Leadership training is extremely important for non-profit boards. The key distinctive characteristic of nonprofits is their mission. The boards of for-profit organizations are accountable to the shareholders, and those of public organizations are accountable to the voters. Part of the problem of accountability of nonprofit boards of trustees is that they often don’t get the information they need to carry out the function they’re supposed to perform.
Much of my research is done in connection with the Citizens Budget Commission. It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan civic organization that seeks to improve financial management and service delivery by the City of New York and the State of New York. Recent reports have dealt with methods to assess the affordability of debt at the state and local level, ways to use the internet and e-gov techniques to make procurement by City agencies more cost-effective and the implications of converting the civilian municipal workforce from a 35 to a 40 hour work-week. Research is now underway on cost containment strategies for New York State’s Medicaid program and options for financing major transportation infrastructure improvements. I enjoy the applied nature of the work, with opportunities to interact with state and local officials.
By 2030, when Baby Boomers will be between 66 and 84 years old, they will still represent more than 20% of the U.S. population. They are healthier, wealthier, more mobile, and more highly educated than any preceding generation, and the presumption is that they will remain active and stay involved in society for many decades. This has led to a shift in some of the research about the elderly, from traditional geriatric concerns (health, housing, psychological services) to such issues as full-time “encore” or bridge careers and volunteerism, job flexibility and life meaning, time management and mobility. This cohort could offer 30 or more years of active and creative involvement, revitalizing, in the particular focus of my work, the culture, civic engagement, social services, political activism, intellectual life and artistic creativity and communal institutions of minority and faith-based communities.
I am now involved in a study of how social change organizations use various identities – racial, ethnic, class, geographic – as a resource in their work. In a related arena, I am also interest in team learning and, in particular, how multi-cultural teams can learn from and across difference. I am just embarking on a project studying teams and what enables team learning in a large state social services agency. I am very interested in the mutual influence between social identities, like race, gender and class, and organizational life. How do social identities affect organizations? And how do organizations affect their members’ experience of their social identities? My last study found that, in fact, work organizations do influence their employees’ racial and gender identities, even though those identities are usually understood as largely stable and immune to organizational effects.
My book explores the stability of racial integration in neighborhoods. The conventional view, to borrow Saul Alinsky’s famous line, is that racial integration is merely the time between when the first black moves in and the last white moves out. Counter to this view, I found that many neighborhoods in the United States are racially integrated and stay that way for years. Integration has become both more prevalent and more stable over the last several decades. Still, metropolitan areas in the United States remain highly segregated and many integrated neighborhoods do “tip” top become majority black. Thus, in the second half of the book, I explore why this happens and why certain neighborhoods can remain successfully integrated over time.
The challenge is to make the connection between medical care and health and to understand how factors other than medical care can influence health among older people. In doing research that will benefit older people, it is vital to have an appreciation of the importance of housing, maintaining social connections and maintaining functional abilities, in addition to the benefits of high-technology medicine.
We're trying to understand why it is that there are huge disparities in health outcomes – between low-income populations, say – so that policymakers can find solutions. For example, we looked closely at Medicaid claims date to track how well primary care providers managed their patients. Did one provider have more emergency room visits that another? More primary care visits? What we found was that hospital clinics were much worse at managing patients than private doctors and free-standing, community clinics were. We're trying to sort out why this is. Wagner's Center for Health and Public Service Research (CHPSR) serves as a vehicle for connecting academic research with policymaking and program development in order to address key issues concerning the delivery of health care and social services.
Leadership in public sector and healthcare organizations happens through leaders with the ability to communicate and achieve a clear and transformative organizational vision, create a sustainable financial structure, align the organizational structure to achieve the vision, and adapt continuously. Leaders of today’s and tomorrow’s public organizations must understand how to gather and use evidence to make more effective organizational systems and strategic decisions. They must create accountable organizations and be personally accountable. They must be persons of courage and integrity.
My book on the economics of microfinance pulls together ideas from my teaching, research and advising over the past five years. I’m also studying the politics of microfinance. I want to tell the story of how microfinance became a global movement and why it took the particular form it did. Ultimately, the story has a lot to do with pessimism about the effectiveness of foreign aid, a growing reluctance to redistribute income globally, and an increasing interest in market-based approaches. So the story is about changes in broad policy perspectives as seen through the lens of microfinance.
Although I am trained as an economist, my interest in neighborhoods started by thinking about the social networks one develops when raised or living in a poor neighborhood. Such networks can be very important for a variety of reasons, including creating expectations about work and even finding a specific job. In fact, it turns out that more than half of jobs are found through some you know, and people ion low-income neighborhoods, where employment levels are low, may well face a big disadvantage. The importance of neighborhoods in shaping people’s life chances has sparked my interest in several aspects of community development efforts, such as the provision of affordable housing, and the performance – particularly the governance – of nonprofit and community based organizations.