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Our research-practice partnership is comprised of our own institution, Auburn University, Auburn, Alabama; as well our partners at African Methodist Episcopal University (AMEU) and the civil society organization (CSO), Hope Alliance Liberia (HAL). AMEU and HAL are located in Monrovia, Liberia, West Africa.

The three research-practice partnership members from Auburn University, Dr. Kelly Krawczyk, Dr. Peter Weber, and Dr. Felicia Tuggle, represent the interdisciplinary fields of nonprofit management, philanthropy, and social work, respectively. At AMEU, Mrs. Sylvestine Gbessagee is chair of the department of social work. Mr. Benedict Quato is the founder and executive director of Hope Alliance Liberia, a CSO focused on education and youth development. We leverage the diversity, experience, and expertise of our interdisciplinary partnership to co-create and exchange knowledge that facilitates sustainable community development, strengthens democracy, and advances citizens’ ability to effect social change.

Since 2015, we have successfully implemented a range of projects related to nonprofit management education (NME), social work education, and capacity-building trainings for civil society organizations. This includes training workshops for Liberian CSOs in core NME content areas such as principles of nonprofit management, board governance, resource development, and strategic planning (2015-2017); and joint development of social work curriculum at AMEU (2016-2018). Our most recent project, the CICS (Challenging Inequality Through Civil Society) curriculum, was a joint collaboration between the three partners and was co-created and piloted at AMEU (2021), to an audience of both AMEU social work students and local civil society organization practitioners. CICS is a civic engagement and social justice curriculum created for current and emerging civil society leaders who aspire to advance social justice through participatory advocacy and democracy. The curriculum covers key competencies necessary for engaging in a human rights- based approach to advocacy, community mobilization, and social justice. The curriculum is uniquely designed to assist participants design their own advocacy initiative based on the realities of the environments in which they operate.

 

Our research-practice partnership opens windows of opportunity for improving local communities, facilitating development, and strengthening democracy through research, teaching, and outreach that is translational and promotes locally-rooted, contextually appropriate nonprofit management education and capacity-building for CSOs. As our partnership has developed and strengthened over the past six years, and we have successfully co-created and implemented various projects, we have deepened our learning and adopted a theory of change that proposes:

Practice-informed nonprofit management education (NME) curricula, co-created in a contextually-appropriate way, that incorporates the experiences and knowledge of local stakeholders, and that is permanently embedded in the Liberian higher educational system, generates an educational framework and infrastructure that is more responsive to local needs, which in turn equips a diverse group of CSO professionals with the competencies they need, thus increasing the capacity of CSOs and allowing them to facilitate development and strengthen democracy.