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Civic Life of Cities Lab

Through research on nonprofits and the communities they serve, the Civic Life of Cities Lab brings together scholars from around the world to understand the organizational building blocks of a vibrant civil society.

Why study cities?

Latest News

CLC researcher Wenjuan Zheng’s new article “Converting Donation to Transaction: How Platform Capitalism Exploits Relational Labor in Non-profit Fundraising” was accepted at the Socio-Economic Review.

Abstract for the article: Viewing platforms as a new kind of factory and playground, scholars have investigated how the platform economy transforms work and entertainment. As dominant platforms continue to encroach on new markets and sectors, including the non-profit sector, few have examined the ramifications when they serve as a plaza for civic action. Despite the civic orientation of these platform activities, platforms can reconfigure the charity event and mediate civic interaction through the permissive power they possess to extract surplus value from users’ online interactions invisibly. Drawing from the ethnographic fieldwork of two non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participating in a crowdfunding event in China, I show how the platform company creates a competition-based civic event to mobilize thousands of NGOs to crowdfund on their social media platform. In particular, the platform induced NGO workers working for those organizations to mobilize their networks for fundraising. Performing relational labor to persuade friends, families, and acquaintances to give donations as a job responsibility deviated from the norms of reciprocity, which incurred workers’ emotional, social, and even financial costs. Invisibly, the platform extracts social capital from workers’ relational labor.

CLC researcher Christof Brandtner invited to talk at the seminar “Cities are Back in Town” hosted by Sciences Po in Paris, France, December 1, 2022

Christof is currently an assistant professor at Emlyon Business School in France. His upcoming talk is titled “The Civic Life of Cities: Professional Expertise and the Organizational Production of Urban Integration”. The talk will draw on the San Francisco data and CLC’s recent work on global comparisons of civil society organizations to examine the organizational production of urban integration. 

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From Smoke and Mirrors to Walking the Talk: Decoupling in the Contemporary World

Patricia Bromley and the CLC director Woody Powell’s article “From Smoke and Mirrors to Walking the Talk: Decoupling in the Contemporary World” chosen for the Decade Award, given to the most highly cited work published in the Academy of Management Annals in the last 10 years. 

The CLC Lab Publishes a Special Issue on “The Civic Life of Cities Around the World”. July 5, 2022

This special issue of the journal Global Perspectives (with the University of California Press) features the CLC Lab’s ongoing research on important issues facing civil society organizations in cities around the world, including San Francisco Bay Area, Seattle, Shenzhen, Singapore, Sydney, and Vienna. Although our cities vary in political, economic, and social regimes, we find robust contributions being made by nonprofit organizations, even amidst a global pandemic. The articles in this special issue can be read here

The CLC Lab is Holding a Sub-Plenary on Civic Life of Contemporary Cities and a Workshop on Comparative Nonprofit Studies during the 38th European Group for Organizational Studies Colloquium. Vienna, Austria, July 7-12, 2022

The sub-plenary on July 7 will investigate organizational perfection and imperfection in studying the “civic life” of contemporary cities. Organized by CLC researcher Christof Brandtner, Krystal Laryea and Hokyu Hwang, the sub-plenary includes Winnie Jiang, Danielle Logue, Florentine Maier, Woody Powell, and Wenjuan Zheng on the panel. We put our research on civil society in global cities around the world into conversation to better understand how organizations deal with the challenge of pursuing perfection in an imperfect world. We inquire about the challenges of organizing “perfectly” for beneficiaries and causes whose continued existence is proof of ongoing failures to enact real change. The sub-plenary will showcase organizing for the greater good in the non-profit sectors of San Francisco, Shenzhen, Singapore, Sydney, and Vienna. After the sub-plenary, the Vienna team of the CLC Lab will host a workshop on comparative nonprofit studies on July 11-12.

CLC researcher Aaron Horvath’s new article “Organizational supererogation and the transformation of nonprofit accountability” was accepted at the American Journal of Sociology. June 29, 2022

CLC researcher Aaron Horvath invited to talk at Institute for the Future. Palo Alto, CA, June 15, 2022.

In his talk titled “The Impact of ‘Impact’”, Aaron Horvath discussed what the rise of impact evaluation tells us about the decline of civil society.

CLC Researcher Wenjuan Zheng Invited Lucy Bernholz to Speak at the China Internet Public Welfare Summit (CIPWS), May 20, 2022

Lucy Bernholz, the Director of Digital Civil Society Lab at Stanford PACS, was the keynote speaker for the virtual conference that revolves around topics on technology for good, philanthropy and social innovations, and how technology could better support the work of philanthropy.