Research Projects

The Public and Nonprofit Leadership Center is a national leader in research that explores the context and practice of management and leadership. We share this knowledge and provide settings where others can learn through outreach and teaching. Research, academic courses, and professional development programs offer tangible approaches to complex public problems. Our research takes place in the following focus areas:

Focus Area: Leadership & Management

  • Research, education, and outreach activities focusing on where and how leadership and management is exercised
  • Expertise in leadership and management of government and nonprofit organizations, policy implementation, entrepreneurship, and leadership and management of cross-sector collaborations
  • Work addressing ongoing challenges of fostering ethical public service and nurturing leadership in the public interest

Focus Area: Cross-sector Collaboration & Learning Networks

  • Research on how and when cross-sector partnerships are most effective in addressing public problems
  • Convening of leaders in the nonprofit, philanthropic, and the public sectors to address policy issues that critically affect all sectors, such as transportation field, studies of collaborative policy implementation in emergency situations, and human service networks

Focus Area: Governance & Accountability

  • Research that identifies the limitations and strengths of mechanisms and models of governance and accountability in public institutions
  • Activities that directly involve students and enrich the Humphrey School's curriculum with the latest thinking and research on governance and accountability issues while promoting dialogue among new and established leaders of nonprofit, philanthropic, public-sector, and intermediary organizations
  • Research on how best to implement public policy. Faculty do basic and applied research to learn more about how to efficiently and effectively carry-out governing bodies’ directives.

Examples of our research include:

Social Welfare Policy Implementation

This project looks at the complex process of implementing social welfare policy—across various levels of government, across government-nonprofit relationships—through a multi-level framework. Policy field analysis focuses on identifying the networks of organizations involved in assembling the resources and ideas to implement policy in a particular location, at a particular time. Organizational analysis looks at how agencies integrate programs with their existing processes. Frontline analysis focusing on how a program is enacted when the system and target group interact. We are applying parts of this framework to many social welfare topics: employment training, food support, cash assistance, and disability services. Learn more

Building Capacity for Public Engagement in Local Road Systems Planning and Decision Making

Persistent resource shortfalls and historic changes in usage of local road systems are challenging the ability of local communities to sustain their local road systems. This project responds through research and training regarding communication and engagement techniques for involving the public in informed budgetary decision-making regarding local road service levels. Download the Prezi presentation

Cross-sector Collaboration: A Case Study of the Urban Partnership Agreement

This project is a longitudinal, comparative case study of the Urban Partnership program (often referred to by ‘Urban Partnership Agreement’ or ‘UPA’), a federal transportation initiative that infused approximately $1.1 billion into a competitive funding program aimed at reducing traffic congestion in major urban areas. Five urban regions (Minneapolis-St. Paul, New York City, San Francisco, Miami, and Seattle) were initially selected to participate in this innovative program designed to integrate four key strategies: transit, highway pricing, technology, and telecommuting.

Program Evaluation 

Through the Future Services Institute, the Humphrey School faculty and staff provide customized evaluation of human services programs that apply appropriate, cutting-edge approaches such as outcomes and developmental designs. These approaches help to provide rapid-cycle learning structures for community partners. Learn more

Project Publications, Presentations, Working Papers