By Teri Behrens
The 13th conference of the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) provided the perfect opportunity for the first in-person meeting of the WINGS affinity group of Researchers, Academics and Data Enthusiasts (RADE). The ISTR conference, held July 10 – 13 in Amsterdam, Netherlands, drew researchers who focus on all aspects of the philanthropic sector from around the globe.
Our WINGS interest affinity of 23 researchers and leaders of academic centers came together to discuss how this interest affinity might both contribute to and benefit from the work of philanthropy serving organizations (PSOs) globally.
The participants represented all regions of the globe. Many were from one- or two-person research groups, while others represented larger centers. Centers ranged from long-standing organizations (25 years old) to brand-new ones.
Some of the ways participants identified being able to contribute to the field included:
- Documenting the growth and variety of forms of philanthropy throughout the world, particularly in areas where non-Western forms are developing.
- Through rigorous data, identifying challenges and issues in philanthropy, such as gaps and disparities that are overlooked- gender distribution on boards for example.
- Exploring ethical issues in data being collected. As one participant commented, “If you can’t protect it, don’t collect it.” Data collected for evaluation purposes, for example, might impinge on basic privacy rights or be used for political purposes.
- Refocusing the sector on impact rather than the tendency to focus on the personalities and quirks of billionaire givers.
- Helping PSOs identify researchers who might be best suited for a specific project they would like to undertake.
What’s in it for people who join RADE? Collaboration with other PSOs will provide access to organizations and populations, help deepen researchers’ understanding of data and research needs, help make our research more relevant, and provide opportunities for cross-cultural/multinational research. Developing common metrics or coding schema would allow for comparability across data-sets.
The group has committed to continuing to meet. Our next meeting will be a conference call in late fall to further discuss opportunities for research and collaboration. Our initial foci will likely be ethics and data quality.
We also would like to continue to share information and resources with each other. If you’d like to join RADE- let us know – and we can add you to a special group digital repository. Here you can add job opportunities, your papers, resources, check out meeting notes, and more.
For more information contact one of the group chairs:
To be added to the mailing list and learn about future meetings, please contact Sarah at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Teri Behrens is the director of the Institute for Foundation and Donor Learning at Dorothy A. Johnson Center for Philanthropy at Grand Valley State University.