Impactful Research

— Philanthropy, Nonprofits, and Social Innovation —


Rigorous academic research is a hallmark of the USC Price School of Public Policy. We extend that work beyond traditional scholarship to develop new theories and analytical methods for real-world problem solving. The Price School’s considerable research strengths and top-ranked academic programs in philanthropy, nonprofits, and social innovation reach across public policy, urban planning, public administration, health policy and administration, and real estate development to address the most critical challenges facing our society and communities around the globe.


Social Innovation: What Are the Issues for Research and Policy?
Moving Forward – Some Lessons and Takeaways Plenary – Forum on Place-Based Initiatives
Innovating to End Urban Poverty Conference: Welcome and Overview
An Empirical Analysis of the Role of Social Innovation

Price research, both within the centers and by individual faculty, advances our understanding of the roles and strategies of foundations, nonprofit strategy and management, cross-sectoral governance, volunteer behavior, social entrepreneurship and innovation, policy advocacy and community organizing, and civic engagement, to name just a few.

The Sol Price Center for Social Innovation regularly translates research into policy briefs. Approaching the critical challenge of poverty through a multi-disciplinary, problem-focused way, it developed 45 Policies to End Urban Poverty covering education, workforce development, housing, healthcare, improving skills, immigration, and the role of place.

Representatives from the USC Center on Philanthropy and Public Policy (CPPP) presented research findings at the White House on strategic partnerships between government and philanthropy to decision-makers from more than 30 federal agencies. They followed up this work with a more in-depth study and a roundtable cohosted by the Council on Foundations. CPPP’s reports and research have been made available on the White House website and its work on philanthropic-government partnerships contributed to the creation of the Office of Strategic Partnerships in the city of Los Angeles.

A few examples of Price faculty research in the areas of philanthropy, nonprofits, and social innovation include the following:


  • Interviewing leaders of 20 foundations in greater Los Angeles to learn how grantmaking strategies, patterns, and practices have changed over the last five years and what changes are anticipated for the future
  • Investigating how nonprofit trade associations that support the growth of gourmet food trucks mobilized politically and worked with local government to create policy that allowed for the rapid expansion of these business enterprises
  • Looking at the effectiveness of entire networks of organizations — rather than an individual organization — working to effect change in a specific community or on an issue
  • Identifying when community-based organizations offer better solutions to a problem than government management or privatization, because of their superior ability to adapt to rapidly changing local circumstances


  • Undertaking a year-long national inquiry to elevate the dialogue beyond best practices to the larger significance and longevity of place-based initiatives
  • Reviewing how nonprofits provide publicly funded services in the U.S.
  • Examining the intersection of advocacy, public policy engagement, and systems change in health philanthropy to better inform foundations about the underlying models for these approaches, as well as their associated benefits, costs, and risks
  • Exploring how nonprofits involved in addressing housing, poverty, and homelessness are affected by public policy, as well as how they engage in affecting public policy


  • Exploring community-based foundations in Japan, China, and South Korea, the role they play, the factors that promote or hinder their success, and the regional philanthropic traditions, vitality of the nonprofit sectors, and legal frameworks in nations where government is more actively involved in the sector than in the United States
  • Studying the collaborative and facilitative role environmental NGOs play in the democratization and conflict-resolution processes in Taiwan, and how that might translate to Mainland China