Kim Sarnoff and Shotaro Nakamura at work in the research office

Conferences and seminars

Learn more about annual academic meetings. 

We're dedicated to building an intellectual community across disciplines in the field of private action for public benefit.

Economics of Social Sector Organisations Conference

We co-host an international annual conference on Economics of the Social Sector Organisations with the Rustandy Center for Social Sector Innovation at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The inaugural conference in November 2016 featured research on the growing set of organisations that are neither traditional profit-maximising firms, nor traditional wholly publicly-owned and controlled government agencies. Watch an interview with Professor Oliver Hart, 2016 Nobel Prize winner, on his paper here.

The 2017 conference was held at the London School of Economics on 22-23 September. Read Professor Sir Julian Le Grand's closing remarks here.

Marshall Institute Interdiscplinary Seminar

The Marshall Institute is dedicated to building an intellectual community across disciplines in the field of private action for public benefit. Our Interdisciplinary Seminars are a series of academic seminars, where a leading researcher in the field presents their research to academics from other fields. 

Below you will find our previous Marshall Institute Interdiscplinary Seminar.

1 November 2017

From Iron Cages to Glass Houses: Rationalisation and Transparency in the San Francisco Bay Area Non-profit Sector

Professor Walter W Powell

Rationalisation is a fundamental social process in which instrumental reasoning displaces traditional and charismatic legitimacy. In the nonprofit sector, managerialism in the early 2000s caused concern that the visible hand of civic leadership would give way to the invisible hand of the market. Analysing a longitudinal study of 200 nonprofits in the San Francisco Bay Area, we find that rational organisations ten years ago were managerial, technocratic, and inward-looking; today, they are collaborative, transparent, and invite scrutiny of their impact.

This unforeseen shift from iron cages to glass houses suggests a reconceptualisation of rationalisation as a fluid, self-reproducing process with shifting contents. Combining quantitative and qualitative data, we find that old managerial practices attract and become intercalated with new organisational openness. We contribute to a deeper understanding of how new practices and ideas co-exist with established approaches and advance openness as a principle of modern organisation.