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APRIL 2017: 2017 Governance Conference
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4/27/2017 to 4/28/2017
When: Thursday, April 27, 2017

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Conference Announcement & Call for Papers


The Many Faces of Nonprofit Governance

The 2017 Governance Conference for Practitioners and Researchers


Convened by

The Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership

University of Missouri – Kansas City


The Nonprofit Quarterly


April 27-28, 2017

Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.A.


The Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership at UMKC and The Nonprofit Quarterly, in collaboration with the Governance Section of ARNOVA (Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action) and the Alliance for Nonprofit Management, are pleased to announce and invite proposals for research paper presentations for their 2017 Biennial Conference on Nonprofit Governance. 


This year’s conference theme, The Many Faces of Nonprofit Governance, reflects both our appreciation for and recognition of the need to continue to grow our understanding of this important field.  Research on nonprofit boards and governance has developed substantially in the past decade, and we are learning more every year as scholars and practitioners from a wide range of disciplines and fields provide important new insights and knowledge about governance and the work of boards.  For all of our progress, however, we still have much to learn, especially about the practice of governance and the work of boards in the myriad of different contexts and organizational types.  How does governance differ in settings as different as associations and member-serving organizations, federations and networks, collective impact initiatives, multi-level organizations and systems, and even social movements?  This conference challenges practitioners and researchers to come together to examine from multiple perspectives how we engage in governance and how governance and the work of boards is and will continue to be evolving in these challenging and dynamic times.


This highly participative conference will employ the Midwest Center model that has been successful for previous academic-practitioner conferences.  It serves as a relatively intimate gathering of those who are serious about sharing and shaping governance ideas and learning, and it offers opportunities for formal and informal discussion and dialogue among the researchers, consultants, executives, and academics who are most engaged in addressing these challenges.  Central to the conference is sharing insights generated in recent governance research.  Equally central are the opportunities for dialogue that enables us to build on and look beyond the theory and research, as experienced leaders who are exploring new and innovative strategies and approaches in their communities and organizations share their perspectives in facilitated and informal discussions.  Half of the conference sessions will be facilitated (non-presentation) dialogue sessions, each focused on a specific issue or topic of interest.   Among the key topics we expect to explore at this year’s conference:


The Changing Nature of Governance in a Digital Environment

How is the digital environment changing the nature and content of governance and the ways that boards engage, work with, and ensure accountability to constituents and stakeholders?  How and in what ways are social media and social networking changing the dynamics of governance, and what are the implications of these changes affecting the work of boards and other governance structures?


Social Entrepreneurship, Hybrid Organizations, and Governance

Governing boards are mandated to behave as prudent stewards of resources, yet we continue to exhort them to be entrepreneurial.  What constitutes entrepreneurial board behavior?  How are boards responding, and what are the implications of such expectations for boards and the practice of governance? As nonprofit and for-profit forms of enterprise continue to blur, what are we learning about social enterprise governance that might help us understand the similarities and differences of governance for each?


Governance in Networks and Multi-Organizational Alliances

There is growing use of new and unique forms of organization and organized action, including various forms of networks and distributed systems of service delivery (including collective impact and community engagement governance initiatives).  How is governance in these forms and contexts similar and different, and what are the implications of these for process and social impact?   


Governance in Associations and Other Member-Benefit Organizations

A significant share of the research and writing on governance and boards has focused on public benefit and community-serving organizations, yet there are many other kinds of organizations that have received relatively less attention.  How does (should?) governance and board work compare differ in associations, cooperatives and collectives, and other member-serving organizations?  What might we learn from governance research and board practice in these kinds of organizations? 


The Blurring of Nonprofit and Public Sector Governance

What are we learning as we continue to examine the relationships between governance in civil society (and the public sector) and governance in nonprofit organizations, and what challenges and issues emerge at the intersections of external and internal governance? Are there overarching frameworks that may be useful to help us understand governance across all sectors and levels?


The Future of Research on Nonprofit Boards and Governance

As we identify and work to understand all of these kinds of challenges and dynamics, are we developing new research models or methods that are better suited to the next generation of governance research?  What remains essentially unexamined or under-examined?


These topics illustrate many (though certainly not all) of the kinds of questions and issues that we are likely to explore at the 2017 conference.   We welcome and invite papers that focus on any aspects of nonprofit governance and boards, including governance of public-benefit charities, grant-making foundations, associations, and social enterprises.  We consider papers that are empirical, papers that are conceptual, and prescriptive papers that are based on theory and research.  Accepted presentations are 15 minutes in length and at least one presenter must register for and participate in the full conference.


The deadline for receipt of proposals is January 23, 2017.  Proposals should be no more than 3 pages.  For empirical papers, proposals will include a statement of the issue(s) to be considered, an overview of the relevant literature, a statement of the methods used and a summary of the anticipated results.  Proposals for conceptual papers should not exceed 3 pages and must include a statement of the issue(s) to be considered, an overview of the relevant literature, a statement of the thesis or theses to be developed, and how these add to our understanding.  Please send proposals to Review Coordinator, Cindy Laufer. They may be sent as email attachments to: or mailed to the Midwest Center for Nonprofit Leadership, The Bloch School of Management, 5110 Cherry, Suite 310, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Kansas City, MO 64110-2499.  Notification of acceptance will be sent by January 31, 2017.


About the Conference

The conference begins on Thursday morning, April 27, 2017, and runs through mid-afternoon on April 28.  Conference and lodging will be at the Embassy Suites on the Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri.  Registration for the conference will open January, 2017. 


Questions about the conference may be directed to conference co-directors, David Renz ( or Brent Never (

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