A center for learning, collaboration, and exchange

Mission & vision

Our mission

The Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies (CommNS) is a hub for collaboration and exchange among faculty, students, and community partners. The CommNS fosters work and learning partnerships that advance the well-being of communities, as well as the civic and nonprofit sectors.

Our vision

The CommNS aims to be a globally recognized university center which helps to realize a world where the nonprofit sector, community and mission-based efforts, and civil society are healthier, more effective and more just, building better systems and stronger communities that support well-being for all.

The CommNS team is engaged in an IDEA (Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access) learning, assessment, and action process, on an ongoing basis. This effort has been facilitated by Kelvin Alfaro of the UW-Madison Office of Strategic Consulting, and is maintained by all CommNS teams with special leadership from our CommNS IDEA Committee. For more information about our IDEA process, please contact Mikala Wong at mgwong4@wisc.edu.

Inquiry and action for social change

Making connections

The CommNS creates opportunities for community building, learning and exchange in the nonprofit and civic sectors.

Community is a foundational pillar that informs both what we do and how we do it. Throughout the year, the CommNS brings together diverse stakeholders from the civil and nonprofit sectors to think and learn together about community well-being. These events also connect community partners with campus faculty and staff, sharing knowledge across research and practice to advance the field.

Visit our Calendar to find up-to-date information on CommNS convenings, presentations, and workshops. Past events will be updated to include video recordings, when available.


The CommNS collaborates with community partners to address community questions through action research and evaluation.

The work of the CommNS happens through collaboration among faculty and staff across the UW system, nonprofit practitioners, state and local leaders, and community members.

Co-Create is the engine for applied research and evaluation at the CommNS. Co-Create partners with community organizations to help answer community-identified questions. To learn more, visit the Co-Create page.

The CommNS is also a member of action coalitions in the nonprofit and civil sectors, including WisNRG and the Civic Health of Wisconsin initiative. These collaborative efforts bring together diverse stakeholders to catalyze systems and social change.

CommNS on campus

The CommNS amplifies the impact of  affiliates’ work and supports students at all stages in learning through doing.

The CommNS is a Center of Excellence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Human Ecology and supports faculty, staff, and students in the field of community and nonprofit studies.

CommNS Affiliates gain access to professional development opportunities and a community of learning and practice. The CommNS also provides research dissemination support, so that affiliates can reach a broader audience for their work.

The CommNS engages with students and learners through coursework, certificate and degree programs, and student employment. The CommNS fosters opportunities for learning and doing, to prepare the next generation of professionals in the nonprofit and civil sector.

The CommNS is also part of the Community Campus Connectors (C3), a group of UW-Madison units and programs which routinely connect with community partners and advance the UW-Madison Civic Action Plan.