The Johns Hopkins International Fellows in Philanthropy Program is a highly-selective program that welcomes one or two researchers from outside the U.S. to spend one or more semesters at our Center to conduct independent research on an aspect of the U.S. nonprofit, philanthropic, and voluntary sector. Since its inception in 1988, this program has included over 150 Fellows from more than 50 countries. We are pleased to introduce you to the newest member of our Fellows family, Mr. Tatsuaki Kobashi. TK joined the Fellows Program in the Fall of 2012 and spent three semesters researching topics relating to the New Frontiers of Philanthropy Project. Below, we asked him a few questions about his research and background.
What is your background?
Tatsuaki Kobayashi (TK): I am from Japan. I worked at the Japan Foundation for more than 20 years, so my background is mostly in grant-making and grant-management, not academia. My main interests are a) the development of global philanthropy; b) innovations in grant-making approaches including social impact investments and other newly developed tools; and c) NPO management focusing on strategic planning and evaluation.
Why did you decide to apply to the Fellows Program?
TK: Before coming to the Center, I spent 4 years working at the Japan Foundation’s New York office. There I launched several capacity building support programs for U.S.-Japan grassroots exchange organizations. I was impressed with the dynamics of the U.S. philanthropic and nonprofit sectors and thought that I should learn more about U.S. experiences in this field. The Center is, of course, the ideal place for my research — it’s one of the most influential research centers in nonprofit studies in the world. In addition, I was deeply impressed by the concept of the New Frontiers of Philanthropy, which is a research initiative led by Center Director Lester Salamon. I thought that this initiative had the potential to become a new solution for the third sector worldwide. So, when I read about the New Frontiers of Philanthropy on the Center’s website, I was convinced that I should definitely apply to the International Philanthropy Fellows Program.
What research did you pursue during your Fellowship?
TK: My research centers on the role of grant-making organizations in the era of the New Frontiers of Philanthropy. The scope of these philanthropic developments is very wide, ranging from social impact investing to strategic philanthropy, social impact bonds, social stock exchanges, crowdfunding, and beyond.
Of course, within the limited timeframe of a Fellowship, I knew I could not cover everything. Therefore, I decided to focus my research on the role of grant-making organizations in this emerging field, which, as it turns out, is quite varied. For instance, grant-making foundations can contribute through program-related investments (PRIs) or mission-related investments (MRIs). They can also play an essential part in developing syndicated social impact investment frameworks by taking catalytic roles in the process. On top of that, they can directly support social enterprises through a venture philanthropy approach. Finally, they can also contribute to the development of this emerging sector by acting as a designer of the larger ecosystem of tools and actors in the New Frontiers framework. Rockefeller Foundation’s impact investing initiative is a good example of this. My research focused on these four models, and I was able to pick up some unique approaches for my case studies.
What is the most valuable thing you learned during your Fellowship?
TK: What I found most valuable about my time at the Center was the opportunity to discuss a variety of topics with Dr. Salamon. Needless to say, he is one of founding fathers in comparative NPO research, and has led a great number of field-leading projects since 1980’s. He knows everything about this sector. Every time I talked with him, I always found something inspiring for my research. I learnt a lot from him about the importance of having an historical perspective on the sector and taking a comparative approach to understanding it. However, the most impressive thing about him is his continuing interest in emerging fields and passion for understanding them. He never rests on the status quo of the existing NPO research paradigm. Despite how much he has already contributed to the development of NPO research, he is still trying to expand its scope and depth. This is really an academic and intellectual spirit, and I learned a lot from him.
Was there anything about the results of your research that surprised you?
TK: What I found was quite interesting. Some scholars claim that traditional forms of philanthropy such as grant-making foundations will lose influence as the New Frontiers of Philanthropy emerge. However, what I found through my research was that the role of grant-making organizations is and has been crucial to the development of these new philanthropic forms.
In fact, I found that there is significant hybridization of traditional philanthropy and the tools and actors on the New Frontiers occurring in the U.S. and abroad. For example, some pioneering organizations like Skoll Foundation and Omidyar Network are trying to integrate social impact investing into their core grant-making strategies. We should also keep in mind the fact that major foundations like Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation have played key roles in promoting social impact investing and community development financial institutions. In other words, the relationship between “traditional philanthropy” and the “New Frontiers of Philanthropy” is not zero-sum, but win-win.
TK: As I mentioned before, my discussions with Dr. Salamon proved to be the most enjoyable aspect of my Fellowship. I also want to mention that the secretariat office for the International Society for Third Sector Research (ISTR) is in the same building. To talk with Margery Daniels, Executive Director of ISTR, was quite fun and exciting, too. She is amazingly knowledgeable about third sector research in every corner of the world!
Is there anything that you wish you had been able to do here that you were unable to do?
TK: The City of Baltimore and the State of Maryland are unique places for community-based philanthropy. If I could have had more time, I would have liked to visit some major foundations like the Annie E. Casey Foundation or the Baltimore Community Foundation and conduct interviews with them. I believe that their experiences in tackling community problems through collective effort would be helpful to Japanese communities, too.
Do you have any advice for future Fellows?
TK: Well, I am not an adequate person to provide advice for them regarding research plans and approaches because I am not an academic. If I may, however, I would say that good preparation is essential for the success of your research. Your time as a Fellow is limited, and it will take more time for you to settle down or make the appointments that you need than you expect.
Do you plan to publish your research?
TK: I will write several papers and submit them to academic journals. I hope that they will accept them.
What’s next for you?
TK: What I have to do next is to translate the upcoming book, New Frontiers of Philanthropy: A Guide to the New Tools and New Actors that are Reshaping Global Philanthropy and Social Investing (ed. Lester M. Salamon, forthcoming May 2014 from Oxford University Press) into Japanese and publish it. I believe that Japanese third sector can learn a lot from this emerging field and that Japan also should develop these new tools. I will try my best to introduce the concept of the New Frontiers of Philanthropy to Japanese researchers and practitioners. I hope that I can contribute to the development of this new movement in Japan.