Research

Dissertation Project

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges confronting modern societies. Most discussions around climate change communication and climate change action focus on the role of political elites and traditional media and ignore the role of non-state actors, like nonprofit organizations, scientists, and social media organizations have in these discussions. This project focuses on environmental nonprofit organizations (ENPOs) and social networking sites (e.g. Facebook and Twitter) to examine discussions surrounding climate change action and communication in online communities. Specifically, this project uses content analysis of Facebook posts and Tweets along with in-depth qualitative interviews with social media and communication managers at 50 ENPOs in the United States to examine how organizations advance their charitable missions and engage with their audience on climate change action. Data for this project will be collected using voice-recorded one-on-one interviews, systematic memo writing, and open coding of social media posts.

Application of Community Based Operations Research for Climate Change Resilience, 2019 - present

Community-based operations research (CBOR) is an analytical method that is well suited to explore the interests of underrepresented communities in local settings especially when communities have limited access to the policy process. CBOR also has the potential to allow communities to make better decisions using formalized processes through the formal and informal implementation of organizational programs. This research provides a synthesis of CBOR applications for climate change in the U.S. and proposes an application of CBOR for community resilience in urban settings.

Economic Development & Community Based Operations Research (CBOR), 2018 - present

assisting Dr. Michael Johnson, Department of Public Policy - UMass-Boston

Main Street organizations are community-based nonprofits across the USA dedicated to local economic development through physical improvements, technical assistance to businesses, marketing and place-building. In this paper we identify metrics associated with success in local economic development and generate decision opportunities for improved program design and implementation. Our community partners, Main Street organizations in the city of Boston, want to ensure that data they collect about their service areas can help them measure progress towards achieving their individual goals as well as identify programs and initiatives that make best use of their resources and expertise. Using a mixed-methods, inductive approach rooted in Keeney’s value-focused thinking method, we engage directly with members of local communities to identify priorities for local economic development. The result of our analysis is ‘values structures’ by which we identify performance metrics and decision opportunities. These analytic outcomes allow us to identify variations in values structures across stakeholder groups and communities, and to learn if certain types of economic development metrics appear to be specific to certain stakeholder groups and community types. By connecting core values of stakeholders with elements of decision models, and providing specific suggestions for data collection and decision alternatives, our findings may contribute to research and practice in community operational research, local economic development and other domains.

Social Policy and Nonprofit Advocacy, 2017 - present

assisting Dr. Heather MacIndoe, Department of Public Policy - UMass-Boston

How do nonprofit organizations serving disadvantaged populations give voice to their constituencies in the policy process? What are the strategic repertoires—the formal and informal routines—that nonprofits most often use to pursue social and policy change? Which of these strategies do nonprofit managers associate most with effective policy change?

To address these questions, this paper draws from two distinct bodies of research, sociological studies of social movements and empirical studies of nonprofit policy advocacy. These research programs offer a theoretic framework, strategic repertoires (Taylor & Van Dyke, 2004), and a large body of empirical literature about the factors that influence nonprofit involvement in advocacy (e.g. MacIndoe & Whalen, 2013; Mosley, 2012). Together, they can help us to better understand how charitable nonprofit organizations, which are predominantly service providers, engage in formal and informal political processes to give voice to marginalized populations.

Drawing on a recent survey of Massachusetts nonprofits (N=656, 55% response rate) we test hypotheses developed from the strategic repertoires framework, which explores how specific tactics are associated with political and cultural outcomes (Taylor & VanDyke, 2004). Preliminary analyses indicate that nonprofits that serve disadvantaged populations use similar strategies to organizations that advocate for other constituencies, but make different use of their constituencies in their advocacy work, and place different assessments on the relative success or failure of advocacy initiatives.