calabrese
Thad Calabrese

Abstract: In the United States, the 501(c)3 public charity is the dominant institutional form for philanthropic activity. However, the emergence of new innovations in philanthropic forms and instruments suggest certain limitations to the traditional form of the public charity, specifically as a vehicle for outcome-oriented philanthropy. In line with recent calls to reexamine the fundamental precepts and conventional wisdoms of nonprofit studies, this article critically analyzes the institutional form of the public charity and the ‘standard theory’ that describes it. This analysis demonstrates that the form of the public charity, including the current legal and cultural architectures in which it is embedded, are implicitly designed to maximize resource provider satisfaction and that this objective is necessarily incompatible with the maximization of program outcomes. In this ‘iron circle’ model, donors and nonprofits provide mutual benefits to one another, disregarding beneficiary welfare, and no reliable selection mechanism exists in the sector that could possibly promote allocative efficiency. Further analysis attributes this scenario to the role of information costs and the ‘specter of disappointment.’ Although reform is extremely unlikely, policy implications suggest specific means of developing an information ecosystem significantly more conducive to outcome-oriented philanthropy and the solving of the social problems evidently delegated to the nonprofit sector.

Download the paper for discussion here


Civil Society Workshop on October 11 with Leigh Graham

Join us Thursday, October 11, at 12:30 pm for a discussion with:

Leigh Graham, Assistant Professor of Public Management, John Jay College, on:

Race, Risk, and Resilience in Rockaway

The need to reconstruct the beach neighborhoods of the Rockaways, Queens, after Hurricane Sandy in 2012 brought a wide range of people and organizations together in a local participatory process. Professor Graham’s research shows how participation was affected by differences in race, economic status, and the unique set of regulations surrounding public housing.

Read more about Graham’s work here in Urban Affairs Review.:

Meets in room 5401, Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, the Graduate Center.

Civil Society Workshop, November 1: Yang Li and You Fei

Join us Thursday, November 1, at 12:30 pm, for a discussion with:

Yang Li and  You Fei

Does Enforcement of China’s Overseas NGO Law Affect US-based NGOs in China?

The Law of the People’s Republic of China on Administration of Activities of Overseas Nongovernmental Organizations (ONGO Law), which came into effect on January 1, 2017, has generated wide concerns and fierce criticisms among China and international civil society. What is the influence of ONGO Law enforcement on US ONGOs operating in China? Based on the public information of Ministry of Public Security, there are 355 ONGOs offices registered and 644 temporary activities filed as of March 31 2018, and about 22 percent of the registered ONGOs are US-based NGOs. This paper explores the influence of ONGO Law enforcement on ONGOs by empirical analysis, based on interviews with 12 executives of US-based NGOs whose headquarters are located at New York. We discuss the influence of ONGO Law enforcement on the operations of organizations, the difference between their expectation and practical implementation, the challenges and opportunities they encounter, and their suggestions for potential ONGOs who plan to enter into China. We conclude that ONGO Law enforcement accelerates the institutionalization and internationalization of nonprofit sector in China. ONGOs including US-based ones are not simply passive law abiders, they also actively operate to redefine their roles and relationships in societal space through employing a wide range of levers.

We will be meeting at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, room 5401

Civil Society Workshop, November 15: Mary Roldán, Foundation(al) Fictions: Corporate Philanthropy, the Catholic Church, and the Alliance for Progress in Colombia

Join us on Thursday, November 15, at 12:30, for a discussion with

Mary Roldán, Dorothy Epstein Professor of Latin American History, Hunter College, CUNY Graduate Center

Foundation(al) Fictions: Corporate Philanthropy, the Catholic Church, and the Alliance for Progress in Colombia

Efforts undertaken by the private sector in the U.S. and Colombia to promote partnerships between private enterprise and non-governmental groups, with the support of the Catholic Church, prompted the unprecedented creation of private philanthropic foundations between 1960 and 1967. Using the specific case of the Colombian mass-media based education and rural leadership training network, Radio Sutatenza/ Cultural Popular Action (ACPO), I examine how private, non-denominational philanthropic foundations became the principal conduits through which international development loans and funding sponsored by agencies like the Alliance for Progress and USAID in the 1960s and 1970s were funneled to education, health, housing and technical training programs affiliated with the Catholic Church and aimed at pre-empting the spread of communism.

We will be meeting at the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society, room 5401

Civil Society Workshop, December 13: Sarah Sunn Bush, Density and Decline in the Founding of International NGOs in the United States

Join us on Thursday, December 13, at 12:30 pm, for a discussion with:

Sarah Sunn Bush, associate professor of political science at Yale

Density and Decline in the Founding of International NGOs in the United States

Sarah BushIt is now commonplace for scholars to note that the number of international non- governmental organizations (INGOs) has exploded. But in recent years, the growth rate of INGOs globally and in the United States has stagnated. We argue that this stagnation can best be explained by changes in the environment in which INGOs work. Specifically, the now-dense population environment discourages new INGOs from be- ing founded, while also encouraging competition. Analysis of a new, comprehensive dataset on American INGOs between 1992 and 2012 supports the argument, as do case studies of trends within the environmental conservation and democracy assistance sectors. The analysis suggests that debates about INGO cooperation and competition overlook a key environmental factor that varies across and within populations of organizations: density. We draw out the implications of this approach for contemporary global governance.

