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APRIL 2015: Complications and Conundrums: The New Era of Research on Nonprofit Governance
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4/23/2015 to 4/24/2015
When: 4/23/2015

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Complications and Conundrums:

The New Era of Research on Nonprofit Governance and the Work of Boards

A Conference for Practitioners and Researchers


Sponsored by

The Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership

University of Missouri – Kansas City


The Nonprofit Quarterly


April 23-24, 2015

Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.


The Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership at UMKC and The Nonprofit Quarterly, in collaboration with the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, are pleased to announce and invite proposals for research paper presentations for their 2015 Conference on Nonprofit Governance.  This year’s conference theme, Complications and Conundrums: The New Era of Research on Nonprofit Governance and the Work of Boards, reflects our appreciation for the growing diversity of important insights that are being generated as researchers and practitioners from a growing range of disciplines and fields examine in greater depth and complexity the world of nonprofit governance and boards.  We have learned much about the ways that governance is organized, the practices boards employ, and the impact they have on organizational performance.  We have greater insight into the behaviors of the people who are a part of the governance process, what motivates them, how they engage in their work, and the implications of their performance for board and organizational success.  Likewise, more is being learned about systems of governance that operate beyond the scope of individual organizations as more and more nonprofits are active in networks, alliances and collaborations.  This is an exciting time for the nonprofit governance research!


Significant progress notwithstanding, practitioners and researchers alike continue to find it a challenge to fully understand the variations that exist among nonprofit boards and the ways they engage in governance.  There is strong interest among researchers and practitioners alike to come together to engage in substantive and thoughtful dialogue about the ways that governance systems of nonprofit and other civil society and public service organizations are evolving, adapting, growing, and performing.  This conference creates a truly collegial space for such engaged dialogue among colleagues, and we invite researchers, scholars, consultants, executives, and other civil society leaders from across the globe to join us for this set of critical conversations. 


Research is an integral element of the conference, and we invite proposals for papers that focus on one or more aspects of nonprofit and nongovernmental organization governance and board work, including papers that address the governance of public-benefit charities, grant-making foundations, cooperatives and associations, and social enterprises.  We will consider papers that are empirical, papers that are conceptual, and prescriptive papers that are effectively grounded in theory and research.  Among the topics we expect to explore at this year’s conference:


         Social Entrepreneurship, Hybrid Organizations, and Governance

Governing boards are mandated to behave as prudent stewards of resources, yet they also are exhorted to become more entrepreneurial.  What constitutes entrepreneurial board behavior?  How are boards responding, and what are the implications of such expectations for boards and the practice of governance? As nonprofit and for-profit forms of enterprise continue to blur, what are we learning about social enterprise governance that might help us understand the similarities and differences of governance for each?


         Governance in Networks and Multi-Organizational Alliances

There is growing use of new and unique forms of organization and organized action, including various forms of networks and distributed systems of service delivery (including collective impact and community engagement governance initiatives).  How is governance in these forms similar and different, and what are the implications of these forms for governance of the individual organizations that participate in them?   


         The Blurring of Nonprofit and Public Sector Governance

What are we learning as we examine the relationship between governance in the public sector and in the nonprofit sector? How might we link research on ‘‘external governance’’ (the processes through which societies are governed) and “internal governance” (governance of organizations), and what key questions emerge at the intersection of external and internal governance? Are there overarching frameworks that may be useful to help us understand governance across all sector and levels?


         Stakeholders, Stockholders, and Governance

What actors in and around nonprofits have the power to influence governance, how is this evolving and changing, and with what consequences? Are social media and social networking changing the dynamics of governance?  What are we learning about the implications of having more or less inclusive governance arrangements and systems in place, and how are stakeholders taking the initiative to exercise influence on organizations? 


    The Future of Research on Nonprofit Boards and Governance

As we identify and work to understand all of these kinds of challenges and dynamics, are we developing new research models or methods that are better suited to the next generation of governance research?  What remains essentially unexamined?


These topics illustrate many (though certainly not all) of the kinds of questions and issues that are relevant to the 2015 conference. 


The deadline for receipt of proposals is January 15, 2015.  Proposals should be no more than 3 pages.  For empirical papers, proposals will include a statement of the problems or issues to be considered, an overview of the relevant literature, a statement of the methods used and a discussion of anticipated results.  Proposals for conceptual papers should also be no more than 3 pages and should include a statement of the problems or issues to be considered, an overview of the relevant literature, and a statement of the thesis or theses to be developed and how these add to our understanding of nonprofit organizational governance.  Proposals will be peer-reviewed and authors notified of acceptance before the end of January.  Please note that at least one author of an accepted paper must register for and attend the conference to present the paper.


Proposals should be sent to Review Coordinator, Cindy Laufer.  They may be sent as email attachments to:, or mailed to the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, The Bloch School, University of Missouri-Kansas City, 4747 Troost, Kansas City, MO 64110-2499.  Proposals also may be faxed to 816-235-5727.


About the Conference

This highly participative conference will employ the Midwest Center model that has been so successful for previous academic-practitioner conferences.  It serves as a relatively intimate gathering of those who are serious about sharing and shaping governance ideas and learning, and it will offer multiple opportunities for formal and informal discussion and dialogue among the consultants, executives, and academics who are most engaged in addressing these challenges.  A key element of the conference is sharing highlights and insights emerging from recent governance research.  Equally valuable are the opportunities to build on and go beyond the theory and research – for experienced leaders who are exploring new and innovative strategies and approaches in their communities and organizations to share their perspectives in facilitated and informal discussions.  Half of the conference sessions will be facilitated (non-presentation) dialogue sessions, each focused on a specific issue or interest.  


The conference begins at on Thursday morning, April 23, 2015, and runs through mid-afternoon on April 24.  Conference and lodging will be at the Embassy Suites Country Club Plaza Hotel.  Questions about the conference may be directed to conference co-directors, Dave Renz ( or Brent Never (


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