Building an IS/ARNOVA Partnership at Upswell and Beyond


Independent Sector (IS) advocates for public policies that impact the charitable sector, builds knowledge on behalf of the sector, and connects organizations and leaders within the sector. The Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) is a diverse community of scholars, educators, and practice leaders who work to strengthen the field of charity, nonprofit and philanthropic research to improve civil society and human life. Clearly, our two organizations have a lot in common! This is why it makes so much sense to collaborate.

For the last two years, IS and ARNOVA have partnered on organizing an annual Policy Symposium to advance research on nonprofit and voluntary action and philanthropy policy. This has been a great partnership we plan to continue, bringing together researchers and practice leaders to discuss the latest research around various policy areas of interest to the field.

Now, we are exploring ways to continue to grow this partnership, exploring what more could be possible. Attending the recent Upswell in Chicago gave me a taste for what this could be. The mixture of various themes focused on philanthropy, social benefit and civil society organizations; storytelling; race, diversity, equity, and inclusion; and personal reflection and self-care was inspirational.

I especially enjoyed sessions by StoryCorps and another facilitated by Krista Tippett, both on the power of storytelling. Games for Change’s virtual reality arcade also reinforced the ways stories can make a difference. Two additional highlights of the event were a presentation by Michele Norris on her Race Card Project (asking people to tell their story about race and identity in six words) and a deep-dive workshop by Aida Mariam and Selena Wilson on The False Promise of Diversity and Inclusion Initiatives.

Upswell offers a stimulating model for us to possibly re-think our own annual North American research conference as well as how we might be able to eventually combine forces in the future. I’m sure our members would appreciate many aspects of the Upswell model—especially those focused on storytelling; new technologies; and diversity, equity, and inclusion—and the ability to make connections with folks working in nonprofit and philanthropic organizations, practicing in the field. Likewise, field practitioners might appreciate access to researchers working in their areas of focus.

At ARNOVA, we’re always searching for ways to build bridges between research to practice and policy: through, for example, welcoming practice leaders to our annual conferences in North America, Asia, and Africa; publishing research to practice pieces through the Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly; and building partnerships with organizations like IS.

I’m excited at the potential opportunities ahead for us to explore more ways to build these bridges through an IS/ARNOVA partnership!

Please find out more about ARNOVA at:


Angela M. Eikenberry is Board President of the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) through November 2020. She is a Professor in the School of Public Administration at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. Her research focuses on the social, economic and political roles philanthropy and nonprofit organizations play in democratic governance. She also recently helped start a nonprofit organization called Mode Shift Omaha and co-edited a textbook that challenges readers to see and practice of nonprofit management through a critical lens: Reframing Nonprofit Management: Democracy, Inclusion, and Social Change (Melvin & Leigh, 2019).

Types: Blog
Global Topics: Data, Organizational Relationships, Public Policy, Race, Equity, and Inclusion, Upswell, Voices for Good