Fruition and the Future: The Center in 2017

By on December 21, 2017

Dear Friends and Colleagues:
2017 may well go down as one of the most productive and significant years in the history of our Center. Indeed, as we reflect on our work over this past eventful year, two words come to mind—fruition and the future.


First and foremost, 2017 has seen many of our Center’s long-running projects come to fruition. In fact, each of our major projects bore important fruit this year, including:

  • Our new website, Nonprofit Works: An Interactive Database on the U.S. Nonprofit Economy, which we launched this year. Through this site’s easy-to-use data selection wizard, nonprofit leaders, state nonprofit associations, government agencies, and researchers can access the latest official data on nonprofit employment and wages by field for the first time and can also place those data into context by comparing nonprofits to their counterparts in other sectors and to major problem areas.
  • Our 25-year Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, which culminated in the publication by the Johns Hopkins University Press of its capstone book, Explaining Civil Society Development: A Social Origins Approach. Building on the unique cross-national body of data on the size, scope, financing, and role of the nonprofit sector in the more than 40 countries covered by this project, this book goes beyond describing nonprofit developments in these countries to formulate and test a fresh “social origins” explanation of the important variations that are evident, challenging in the process several alternative theories that have long dominated the literature in this field.
  • Our relatively new Philanthropication thru Privatization (PtP) Project, which has identified a new route to the formation of charitable foundations around the world through the capture of assets generated through the sale or other transformation of state-owned or -controlled assets ranging from state-owned enterprises through debt swaps, extractive industry royalties, other franchise arrangements, sales or other transformations of nonprofit institutions, or the vast arena of stolen, penalty-originated, or dormant assets. Notable during the past year was the issuance of the first of a series of “How-To Booklets” explaining how the PtP concept can be applied to these various asset classes. Building on a case study of the BOTA Foundation—a foundation formed from the assets generated through bribery—this first “How-To” booklet explores How to Apply PtP to Stolen or Stranded Assets.
  • Our long-standing effort through our UN Nonprofit Handbook Project to capture and identify the “third” or social economy sector in official global economic statistics, which saw the finalization of a new UN Satellite Account on Nonprofit and Related Institutions and Volunteer Work. This new guidance document extends the coverage of our prior UN Handbook on Nonprofit Institutions in the System of National Accounts to cooperatives, mutuals, social enterprises, and both organization-based and direct volunteer work.
  • The European Union’s Third Sector Impact Project, in which we were privileged to take part along with ten other institutions, which culminated in the acceptance and imminent publication of a major book entitled The Third Sector: A Renewable Resource for Europe? Concepts, Impacts, Challenges, and Opportunities, due for release by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018.
  • Our ILO Volunteer Measurement Project, which is attempting to boost the visibility of volunteer work globally through the integration of systematic data-gathering on such work into regular official statistical systems such as labor-force and other official household surveys. The past year saw the completion of two new empirical works that allowed us to demonstrate the advantages of such systematic, comparative cross-national data on volunteering: first, “Closing the Gap? New Perspectives on Volunteering North and South,” a chapter in Perspectives on Volunteering: Voices from the South (Springer); and second, “The Scope and Scale of Global Volunteering: Current Estimates and Next Steps,” prepared for the UN Volunteers’ 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report, which provides a major new look at the scale and contours of volunteering work around the world.


Future Prospects
However, just as a particular crop is not the end of a fruit tree’s abundance, we see in these culminations the seeds of future developments. In fact, each of these undertakings already gives signs of sprouting fresh shoots in promising and exciting directions. For example:

  • A memorandum with the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics is generating fresh data on nonprofit employment and wages at the state and county level for integration into Nonprofit Works.
  • An expanded set of our crucial Comparative Data Tables from our Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project is scheduled for release in user-friendly form in the New Year, adding data on nonprofits and volunteering in 10 new countries to the dataset and providing policy-makers and researchers what remains the most comprehensive, systematically comparable data available on the global nonprofit sector and volunteering.
  • The anticipated official approval by the United Nations Statistical Commission and release by the UN Statistics Division of the new Satellite Account on Nonprofit and Related Institutions and Volunteer Work, which we have dubbed the UN Third or Social Economy (TSE) Sector Satellite Account Handbook.
  • The launch of a pilot implementation of this new UN TSE Sector Satellite Account Handbook by a coalition of European statistical agencies.
  • The launch early in the New Year of the next in the series of PtP Project “How-To” Booklets—How to Apply PtP to State-Owned Enterprises—and the completion of at least two more Booklets in this series focusing on extractive industries and franchising.
  • The launch of a PtP implementation effort in Brazil with the assistance of the NGO IDIS, the National Development Bank of Brazil, a major Brazilian law firm, and the leading Sao Paulo business association.
  • Formal publication by Palgrave Macmillan of the Third Sector Impact Project’s final report, The Third Sector: A Renewable Resource for Europe? Concepts, Impacts, Challenges, and Opportunities.
  • Publication as part of the UN Volunteers’ 2018 State of the World’s Volunteerism Report of the results of our research on the current scope and scale of global volunteering.


A Change in Venue
The coming new year will also bring us a significant change in venue. After five years in the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, and many years prior to this in an independent Institute, I will be coming home to the Hopkins School in which my tenure has always been lodged—the Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. I am proud to report that the Dean and Academic Council of this School recently recommended to the Johns Hopkins University Board of Trustees that I be awarded the position of Professor Emeritus, and on December 8, 2017, the University’s Board of Trustees ratified this recommendation.
This new venue may prove imperceptible in terms of our activities, but it does free me of certain responsibilities while still allowing the work of our Center to continue under some more flexible procedural arrangements. Suffice it to say, I am looking forward to the new arrangement.

An Unexpected Hiccup. Finally, as you may have heard, I experienced a medical hiccup beginning a little over a month and a half ago that ultimately led to a non-trivial bit of internal surgery. Fortunately, I am blessed at Johns Hopkins with a world-class medical facility, my problem was spotted early, the surgery proceeded without a hitch, and I am back at work with my energy and enthusiasm undiminished.
Unquestionably important in these outcomes were not only the superb Hopkins medical staff and the support of my wonderful family, but also the interest and support shown for our work by you and the dozens like you who have collaborated with us, provided us with financial support, and generally served as valued colleagues and friends on the various tasks we have undertaken.
Allow me, therefore, to close with a huge expression of gratitude and thanks to you, and a wish for you to enjoy an abundance of peace, joy, and deep satisfaction in all you do in this holiday season, in the coming New Year, and in the many years to come.

With sincere best wishes on my own behalf and on behalf of Chelsea, Wojciech, Megan, and all those affiliated with or involved with our Center around the world,

Original artwork by Nolan Cartwright of Stillpointe Theatre, Baltimore, MD.