I am naturally an analytic thinker. Plus, I have an undergraduate education in sociology. So, it should be no suprise that I take a particular interest in academic literature. I leverage research to inform my practice in the nonprofit sector.
There are some key benefits in applying research to practice:
- Empirical evidence provides insight into social issues beyond the capacity of anecdotal stories.
- Research projects are contextualized within others’ research – building upon prior understanding.
- Thorough understanding of a problem is necessary for effective solutions, and research strives to uncover all hidden relationships.
I encourage other nonprofit professionals to seek out academic literature in many situations:
- When confronting a problem – a social concern or an organizational issue
- When entering an unknown area of practice or management
- When desiring greater understanding and improved effectiveness
To find relevant research, I suggest The Foundation Center’s Catalog of Nonprofit Literature. If you want to browse a particular journal, I recommend the Association for Research on Nonprofits and Voluntary Action.
Then, apply the existing literature to your circumstances. Consider the following questions:
- What is the primary research question?
- What methodologies are used to address this inquiry?
- What solutions are offered?
- What are the limitations of this research?
- How are these findings relevant?
What other questions should be considered when applying research to practice? Please leave a comment with your idea!