Civic Life of Cities Lab


The Civic Life of Cities Lab (CLCL) explores how nonprofits contribute to their local communities. Our cross-city comparison study provides evidence-based insights that advance the understanding of nonprofits’ contributions to civic capacity and the local experiences of global trends that influence the nonprofit sector. 

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The Lab includes a wide range of scholars from the fields of public policy, sociology, management and urban studies. This intellectual diversity enables us to examine the nonprofit sector at the field-level, organization-level, and management-level.  CLCL explores the different socio-economic environments that NPOs operate in and the consequences of associational life for building robust communities. CLCL is especially interested in these questions: 

  • What value or influence do nonprofit organizations bring to their urban environments, beyond the goods or services they provide for constituents?
  • Which organizations, or types of organizations, contribute heightened levels of civic capacity?
  • Do the adoption of business-like practices enable the nonprofit sector to be more effective, or are there unintended consequences? 
  • How have nonprofits used technological innovations and social media to connect with their constituents in new ways?
  • Local experiences of global trends in the nonprofit sector, such as social impact measurement and organizational transparency



CLCL will serve as a longstanding resource for scholars and academics to understand changes and transformations in the nonprofit sector. The research methodology and corresponding data will be accessible through  with the intention that other scholars undertake similar studies of the nonprofit sector in cities across the globe. The Lab will also actively disseminate findings to practitioners, funders, and sector intermediaries such as consultants and information service providers.