At the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, faculty members study philanthropy from a multidisciplinary approach. Some study the psychology of giving, while others examine historical perspectives on philanthropy or analyze the economy and the impact of tax reform and other fiscal changes on giving.
Dr. Catherine Herrold analyzes philanthropy through the lens of political science. Part of her research examines how foreign aid acts as a form of patronage, affecting NGOs’ roles within civil society and constraining their capacity to act on the behalf of local citizens. After studying this topic as part of a broader research project on civil society in Egypt, Dr. Herrold has turned her attention to Palestine and is exploring how local NGOs operating outside of the international aid system are re-claiming civil society as a space owned by, and acting on behalf of, citizens.
To continue this research, Dr. Herrold applied for an EMPOWER grant through the IUPUI Office for Women and Office of the Vice Chancellor for Research. “The EMPOWER program provides research funds and a mentor (a full professor) for assistant and associate professors,” she explained. “The mentorship provided by the full professor to the assistant or associate professor ranges from topics such as book publishing to summer research plans and grant application strategies.”
With a focus in the Middle East and civil society, Dr. Herrold was matched with Dr. Edward Curtis, a religion professor with concentrations in Africana religions, Islam, and Middle Eastern studies. “It’s been wonderful to have a mentor with expertise in the area of the world where I conduct research,” Dr. Herrold said.
In addition to working with Dr. Curtis, Dr. Herrold also earned research funds from the EMPOWER grant to carry out further research in Palestine. “I conducted a pilot study in the West Bank in 2016 in order to understand the major issues facing local NGOs. One such issue was the influx of international aid and how it has built up a very professionalized and bureaucratic NGO sector. There is a widespread perception on the ground that many of these NGOs have become more accountable to foreign donors than to local Palestinians.
“As a result, activists in the West Bank are working through both registered organizations and grassroots groups operating outside of the aid system to reclaim civil society as a space owned by and empowering of local citizens.”
This summer, Dr. Herrold will speak with the leaders of these groups to learn about their goals and objectives, who is participating in their activities and governance, and how they are managing to provide services without funding from abroad.
Part of her work will focus on community-led philanthropy, including that of the Dalia Association, a Palestinian community foundation that facilitates philanthropy through local resources. “At Dalia Association, philanthropy is about more than just money. As members of the community decide who should be awarded grants from the foundation, the aim is to promote agency, empowered decision-making, and recognition of local resources,” Dr. Herrold said.
Assisting Dr. Herrold with her research is Manal Issa, a current MA student at the school who is from Palestine and has worked in fundraising there for years. “I see Manal as a collaborator on this project. She already knows a number of the leaders in these groups and organizations and will be a key partner as we build relationships with, and learn from, Palestinian activists.”
And Dr. Herrold’s future research plans? “This will be a multi-year project,” she explained. “I’ve been interested in Palestine ever since I began working in the Middle East. I’m very excited to dive deep into Palestinian civil society and ultimately write a book on the topic.”