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2015 Call for Participation
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ARNOVA’s 44th Annual Conference
November, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois


The Dynamic Landscape of Nonprofit Organization & Voluntary Action:  Innovation, Inspiration, & Creativity Across Boundaries

Nonprofit organizations operate in dynamic and uncertain environments and face competing resource and mission pressures. Such pressures cross relational, organizational, substantive, sectoral, national, and technological boundaries in our ever-connected world. In response, organizations operate across myriad boundaries in collaborative relationships alternately episodic and enduring, spontaneous and strategic. Doing so requires attention to and understanding of multiple logics, norms and institutions, not to mention differing regulatory pressures, public opinions, and market forces.

These dynamics require a new understanding of innovation, inspiration, and creativity in nonprofit organizations and voluntary action. The blurring and shifting of boundaries is not new; rather, boundary spanning is now firmly established in nonprofit sector paradigms. Likewise, studies of cooperation, coordination, collaboration, and hybridization abound.

What’s new about all of this is not just the speed, complexity and urgency of these phenomena, but rather the “new normal” of these dynamics: the now constant ebb and flow of not just crises but opportunities that inspire innovative and creative responses that forge new and transform old boundaries. This call for papers asks us to consider how to conceptualize, operationalize and measure these points of intersection and action across varied borders and boundaries that both stimulate (and sometimes stymie) the creativity and innovation many seek.

The nonprofit sector and its actors continue to experiment with creative and innovative responses to these pressures and opportunities, and the domains in which these dynamics are playing out are plenty and varied. The recent and tragic Ebola outbreak, terrorism and the rise of non-state actors, international disaster and post-conflict response, and cyber security all require actions that span multiple boundaries and demand rapid attention to new and evolving policy questions. Natural and human-made disasters highlight not just the importance of rapid and efficient cross-border and cross-sector coordination but demand pressing long-term readiness and resilience by collaborative actors. 

Further, hybrid organizations such as L3C’s and benefit corporations open the door for low-profit social enterprise, even as local governments struggle and seek new forms of rents and resources from and relationships with nonprofits, thus blurring sectoral and organizational boundaries. Social media speeds and warps the flow of social movements such as the Arab Spring, Hong Kong’s Umbrella Movement, and EuroMaidan, highlighting technological boundaries. Evolving markets and mechanisms and the search for resources, such as crowdsourcing, provide new inspiration and opportunities for funding and action, while growing private sector charitable investment management draws attention and scrutiny.

In this year’s conference, we seek to illuminate the inspiration, innovation, creativity and boundary-spanning inherent in nonprofit organization and voluntary action, but with special light shed on such activity that lies between, within and across boundaries and in new relationships with and among citizens.

How and why do novel solutions occur? What factors drive innovation and creativity? What can policy-makers and funders do to encourage innovation and creativity? How do we measure boundary concepts in the nonprofit and voluntary sector? How do actors cross such borders and how does this transform them and the organizations they represent? How do players operate differently or bridge logics from alternate sides of a border? How do organizations leverage and moderate these dynamics?


The Conference Committee welcomes proposals addressing a broad variety of topics, in addition to the Conference theme. We invite proposals from all disciplinary (and interdisciplinary) perspectives. We are interested in a diversity of cross-national, comparative, regional, domestic, and local perspectives.


Proposals may focus on the entire sector or on any type of nonprofit field of activity or organizational type and setting. We look forward to entertaining a wide variety of proposals, and invite you to submit yours. We particularly welcome newer scholars and members of under-represented groups to engage with our community of scholars through participation in the upcoming Conference.



Proposal Submission Tracks for the 44th Annual ARNOVA Conference

Below are examples of the types of questions that could be considered for each track, but please do not read these suggestions as exclusionary.  They are intended only to be illustrative.

The Conference Track The Dynamic Landscape of Nonprofit Organization & Voluntary Action We invite proposals on a wide variety of issues related to this theme. 

Boards & GovernanceWhat important challenges does the board face today? How are various “governance models” changing? What are the strengths and weaknesses of new models? How do they differ from the old ones?

Community & Grassroots Organization / Secular & Faith-based What are we learning about social movements in today’s world?  How are new technologies changing the way “organizing” and voluntary action take place?  Is the role of faith communities changing in advocating for and meeting human needs?

Accountability, Effectiveness, Evaluation & Program Outcomes How do nonprofits balance and prioritize accountability to different constituencies?  How do we know when nonprofit work is effective?  How are evaluation practices and metrics shifting to capture large-scale community change? What kinds of programs are thriving or failing, and why?

Collaboration & Networks How and why do nonprofits collaborate? With whom? What are some formal and informal types of collaboration in the nonprofit and voluntary sector? What are some tools, methods, and theories to help us understand collaborative activity within and across sectors?

Philanthropy, Fundraising & GivingHow is the concept and practice of philanthropy evolving? How is giving changing?  How are donors and fundraisers shifting their behaviors now? How do the mechanisms of giving operate differently in different contexts?

Innovation & EntrepreneurshipAre nonprofits breaking new ground in their approaches to social change or service delivery?  Are new (or hybrid) organizational forms replacing traditional ones? What are the implications of hybrid organizational forms? Do we know if innovation is more effective?

Management, Leadership & Strategy – Have globalization and technology changed the approaches to and activities of management in nonprofit and voluntary organizations? Are styles of leadership changing?  If so, how so, and why? Are organizations adopting new strategies in response to changed circumstances? How do management and leadership vary across organizational characteristics? 

Public Policy & Law – What are the implications of changing sectoral boundaries for nonprofit law?  How does public policy affect the blurring of the sectors?  What are the ramifications of our current policies and policy debates for the future of the sector? How do issues of policy or law play out in varied national settings, in regional or local settings, and across policy domains?

Teaching & Education What is being done to prepare the next generation of nonprofit leaders?  Should programs and pedagogy be changing in these times?  If so, in what ways?

Voluntarism & VolunteeringHow is voluntarism changing in the current environment?  What new or additional knowledge, skills, and abilities will volunteers need? What do we know about how organizations deploy volunteers and the real contributions that volunteers make to mission accomplishment?




Types of Presentations & Submissions

Proposals can be for Individual Papers, Panels (pre-arranged) of 3-4 papers, Colloquia or Posters. Submissions by practitioners and doctoral students engaged in research are also welcome.  Panels and Colloquia should (as a rule) involve people from multiple institutions. 


The on-line proposal submission system will open February 1, 2015, and close at noon EST, March 25th.  To submit a proposal, you will be able to go to, and click on the tab that says, “Submit a Proposal.”  More information about types of sessions and presentations, and about submitting proposals can also be found here.  Questions can then be directed to the ARNOVA office at (317) 684-2120, or to


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ARNOVA is a leading interdisciplinary community of people dedicated to fostering through research and education, the creation, application and dissemination of knowledge on nonprofit organizations, philanthropy, civil society and voluntary action.

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2014 Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action.

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