Grad Student Hu: Combining Research with Action

Photo of Ming Hu

Ming Hu, PhD Student
Civil Society and Community Studies

International Exploration and Experience

Combining research with action for a better society, SoHE doctoral student Ming Hu is examining the role of nonprofit organizations in civil society. But Ming’s interest in nonprofit work started long before he began his doctoral studies in SoHE’s Civil Society and Community Research(CSCR) program.

Having worked in China’s nonprofit sector, he came to the program in 2014 with firsthand experience in rural development with Oxfam Hong Kong and in community recovery with the Sun Yat-Sen University Institute for Civil Society. In response to a huge earthquake that struck western China in 2008, Hu founded a grassroots nonprofit in support of community recovery. He later co-authored a book that looked at the ways non-governmental organizations (NGOs) contributed to the Sichuan earthquake relief.

Bringing on the Action

It was these hands-on experiences that inspired him to learn more about how nonprofits work.  After earning an MA in nonprofit research from Indiana University, Hu says, he realized he wanted to look beyond the structure of nonprofits themselves to examine how they might most effectively collaborate with with social forces in other sectors of society.

“Community research is a good ‘discipline’ for this interest,” he says. “I prefer action-oriented and mixed-methods research, which is strongly supported at CSCS.”

For Hu, the graduate support he received from SoHe along with the expertise in civic affairs of his advisor Constance Flanagan, has allowed him to conduct a series of research projects that look at different aspects of Chinese nonprofits. The first, an action research project that looks at civil society organization’s participation in post-disaster community recovery, is on its way to being published in two academic journals. A second, concerning China’s fundraising policies more specifically, will see its first paper published later this year.

These days he spends his time working on revisions while completing a third research project, which explores financial accountability in the nonprofit sector.

Slated to complete his studies in May 2017, Hu plans to return to China to teach and put what he has learned to work.

“I want to promote in China the action-oriented mixed-methods research I have learned at CSCR, as it encourages collaboration between researchers and practitioners in public life and public policy,” Hu says. “It will be, I think, one of the most effective ways for a researcher to contribute to a better society.”


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