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The University of Texas at Austin

Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs

DCSCS and Team Awesome

April 12th, 2010

The semester is wrapping up soon and so are our courses – it’s time to submit final papers, give presentations, and write our last memos. Two days ago, I was part of a presentation in one of the most enjoyable courses in my life, a LBJ class taught by a practitioner named Kevin Bacon. Guess what the topic of the presentation was? DCSCS!

Why did I want to study DCSCS? The topic was enticing because I am really thankful to be here through the DCSCS program, and I want more students to enjoy this type of remarkable experience. Although I am 28 years old and married, I have been learning new things every day. I cannot tell you how much DCSCS has expanded my horizons and how rewarding it is.

Moira, our DCSCS program coordinator, was an amazing help for my presentation team (we called ourselves Team Awesome) throughout the semester while we were researching DCSCS. She always helped us with a warm smile and generosity, as all Texans do. She provided us with all the information we needed and always came to our rescue when we needed help. The focus of our project was analyzing the application process for the inbound exchange students at LBJ School of Public Affairs. To help streamline the process, we created a logic model, a cross-functional process flowchart, and made recommendations for the program. The great thing about our research is that it can be applied to any other program where the RGK Center or the LBJ School brings in exchange students.

To make our presentation entertaining, we invited a hypothetical person who we called “Jack.” Jack walked the class through the issues in the application process and made recommendations that basically focused on increasing the visibility and scope of DCSCS. The idea of personalizing the process was really enjoyable to the rest of the class. After class, I forwarded our team memo and presentation to Moira. And guess what? She will use our work in her future presentations. YES! Team Awesome got what it wanted. ☺

Love from lively Austin,

Team Awesome (L to R): Professor Kevin Bacon, Avinash, Laura, Engy, and John

The Value of Case Studies

April 5th, 2010

With five weeks left in our semester, school is kicking into high gear here in Austin. The readings are thick as usual, we’re writing a memo on fundraising for our nonprofit strategy class, and some of us have final essays and exams to prepare for in our elective courses, but the thing on all of our minds is our case study. All the interviewing, reading, and discussing of the last two months is wrapping up, and it’s time to decide on a storyline and get it down on paper. Our first draft is due in less than a week.

Since January, we’ve been using other case studies – some from the Electronic Hallway that we’re hoping to submit ours to – for both of our nonprofit courses, and they are consistently my favourite part of the week’s readings. They provide an engaging story, a window into the operations of a real-life organization, and an interesting issue worth some serious consideration. As an anthropologist, I appreciate their ability to teach not by pushing dry theory and making blanket statements, but through letting students pull general lessons out of the rich complexity, personalities, and nuance of a single situation. As a busy student, I appreciate that they manage to do all of this in 5-10 pages ̶ short and sweet.

Now that we are trying to write our own, I have a whole new level respect for the case study model, and for the authors of the cases we’ve enjoyed reading up to now. A writing coach who visited our class yesterday aptly summarized: we’re not just students writing a research paper anymore, we need to be hard-nosed reporters to create a strong and synthesized presentation of the facts, master story-tellers to shape a strong and illuminating narrative, and creative ethnographers to bring it all alive with engaging details and subtle texture. I know that, between us, our group has the skills and experience to do this, but the closer we get to the end, the more I realize how difficult it is to bring all our ideas and energy together to create one succinct, cohesive, whole – and most importantly, finished – case study. I’m not sure how we’ll do it, but it will have taken shape by next Wednesday, and done by the 27th. It will definitely be something to be proud of!


The Impact of DCSCS

March 29th, 2010

All the people involved in the program are great. We spend our time learning, researching, and having fun. I would like to thank Moira Porter, our program coordinator, because she has helped me since the moment I began planning my arrival in Austin, and she continues to do so.

I understand that the United States has the biggest nonprofit sector around the world, but living it through our case studies really makes me understand that the sector is a way of life, which involves millions of lives daily. In my case study, Seton Hospital and its volunteer program, the people with whom we are working give us information freely and expect that we can contribute to their organization in some way. It’s exciting to be involved.

We have also been able to have a sense of community here in Austin, through our living situations, through being students at UT, and through our work with local nonprofits. All of the exchange students in the program live in co-ops, which give us the opportunity to share and interact with interesting people all the time. Also, we are learning from our great professors, who have varied and impressive academic and professional backgrounds. Finally, being in contact with one nonprofit organization has really motivated me to contribute to the nonprofit community here or in my country (Mexico). It could sound like a political slogan, but it’s true that “people make the difference.”

