Beyond the scope of any one project, I strive to expose how people’s private lives are influenced by doing paid social justice work, how private interests influence organizational efforts to advance equity, and how professionalization and social impact measurement are transforming these dynamics. One of my strengths as a researcher lies in my ability to design, collect, and analyze rich multi-method field studies that iterate between ethnographic engagements that identify detailed processes and large-scale data that help to test and illustrate broader patterns. Despite the substantial time costs involved with study design, access negotiation, and data collection, these original data allow me to address new and important questions that contribute to a better understanding of public-private dynamics in the nonprofit sector. Insights gleaned from this approach offer micro-level explanations for neglected or misunderstood dynamics in the nonprofit sector and allow me to contribute new insights to work-family research, positive organizational scholarship and the study of meaningful work, nonprofit studies, and organizational theory, moving these fields forward.
work and employment
Social inequities are pervasive throughout our country and globe. Simultaneously, numerous individuals and organizations within and outside the nonprofit sector are working to ameliorate suffering and make institutions more equitable. How do the private considerations of these individuals and organizations influence peoples’ experiences in (and out of) work, organizational practices, and institutional norms? My research empirically examines the tensions that arise between private interests and prosocial aims when people are simultaneously attempting to build a career, care for their families, and benefit others, all through their work. I examine the work-life experience and career decision processes of nonprofit employees in order to understand the unique nature of human resource dynamics in meaningful, mission-driven work, where employee well-being can also affect some of the world’s most vulnerable people.
Grant making foundations have long been viewed with skepticism within the United States due to the complex public-private dynamics they embody. Moreover, they are also very difficult to study, due to their secrecy and power. I develop long-term relationships with funders and their communities and leverage those relationships to develop datasets that enable me to examine the internal organizational dynamics and grant making decisions of private philanthropy. I investigate these questions in order to understand how they shape the creation, disruption, and maintenance of nonprofit organizations, social movements, and civil society.
I study the dynamics of professionalization within the nonprofit sector, examining both organization and field-level focus on monitoring and measuring “social impact” and individual-level shifts in motivational work values and the resultant impact on workforce dynamics.