Here we are at the ISTR 15th International Conference at Concordia University in Montreal. With the Covid-19 pandemic having scuppered the original plan for this conference to take place in 2020, I am delighted to be on-site and in person with old friends and colleagues two years later.
The ISTR international conferences have been a space of broad and deep learning and reflection for me since I first attended the PhD seminar in Münster in 2014. After defending my PhD at Carleton University in 2019 (with thanks to my illustrious supervisor Dr. Susan Phillips) and moving into the policy world at the OECD, I was committed to maintaining some semblance of connection to third sector scholars. I knew ISTR would be a fantastic way for me to do just that. Disappointment then when Covid-19 cancelled the 2020 conference! Thankfully the conference organizers kept us engaged through the pandemic including with the 2021 online mini conference, along with various online paper presentations and book launches over the past two years.
Still, it feels good to be here in person. Not least of which because Montreal is a lovely city in an equally lovely country (full disclosure – I am Canadian!). Also, because the in-person conference has allowed me to break out of my day-to-day work. It has immersed me in an environment that inevitably opens my mind and challenges my thinking. And, it has enabled me to make new friends and acquaintances from across a range of countries and disciplines, with a common third sector denominator. The array of presentations and roundtables has been supremely stimulating: the roles of service-providing CSOs in democratization; the implications for civil society of digitalizing regulation; the changing philanthropic environment; challenges and approaches to the pursuit of CSO accountability; decolonizing development. The list goes on! Surely a highlight was Dr. Anheier’s keynote at which Dr. Salamon’s groundbreaking work on the Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project was celebrated, and insights offered with an eye to future research.
I am m invigorated and two years until the ISTR 16th International Conference in Antwerp seems a long way away. Looking forward to seeing friends and colleagues then and to staying in touch online in the meantime. Thanks and congratulations to the conference organizers and to all presenters, moderators and discussants. Job well done!
Jacqueline Wood, Team Lead – Senior Civil Society Specialist, Development Co-operation Directorate, Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development