I know that all of my fellow DCSCS students have enjoyed Austin like I have and that we all plan to share our experiences when we return to our home countries. I want to motivate my classmates in Mexico and other students to get involved in this program and also contribute in some way to strengthen the nonprofit sector in Mexico. Actually, my original intention was to contribute through research and studying the sector, but I think now it should be more active. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this DCSCS experience takes me in my work – it has definitely made a big impact.


The Case Study!

March 24th, 2010

So it’s been quite the last few weeks for me.  As you’ll recall, one of the main features of the DCSCS Exchange is a case study course where you work hands-on with an organization to help them identify potential areas for growth, improvement, or expansion.  I am working, along with two other students, with the Distress Centre of Ottawa and Region.

Before I managed to get started on the case study, I managed to break my nose and suffer a concussion playing a soccer game.  The back of someone’s head managed to abruptly meet my nose.  Other than a slightly off-center nose, I’m none the worse for wear.

The Centre handles two main phone lines- a support line for local hospitals and a crisis line.  They operate 24/7 in both English and French.  They run quite the operation.  Getting to the physical location was an exercise in espionage, as they keep it tightly under wraps due to the nature of their work.  Once in, we met most of the staff (7 people) and sat down to talk with several of them, one at a time.  They gave us information on how things work, what they would like to see happen, and things they have been considering moving towards.

It was a very productive meeting, and we’ve been working on writing up a nice set of proposals, critiques, and suggestions for them.  Hopefully they’ll find out work and research to be of some use, and they’ll be able to continue to serve the people in Ottawa into the future!

- Wayne Gerami

DCSCS Exchange For Y’ALL!

March 23rd, 2010

It is difficult to know where or even how to start telling about this incredible exchange experience, so here are a few lines to share my DCSCS experience with y’all:

I am in my early twenties and have traveled to many places in the world and enjoyed life more than enough of my share; however the joy I feel here in Austin is something that I have not experienced yet: joy for doing something I love and feels right. I’ve always had interest in the nonprofit world and a small amount of experience, but these couple of months have opened a whole new world in this area, and it is truly one that I want to dive into more each day.

I have been in Austin for more than two months, and though it has been super exciting and refreshing, the real start of what we came here to do is starting now: the writing of our case study. My organization is United Way, and they have been very open to our group sitting in on meetings and interviewing whomever we ask. It is literally an adrenaline buzz every time we meet with them and learn more about the realities of nonprofits. A lot more work is yet to be done for the case study, but it is challenge that we receive with open arms and minds and is a learning experience that continues and deepens.

Now in other themes, our DCSCS group is super tight. We are a group of eight, six from Canada and two from Mexico. Even though some of us live in different houses and have completely different backgrounds, majors, and even styles, we get along very well and are united by some greater theme that is being in a new city and immersing ourselves in the nonprofit world. Austin is an incredible city and here is a list of some of the most relevant things we have done in our time here: visited the Cactus Café, watched Longhorn basketball games and the Superbowl with true Austinites, watched the Olympics together as we celebrated Canada’s victories, continuously going to happy hours and barbecues, and more importantly seeing lots of live music shows, especially this week with one of biggest music festivals in North America going on, SXSW.

I absolutely love this exchange experience and have learned so much both academically and personally. The biggest lesson that I take from this exchange is the desire to live life like an exchange student anywhere I go from here. Living life as an exchange student means taking advantage of time, places, people, and opportunities given to you with truly fresh eyes and an open mind in a way you’ve never done before.

Anyway, I am now off to DAY 3 of SXSW!

Loving Life from Austin, Texas,

Another great TOMS event at UT

March 22nd, 2010

Join The Autism Project at The University of Texas at Austin for this great TOMS Shoes event benefiting children with autism spectrum disorders and their families.

