Call for Papers: Philanthropy & Social Impact

March 14th-16th, 2019


“There has been much discussion about the intergenerational transfer of wealth and what it might portend for philanthropy and the nonprofit sector. However, the future of philanthropy and the sector is going to be determined—not by the transfer of wealth itself—but by the dollars that find their way into philanthropy, and how those dollars are leveraged. How will they shape philanthropy, the nonprofit sector, and the communities served? Given that philanthropy is significantly insulated from market forces and political pressures, it is up to philanthropy to discover pathways to greater impact.”


James M. Ferris, “Is this the New Golden Age of Philanthropy? An Assessment of the Changing Landscape,” Voluntary Sector Review, 7:3 (November 2016) pp. 315-324.


The USC Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy will mark the beginning of its 20th anniversary with a research symposium that examines our understanding of the role of philanthropy in creating social impact. The symposium will be held March 14–16, 2019 at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, which will be celebrating its 90th anniversary and its long history of expertise on cross sector partnerships.

There has been a growing understanding of how philanthropy and nonprofit organizations can advance social change through the development of impactful strategies and practices. The aim of the conference is to take stock of intellectual developments and research contributions at the intersection of philanthropy, nonprofits, and social innovation, and to assess the most promising avenues for future work. The symposium will blend plenary sessions with leading contributors to the field with paper panels based on responses to this Call for Papers.

We are seeking submissions of research papers that are both rigorous and relevant for policy and practice. We welcome papers that draw on the various disciplines and professional fields that provide the foundations for the study of philanthropy, nonprofit organizations, and social innovation/change, including economics, sociology, political science, history, as well as public policy, public management, and nonprofit studies. We encourage theoretical and methodological diversity, including quantitative and qualitative studies, as well as studies that take a multi-level approach connecting organizational processes with the broader institutional environment. We are keen to hear from individuals at various stages of their careers, particularly junior scholars.


Themes that are of particular interest include:

  • Philanthropic strategies for social change, including efforts to influence public policy and system change. What are the opportunities for philanthropy to leverage its assets—dollars, knowledge and networks—to impact policy and system change at various stages of the policy process, different venues, and various governmental levels?
  • Partnerships, collaborations, and networks to achieve social impact with service delivery, advocacy, and community building. How can philanthropy work with nonprofits and other organizations to solve public problems?
  • Social entrepreneurship and new organizational forms to unleash greater impact. What models and structures are emerging that harness the power of markets to solve public problems?
  • Innovative financing models that can sustain and scale solutions. What is the potential for impact investing and mission investments to amplify the resources for addressing public problems?
  • Social movements and community organizing to shape public agendas.  How can philanthropy aid in giving greater voice to those with limited access to political processes and institutions?
  • Strategic philanthropy. What is the state of philanthropic practice that advances more intentional outcomes—theories of change, logic models, metrics for outcomes and impact, evaluation, and learning?
  • Nonprofit capacity building. What are the elements of strong and effective nonprofits and how does philanthropy help?
  • Public policies toward the sector. What public policies can strengthen philanthropy and its nonprofit partners, including tax policy and other sources of support as well as board leadership and practices that contribute to transparency, accountability and legitimacy?



Abstract submission (approximately 500 words)
November 30, 2018

Notification of acceptance
January 7, 2019

Submission of full paper
February 22, 2019


Submission Information

The abstract should include your name, affiliation and email address. As well as the paper title, please identify which of the eight symposium themes your paper falls under. Abstracts should be emailed to [email protected] and include in the subject heading: Abstract.

Full Papers
Additional guidance for submitting the full papers will be provided following notification of acceptance.



James M. Ferris
Emery Evans Olson Chair in Nonprofit Entrepreneurship and Public Policy
Director, The Center on Philanthropy & Public Policy
Sol Price School of Public Policy
University of Southern California

Elizabeth A. Graddy
Jeffrey Miller Chair in Government, Business and the Economy
Sol Price School of Public Policy
Vice Provost for Academic and Faculty Affairs
University of Southern California


Contact Information

Send questions, comments and receive future updates about the symposium by emailing to [email protected].

All submissions and questions should be sent to [email protected].