Current Research

Professor Mosley’s current work addresses how nonprofit organizations contribute to the formulation and implementation of policies aimed at vulnerable communities and how the changing relationship between nonprofits and government affects their advocacy work.

How Structural Variations in HUD-Mandated Continuums of Care Influence Advocacy Involvement and Outcomes

Collaborative governance systems—like the HUD-mandated Continuums of Care (CoCs) that homeless service providers are often involved in—provide opportunities for service providers in the form of access to resources, policymakers, and information. As such, they have the potential to improve services, increase accountability, and expand the advocacy influence of ground-level providers by creating a ready-made entry point to policymakers. However, the way in which these networks are structured is likely to have a substantial impact on the degree to which their potential can be met. Key areas of variation include who the lead agency is (e.g. a nonprofit or a government agency), the composition of the membership, and available resources. This project investigates the degree to which these variations influence the ability of intermediary organizations to meaningfully incorporate nonprofit providers in decision-making and provide effective outlets for advocacy, including how they may shape the advocacy messages of providers.

Assessing Nonprofits’ Role as Community Representatives

There has recently been a concerted effort across all levels of government to create avenues for more political participation as part of the larger collaborative governance trend. Because of the difficulties in engaging actual constituents directly in these processes, nonprofit community-based organizations—like human service providers—are often asked to serve as representatives. This informal (e.g., nonelected, unaccountable) representation is an increasingly important way vulnerable groups are represented and a key aspect of many nonprofit organizations’ advocacy involvement. This study seeks to inform our understanding of how nonprofit advocacy contributes to citizen representation by closely considering how constituents perceive nonprofit advocacy involvement, and the steps nonprofits take (or do not take) to engage with community members.

Do residents recognize and accept informal representation? Do representatives meaningfully involve residents in their decision-making? Does it actually help reduce political inequality? In this project, Colleen Grogan and I address these issues by studying to what extent and how well nonprofit community-based organizations represent residents living in vulnerable communities on the South Side of Chicago—from the perspective of both residents and the organizations that represent them.

Advocates’ Role in Passing and Implementing Child Welfare Reform in California

What is the relevant power of nonprofit service providers compared to nonprofits that do advocacy exclusively? How do different types of nonprofit advocates interact with policymakers as they negotiate for changes in policies? Where in the policy process do advocates have the most influence? In this project, Mark Courtney and I address these questions by studying the role of advocates in passing and implementing major child welfare reform in California. The policy, known as the Fostering Connections to Success Act (or, more typically, AB12), is the result of California being the first state in the nation to comprehensively take advantage of new federal legislation that helps cover the costs of extending foster care to age 21.

Studying the passage and implementation of AB12 provides an important opportunity to investigate how advocates and policymakers interact at different stages in the policy process. In this case, a variety of stakeholders competed to gain influence with policymakers at the legislative stage and in the implementation planning process. These stakeholders included nonprofit service providers, county child welfare leadership, court personnel, and other advocates. We investigate both the role these various stakeholders played in passing AB12 and how they adapted their advocacy efforts in the policy implementation process, documenting how changes in public management practices influenced their advocacy choices and tactics.

Advocacy Activities and Motivations Among Nonprofit Homeless Service Providers

This qualitative study of the advocacy involvement of homeless service providers in Chicago focused on how managers interpret the organizational environment and how they process the incentives and constraints they perceive to be operating there. It focused on three questions central to understanding the advocacy involvement of human service providers: 1) what it is that human service organizations are actually advocating for, and does that change with increased government funding, 2) what role do professional networks play in encouraging advocacy involvement, and 3) how do managers’ beliefs and the political context interact with organizational factors to influence advocacy choices. 

The Role of Foundations in Shaping and Responding to Policy Change

Foundations are under-recognized as public policy actors in part because they have traditionally been conceptualized as operating largely independently of environmental influences. As a result, scholars know little about the public policy roles they adopt. However, unlike other nonprofits, foundations have independent sources of revenue which gives them unusual freedom to express preferences through their giving choices, resulting in considerable power to bring attention to new policy ideas or service technologies. In this project, Joseph Galaskiewicz and I sought to empirically demonstrate the important symbolic and leadership roles foundations play in the policy process by shaping preferences for policy solutions through funding specific kinds of research and social services. To understand more about the roles foundations play in both shaping policy preferences and responding to policy change, we studied the actions of foundations both immediately prior to and after the 1996 welfare reform legislation, investigating the degree to which foundations were responsive to the policy environment and how they attempted to shape it. How foundations responded to welfare reform and intervened in the process reveals how they see their role in shaping and supporting social welfare policy, and sheds light on their approach to social change.