Fundraising in Austin

March 15th, 2010

It’s been more than two months since I arrived from Mexico City to be part of the DCSCS program. The city, classmates, staff and professors have been more than welcoming. I can’t believe it’s already spring break…

Our classes have been loaded with theory, discussion and cases; lots of cases of course! This has been a total immersion into the nonprofit world. One of the first things I was impressed by was the size of the nonprofit sector in the US. There are nearly 1.5 million nonprofit organizations of all sorts out there. Whether tiny or huge, formally or informally assembled, all of them face formidable challenges to accomplish their missions. One of the most difficult ones is raising funds. Whatever the cause, money always comes to the picture.

A week ago, I had the chance to witness one of the many ways in which nonprofits can raise money: fundraising events. After learning about the earthquake in Chile, a group of UT students immediately convened and created an informal (not a registered nonprofit or UT student group) group called ‘Austin Helps Chile.’ A fundraiser –Con Chile en el Corazón- was quickly organized. Despite the short notice, the small venue and the far away location (at least for us students who bike everywhere) the event was a complete success. Me and 5 other DCSCS students were there to witness it (I even made it into the Daily Texan (I’m in the center of the photo)! Less than a week after its assembly, ‘Austin Helps Chile’ had managed to gather as many as 400 people and raise $7,000 dollars out of small, personal donations. I think that’s impressive!

This was just one of the many manifestations of civil society we have been able to study and experience as part of our program. I am sure that the semester has many more interesting experiences waiting for us…


We’re Like Investigators!

March 11th, 2010

The UT Community Education Collaborative case study group had our first team meeting with case study professors Dr. Deborah Edward and Dr. Sarah Jane Rehnborg today. We’re in the thick of trying to hammer out a narrative for our case study, but are finding it difficult to distill down the numerous challenges the organization is facing to find one key issue on which to focus. This is a struggle that all of our classmates are also facing, so having a lot of discussions and using one another as sounding boards is really helpful.

The case will be written as a narrative and use specific stories of key players to move the story along in a readable and interesting way. We were lucky to have Austin Chronicle staff writer Jordan Smith visit our class last week to give us pointers on investigative nonprofit writing. She gave us lots of great tips on getting the information we need from the organization regarding sometimes sensitive issues.

We’re still really early in the case study process but feel that we have collected ample information from organizational interviews and our own research to steer this case study in the best direction. There will be seven components to our final case study write-up: a hook to draw the readers in, background information, a description of the current situation, the dilemma the organization is facing (this is the hard part!), the decision point, a conclusion or epilogue, and teaching notes to direct other people in using our case study as a teaching tool.

More to come on our successes and challenges in the case writing process!

Cameron, Chung-Hsiang, Dana and Santiago

Our group trying to distill down the issues facing our client.

Semifinalists Announced!

March 8th, 2010

Congratulations Dell Social Innovation Competition Semifinalists!

The RGK Center at the University of Texas and Dell would like to thank all students who submitted ideas in the 2010 Dell Social Innovation Competition. Ideas came from over 200 universities in countries around the world. We applaud the creativity and ingenuity of everyone who participated!

Out of 700 ideas submitted, 60 ideas have been selected as semifinalists to move forward to compete in Round 2 of the competition. The semifinalist list below is a combination of the top ten ideas voted by the public, plus 50 projects selected by the competition judges. For those whose ideas just missed the cut, don’t stop dreaming. We encourage all entrants to refine their ideas and submit again in next year’s competition.

Semifinalists have until 5:00 P.M. CST (23:00 UTC) on April 1 to complete their venture plan and video. Guidelines for the venture plan can be found here. A detailed email will be sent to all semifinalists with more information.

Voting on the second round of competition will re-open shortly. At the start of the second round, the semifinalists are listed in alphabetical order. As soon as the community starts voting, the order will change to the top voted projects. Remember – you can vote on as many projects as you like, but only one vote per project!

Now, here is what you’ve all been waiting for!

2010 Semifinalist Teams

Judge’s Selections (In alphabetical order)

