My research program is interwoven with three core themes–the 3Cs: Community, Commons and Connective. In summary, I combine mixed methods and computational approaches to examine the roles and capacities of nonprofit, philanthropic and grassroots organizations to advance public problem solving online and offline.
Community-oriented: Looking at both online and offline communities, my research uses a place-based perspective in understanding resource inequality across geographical communities, and how the nonprofit sector shapes and is being shaped by place itself. In the online playing field, I examine online communities on social media and other online platforms where the public, stakeholders and policymakers interact and engage to advance local wellbeing and policy process.
Commons-focused: The unit of analysis of my research is the bottom-up “self-governing” phenomenon in which people come together for common good or to some extent address local and public problems through philanthropy, nonprofits, grassroots groups and online networks (Lohmann, 1992).
Connective-driven: I look at their roles and capacities to make meaningful connections, such as engaging with local communities, leading across sectors, building diffused networks for connective actions, and playing a mediating role to advance policy reforms .
The Effect of Place-based Inequality on Philanthropic Capacity
Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu’s perspective, this project explores the extent to which place-based inequality explains the differing philanthropic capacity of community foundations. Based on data from 2,177 serving counties of 943 community foundations across the U.S., we found that community foundations experience a place dilemma: How much they can fundraise are bounded by the amount of local resources, and concurrently, by the degree of local inequality within the communities.
The ‘Matthew Effect’ in Generosity: Examining the Impact on Nonprofit Capacity Across Place and Time
This project examines the “philanthropic gap” across the US, with a particular focus on how nonprofits that serve disadvantaged communities are affected. At the end, we will offer recommendations for nonprofit and policy leaders on how to how to foster philanthropy and how to use that philanthropic giving to support a healthy nonprofit sector that promotes volunteering, political participation, services, and programs to serve community needs.
Conceptualizing “Community Leadership”
Community philanthropic organizations are increasingly looked to as community leaders that coalesce money, people, knowledge, and networks for addressing public problems at the local level. However, the field remains difficult to grasp—what it is and how it is realized in practice. This project aims to formulate a multi-dimensional conceptual framework to construe community leadership. This study now appears in this publication.
Wu, V. C. S. (2021). Community leadership as multi‐dimensional capacities: A conceptual framework and preliminary findings for community foundations. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 32(1), 29-53.
Wu, V. C. S. (2021). The geography and disparities of community philanthropy: A community assessment model of needs, resources, and ecological environment. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 32(2), 351-371.