Junior Scholars Forum

2019 Junior Scholars Forum Recap


Philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, and civil society are cornerstones of democracy, and yet there is not nearly the amount of research on these topics as their importance merits. The Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society (Stanford PACS) seeks to address this gap by bringing together scholars from around the world to expand research, increase the talent pipeline, and improve policy and practice.

As part of its mission, Stanford PACS held its sixth annual Junior Scholars Forum from June 6 – June 8, 2019. Intellectuals from various academic disciplines gathered on the Stanford University campus to present and discuss their research on different aspects of the so-called third sector.

PACS originally launched as a fellowship program for Stanford doctoral students to explore research in philanthropy and civil society. It soon expanded to include a postdoctoral fellowship program. Both programs continue to encourage more scholars to think about these topics and pursue related research in diverse fields of study, including education, sociology, public policy, management, and economics. 

The PACS doctoral and postdoctoral programs initially sought to develop students from Stanford and postdocs coming to Stanford, but the PACS faculty directors eventually decided they wanted to grow the research community and influence researchers across the country and around the world.

With funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, PACS has been able to support the needs of burgeoning scholars in this field. For the Junior Scholars Forum’s inaugural cohort in the summer of 2014, PACS invited advanced graduate students and early career faculty to submit proposals for research related to philanthropy and civil society. Since then, the forum has hosted more than 50 scholars to help stimulate research and build a global intellectual community.

The Junior Scholars Forum offers an opportunity for researchers to meet one another and learn more about work being done on philanthropy and civil society. The forum gives them critical feedback and attention from experts that they may not receive at their home institutions. During their time at the forum, scholars are pushed to think deeply about their research and that of peers, and also encouraged to test new ideas in a supportive environment.

For the first five years, the forum issued an annual open and competitive call for junior scholars to submit their papers for review. The academic faculty at PACS would select from the pool of applications with the help of graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. The papers selected were then assigned to two discussants—an established scholar working in the area of research and either a graduate student or a postdoctoral fellow also working on a related topic.

At the forum, scholars give 10-minute presentations, followed by commentary from the discussants and then open discussion. At the end of each round, the presenter responds to the feedback. The model for the Junior Scholars Forum was “was borrowed from something Stanford and Yale Law Schools began back in the 1990s to help develop junior faculty,” says Woody Powell, a faculty co-director at Stanford PACS.

This year, PACS changed process of paper selection. Stanford PACS faculty co-directors Powell and Rob Reich, and Johanna Mair, codirector of the Global Innovation for Impact Lab at Stanford PACS, reviewed the progress of participants from the previous five years and invite back a group of them to discuss their current work. By bringing researchers together this way, the Junior Scholars Forum catalyzes ideas and further enhances the quality of scholarship on philanthropy and civil society.

This year’s cohort consisted of early career and senior scholars who met for three days of presentations, intensive discourse, and socializing with the objective of developing their scholarship. Participants came from the University of California, Santa Barbara; Columbia University; Indiana University; University of Michigan; the Ohio State University; DeepMind; the University of Texas at El Paso; Harvard University; London School of Economics; Johns Hopkins University; University of Pennsylvania; and Stanford University.

The forum began with a welcome reception on Thursday evening at Vin Vino Wine in Palo Alto, California, where the scholars met to catch up on their personal and professional development over drinks. The next day, Leah Stokes, an assistant professor of political science at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and her co-author Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, an assistant professor at the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University, kicked off the presentations with their working paper, “Interest Groups and Representation Among U.S. State Legislatures.” Their research highlights a disconnect between the preferences of political elites and their constituents and examines the influence of interest groups on how legislators perceive their constituents. The discussant was Elizabeth McKenna, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.

The second presenter was Allison Schnable, an assistant professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University. She shared the first chapter of her manuscript, “Amateurs Without Borders: American Volunteers and the New NGOs,” in which she examines the deeper meaning of volunteer tourism and what it means for philanthropy. The discussant was Yan Long, an assistant professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley.