  1. A Safe Vaccine Delivery Device That Does Not Need Refrigeration
  2. AAHAR: Wholesome Food for Rickshaw pullers and Slum dwellers
  3. Ag 4 Africa: A rural development model for Sub-Saharan Africa
  4. AquaValue
  5. Breaking the Wall by ICT
  6. Bringing hope to the lives of amputees one leg at a time.
  7. Chow: The e-Marketplace Where Food Wins
  8. Cost effective two stage evacuated solar still for rural people of India
  9. Creating SMILES – building the nation
  11. Digital Literacy Project
  12. Earth and Bamboo Construction
  13. Educating sustainable entrepreneurs. Cultivating the human potential.
  14. Education Breaking Down Mountains
  15. Enable K-12 teachers to leverage each others’ best lesson content; and reward high value teachers.
  16. Eureka! – Find better ways to do good
  17. Faith-in-Love Hour– innovative currency for Volunteer Incentive Platform
  18. Fighting Poverty in Southern Sudan
  19. From Street On Board
  20. High School Knowledge Database
  21. House a Hero: Helping veterans avoid homelessness.
  22. Innovative business model to create the world’s first global, mission driven micro-insurance company
  23. Karnak Kenaf Company – Kenaf Paper
  24. Kosh – Universalizing Access To Educational Content
  25. Look Smart
  26. Moca Lab: A Laboratory for Promoting Peace and Improving Access to Health Care in Resource-Poor and Conflict Areas in the Philippines
  27. Moringa HOPE Project
  28. OroClean: Gold Mining Solution
  29. Project Yele: A Community Bazaar in Yele, Sierra Leone
  30. Rainwater Harvesting in Kuttanad, India
  31. Redirecting Food Wastes into a Sustainable Urban Agriculture and Aquaculture
  32. Revamping shipping containers as classroom modules.
  33. Running Water International – Clean Water. Healthy World.
  34. Sanergy
  35. Security & Health for farmers & families in China through community-based organic farming
  36. Seed to Feed
  37. Silver Ceramic Cup (SCC)
  38. Sisi ni Amani (“We are Peace”) – Mapping Peace in Kenya
  39. SoluPower: Providing electricity to those who need it most
  40. Speramus – Personalized Online Fundraising
  41. Supporting education and enterprise in Sierra Leone
  42. Sustainable Irrigation for Community Agriculture in Rural South Africa
  43. The DoubleGreen Credit Builder Loan Program
  44. To create an efficient, transparent and structured rice market by establishing a modern platform for the exchange of Farabana rice (Mali)
  45. Trie Health: Incentivizing Healthy Eating to Reduce Obesity One Household at a Time
  46. Tseai Energy Lights Up Sierra Leone
  47. Urban Solar Charging Stations: Carbon Free Mobility
  48. Waste to Watts: Alleviating Energy Poverty Using Repurposed Electronic Waste
  49. We connect students to education opportunities and eliminate the gap between opportunities available to rural and urban students.
  50. Wing Venture Funds: a new financial vehicle for social development

Top 10 by Popular Vote

  1. PoverUP
  2. A Eco-Friendly Business Venture
  3. Computer Learning on Wheels
  4. Hope For Women in Kibera: The Kibera School for Girls and Shining Hope Community Center
  5. Building a Music School for Ugandan Disadvantaged Children
  6. An online market for high-end fashion donations to make a difference
  7. Guatemalan Honey Cooperative for Economic Development
  8. A Social Venture to uplift Indian handicraft industry and help the artisans
  9. BIO-PRO

*One team has been disqualified.

Comments or questions? Contact:

*Updated* – $10,000 President’s Award for Nonprofit Research

March 5th, 2010

*The deadline for submissions has been extended to June 15, 2010.*

Beginning this year, we are working with the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) to offer an annual award to encourage innovative, foundational research in the field of nonprofit and philanthropic studies.  The RGK Center – ARNOVA Presidents Award will provide a $10,000 grant to a member of ARNOVA to support basic research and theory building in the field of philanthropic, nonprofit and voluntary action studies.  We especially encourage projects that incorporate and apply insights, frameworks and theories from the social sciences to the study of nonprofit organizations, philanthropy and volunteerism.

An RFP is available on the ARNOVA website inviting proposals and providing guidelines. The deadline for submissions has been extended to June 15, 2010. An Awards Committee composed of current and former Presidents of ARNOVA will review applications, and the recipient of the Award will be notified by July 9, 2010.

The Award recipient will be expected to produce a working paper that can be made available on the RGK Center website when finished, and a presentation of that paper can be made at ARNOVA’s Conference the year it is completed. The recipient will be expected to produce the final paper within 12 months of the announcement of the Award.

ARNOVA and the RGK Center are pleased to sponsor this new Award in order to advance cutting edge research in the field.

Submissions must be received by June 15, 2010. Get the RFP here.