Have you met Alan Abramson? If you haven’t, you should.
In fact, Alan was our first Visiting Scholar at IS, helping us to launch a program designed to build deeper connections between the research and practitioner communities in our sector and to bring new perspective from the outside into the policy team’s thinking here at IS. Better leveraging that external expertise is key to shaping a policy environment and policy agenda that meets the needs of our sector.
So, what did Alan do while he was here?
Alan was our teacher. Alan has a deep and expansive understanding of why our sector exists and why an organization like Independent Sector came on the scene. He fashioned a class for all IS employees – a chance to look back at our history as a means of looking forward and into the future and where the sector is headed. That class was a gift – offering the kind of insight and “charge” you’d hope every employee or volunteer could grab onto.
Alan built relationships. He helped Independent Sector renew and strengthen an important relationship with ARNOVA (Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action), where he was once CEO. By bringing IS closer to that community, Alan is helping to make sure that research is better informed by the needs of the sector and that the ways of the sector can be better informed by the best research. This year, thanks to Alan’s help, we hope to welcome a significant group of Chicago area researchers to Upswell. And, because turn-about is fair play, we hope for a formidable group on California-based nonprofit practitioners at the ARNOVA conference in San Diego.
Alan created things. After a few years of thinking about it – and over 100 interviews during his time here – Alan has helped us create a prototype “health index” for the charitable nonprofit sector. The aim is quite simple. By looking at a number of health indicators for the sector, much as you would for industry, we hope to piece together a concise and useful snapshot of how well our sector is doing. How many jobs are we creating? How diverse is the workforce? How robust are our resource pipelines – both financial and human? Is public trust in nonprofits going up or down? We are using existing data sources and sets – and sometimes new, or with a new twist. We will be testing the prototype this fall.
Independent Sector’s work is richer for his having been here. The sector is better for his work. We are thankful for his colleagueship and his wisdom. And we look forward to our next Visiting Scholar – more on that in January. If you’d to learn more about the efforts Alan has started and meet the man himself, join us at Upswell in Chicago November 13-15.
Enjoy the closing days of summer. It’s a busy fall ahead!