We will be meeting in the Political Science thesis room: 5200.07

Comparative Politics Workshop – Wednesday, September 12

Please join us at the co-hosted seminar with the the Comparative Politics Workshop
on Wednesday, September 12 from 4:15-6:15 pm at the Political Science Thesis Room (5th floor).
Veronica Michel (John Jay College, CUNY) will be presenting her paper, “Specializing Justice: NGOs and the Rule of Law in Latin America” (co-authored with Shannon Walsh)
Abstract: With the goal of improving access to justice and human rights performance, NGOs in Mexico and Guatemala now provide victims of gender violence accompaniment through legal proceedings and sometimes pro bono litigation. Current research suggests that NGO- led support for victims of crime and violence are crucial and necessary to attend to cases that would otherwise be left unresolved or abandoned by public prosecutors who lack the resources, will, and/or capacity to competently manage their caseload. But why did NGOs began expanding towards services beyond litigation? In this paper, we address this question by analyzing the expansion of various services provided to victims of feminicide and their relatives by local NGOs in Guatemala and Mexico. Through comparisons of cases of femicide (killings of women), we show when and why NGOs began to dedicate to victim services beyond litigation in Mexico and Guatemala.
The paper is available here: Graduate Center CPW_Michel & Walsh


Civil Society Workshop with Sujatha Fernandes on Wednesday, October 3

Join us Wednesday, October 3, at 12:30 pm, for a discussion with:

Sujatha Fernandes, Professor of Political Economy and Sociology at the University of Sydney

Out of the Home, Into the House: Storytelling and Philanthropy in Domestic Worker Legislative Campaigns

In the contemporary era we have seen a proliferation of storytelling activities, from the phenomenon of TED talks and Humans of New York to a plethora of story-coaching agencies and consultants. My talk examines this culture of storytelling that presents carefully curated narratives with pre-determined storylines as a tool of philanthropy, statecraft, and advocacy. This talk will focus on the use of testimonies in the Domestic Workers Bill of Rights campaign in New York and the ways that philanthropic foundations shaped the storytelling advocacy approach of the campaign.


Fernandes headshotSujatha Fernandes is a Professor of Political Economy and Sociology at the University of Sydney. Previously she was a Professor of Sociology at the City University of New York. Her research combines social theory and political economy with in-depth, engaged ethnography of global social and labor movements. Fernandes is the author of Cuba Represent! Cuban Arts, State Power, and the Making of New Revolutionary Cultures (Duke University Press, 2006), Who Can Stop the Drums? Urban Social Movements in Chávez’s Venezuela (Duke University Press, 2010), and Close to the Edge: In Search of the Global Hip Hop Generation (Verso, 2011). Her latest book entitled, Curated Stories: The Uses and Misuses of Storytelling, was published by Oxford University Press in 2017.

The Chapter 4 of Curated Stories is available here through Oxford Scholarship Online

Join us in  Sociology thesis room – 6112.01, 6th floor.

Civil Society Workshop, April 19: Amy Schiller, Philanthropy’s Political Matrix: A Political Theory Treatment of Philanthropy’s Evolution and Present Discourse

Join us Thursday, April 19, at 12:30 pm, for a discussion with:

Amy Schiller, Ph.D. Candidate in Political Science, on “Philanthropy’s Political Matrix: A Political Theory Treatment of Philanthropy’s Evolution and Present Discourse”

Abstract: As major philanthropic giving becomes more influential in public institutions, explorations of philanthropy focus on the ways in which private money creates relationships of dependency and heightens elite control over public institutions. Amy Schiller proposes a framework for philanthropy to, under certain conditions, build and care for a common world. After reading Hannah Arendt on culture alongside Bonnie Honig’s Public Things (2017), Schiller locates compatibilities in philanthropic gifts that create and maintain enduring spaces and institutions. If philanthropy provides for parks, galleries, museums, monuments, plazas, and other spaces designed to anchor the human world, can philanthropy then contribute to worldliness? This paper asks how philanthropy can manifest key principles for Arendt’s political ideal, namely, non-instrumentality, permanence, and plurality. Schiller explores whether a “philanthropy ethics” can exist in contrast to the anti-democratic tendencies of what Ella Myers (2013) calls “charitable ethics.” Where charitable ethics are reductive, hierarchical and anti-political, this paper locates possibilities of solidarity, in which philanthropically-funded world-building encourages people to look beyond immediate instrumentality. Following Arendt further, Schiller explores the significance of contingency and the possibility of philanthropic surrender of control to enacting this vision of philanthropy’s political potential. Alongside the substantial neoliberal trends in philanthropy, Schiller’s effort frames philanthropy’s role in public life based on philanthropists’ commitment to an enduring world, and to sharing with others the responsibility for its care.

Join us in room 5401, the Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society.

Civil Society Workshop, March 22: Zhang Han, “Uncovering Authoritarian Rule: Landscape of Collective Action in China from Social Media Data”

Join us on Thursday, March 22, at 12:30 pm for a discussion with:

Zhang Han, PhD Candidate in Sociology at Princeton University on “Uncovering Authoritarian Rule: Landscape of Collective Action in China from Social Media Data”

Abstract: In authoritarian regimes, collective action—protest or other forms of collective social mobilization by groups outside the government—often represents the most effective form of political participation available to the public. Understanding the prevalence and characteristics of collective action in authoritarian settings would be highly valuable for numerous scientific and public policy purposes, yet independent measures of collective action are largely nonexistent.

The first part of this talk describes CASM, a semi-automated system of identifying real-world collective action events by utilizing social media data. We design a two-stage neural network classifier that uses text and images to recognize collective action events. We apply our system to China, using data from Sina Weibo, to identify 197,734 unique collective action events from 2010 to 2017, creating one of the largest datasets of collective action events in an authoritarian regime.

Using this unique dataset, the second part of this talk offers a comprehensive descriptive analysis on when, where, about what, against whom, and the rate of mobilization of the protest events in China.  Taking the temporal trends of protests as an example. My dataset shows that the number of protests in China did not increase after 2013, which contrast most scholar’s speculations. These descriptive results provide the base for theorization.

Meets in the Political Science Thesis Room, 5200.07

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