Schnable was followed by Jeremy Levine, an assistant professor of organizational studies and sociology at the University of Michigan, who discussed his book manuscript, “Constructing Community: Urban Governance, Community Development, and Neighborhood Inequality in Boston.” Levine’s work looks at the city’s Fairmount Corridor to motivate the revision of assumptions about democratic participation. The discussant was Christof Brandtner, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Stanford University.

After lunch, Claire Dunning, an assistant professor at the School of Public Policy at University of Maryland, presented her paper, “‘No strings attached:’ White Philanthropy, Black Power, and the Politics of Giving.” Expanding on her dissertation research, Dunning draws on new archival sources to flesh out the opening and then closing of opportunities for social change in the FUND-United Front partnership of 1970s Boston. Dunning also seeks to support a broader case for historical inquiry on philanthropy. The discussant was Emma Saunders-Hastings, an assistant professor of political science at the Ohio State University.

Iason Gabriel, senior research scientist at DeepMind Ethics & Society, presented his paper, “Artificial Intelligence, Values and Alignment.” Gabriel and his discussant, Rob Reich, explored using artificial intelligence to advance civil architecture. They also reviewed the importance of moral progress in thinking about AI’s impact on civil society.

Megan Tompkins-Stange, an assistant professor at the Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, followed with “What Drove Support for Teacher Evaluation in Federal Policy Debates? Assessing the Roles of Research, Resources, and Timing.” Her research finds that lawmakers in Congress were more likely to support teacher evaluation policies after they heard from witnesses representing groups that received major philanthropic grants. Her study suggests that such factors may have limited the influence of academic research in considering such policies.  The discussant was Woody Powell. 

The final presentation of the evening was by Gregory Schober, a visiting assistant professor of political science at The University of Texas at El Paso. Schober’s work, “Programmatic Transfers, Clientelistic Transfers, and Political Participation Among the Poor in Developing Democracies” uses original survey data from Mexico to explore the relationship between targeted transfers and political participation among the poor in developing democracies. The discussant was Toussaint Nothias, a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford PACS.

The final morning of the forum commenced with Julia Morley, a lecturer of accounting at the London School of Economics, giving her paper, “The impact of ‘impact’: The effect of social impact reporting on staff identity and motivation at social sector delivery organizations.” Her research examines how the implementation of social-impact reporting affects perceptions of social identity and motivation among the staff of service-delivery organizations in the social sector. The discussant was Aaron Horvath, a Ph.D. candidate in sociology at Stanford University.

Next, Daniel Honig, an assistant professor at the School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, presented “When Does Transparency Improve Performance? Evidence from 23,000 Public Projects in 148 Countries.” Using an extraordinary dataset of more than 23,000 foreign aid projects financed by 12 bilateral and multilateral donor agencies in 148 countries between 1980 and 2016, Honig finds that donor-level access to requested information is associated with improved project outcomes only when the projects include independent appeals processes for denied requests. The discussant was Jennifer Brass, an associate professor at the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University.

The forum’s final presentation was by Aline Gatignon, an assistant professor of management at the University of Pennsylvania. Gatignon’s work, “When Opposites Detract from Cross-Sector Collaboration: An Empirical Analysis of CSR Implementation after the 2013 Reform to the India Companies Act,” investigates how firms decide to implement corporate social responsibility projects when faced with the choice of partnering with nongovernmental organizations or working on their own. Gatignon’s paper highlights notable differences between the developing world and the developed world in pursuing CSR. The discussant was Paul Brest.

Powell was especially excited by the opportunity afforded by this year’s Junior Scholars Forum to see “how the people have developed intellectually and personally.” The Junior Scholars Forum concluded with a thank you to Stanford PACS for hosting the group and an inquiry to the group on how the intensive, thoughtful exchange could carry forward in the growing community of scholars.