Resources for Dialogue and Depolarizing Conversation

October 2023

In partnership with members of the Civic Health of Wisconsin Initiative, the CommNS put together an inventory of resources for dialogue and depolarizing conversation. This living document points toward tools to help groups and individuals of all kinds navigate difficult conversations, so we can move forward in compromise and community.

Download the inventory

Civic Health of Wisconsin: Connectedness in Context

June 2020

In partnership with the National Conference on Citizenship and a coalition of nonpartisan Wisconsin organizations, the CommNS presents this inaugural report on Wisconsin’s civic health. The report is based on the 2019 Wisconsin Civic Health Index™, which measures residents’ civic engagement and community connectedness. We present these data alongside Wisconsin demographic information, civics education standards, trends in local politics and news, and current civic health efforts.

Download the report

Farm Well Wisconsin: Mid-Project Brief

December 2023

In 2020, the Southwestern Wisconsin Community Action Program (SWCAP) collaborated with the CommNS Co-Create team and the Division of Extension to develop Farm Well, an asset-based, multi-path initiative to support mental health and wellbeing in farming communities. Co-Create produced a mid-project brief in December 2023 to report the reach and impacts of Farm Well’s programs.

Learn more and read the brief

Advancing Racial and Social Equity in Wisconsin Farm to School

October 2023

This project was a collaboration between the CommNS Co-Create team, the Department of Civil Society and Community Studies, REAP Food Group, and the UW-Madison Extension Community Food Systems Program. Together, this team led a study to better understand how Wisconsin’s historically underserved producers are participating in farm to school procurement. Based on the results of a statewide survey and six focus groups, their recommendations span policy change, organizational supports, and school/producer partnerships.

Learn more and read the report

Nonprofit Evaluation 101

August 2023

Co-Create is a collaborative research and evaluation team within the CommNS. They work with nonprofits, funders, community groups, and more to help answer the pressing questions facing communities.

Based on her experience leading Co-Create’s work, Amy Washbush put together a presentation on evaluation for non-profits. Topics include an introduction to the CommNS and Co-Create, evaluation approaches, research methods, and evaluation recommendations for nonprofits. Watch the full session and download the slides, below.

Download the slides

Black History for a New Day Impact Evaluation

June 2023

The Nehemiah Center for Urban Leadership Development lifts up Black voices and experiences and provides education, restoration, community and economic development to interrupt cycles of
poverty, racism and discrimination. Since 2016, the Black History for a New Day course revisits the American past with a focus on the African-American experience and with justice in mind. The course provides an opportunity for non-Black people to find roles supporting racial justice in Madison and beyond. The UW-Madison Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies conducted an evaluation of the Black History for a New Day course, focusing on impacts on past participants and the “ripple” effects of this for organizations and more broadly.

Watch an info session on the project

Read the full evaluation report

Read the brief

Food Pantries During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A Survey of Visitors to Feeding Wisconsin Network Pantries

June 2022

To learn about the role of food pantries during the COVID-19 pandemic, CommNS, UW Extension, and Feeding Wisconsin collaborated on a survey of food pantry clients during Fall 2020. The Food Security Initiative of the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) awarded a grant for this work, which looks at the characteristics and circumstances of visitors to food pantries and food distribution sites in the Feeding Wisconsin network. Co-Create also conducted focus groups with food pantry coordinators. Reports highlighting findings from each part of the project are available below.

View the visitor survey report

View the food pantry coordinator focus group report

Published Article: Co-Create Connects Community and Campus to Answer Important Questions

August 2021

The linked blog post includes a snippet of a full article highlighting the Co-Create team and the important work that they take on. View the full piece by clicking the button below, or by visiting this google document.

View the post

Preschool Development Grant Analysis: 12 Things That Would Improve Early Care and Education in Wisconsin

August 2021

As part of the Preschool Development Grant with the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families, the CommNS led a team of researchers in 2020 to understand the perspectives of primary caregivers of young children and child care providers from five demographic populations in Wisconsin: Hmong, Latinx, Black or African American, Indigenous or Tribal, and rural white. View the analysis to see a list of what these caregivers and providers said would make the biggest difference to them for better early care and education (ECE) in Wisconsin. You can also view the analysis by visiting this webpage with the same information.

View the Analysis


Statewide Needs Assessment for the Preschool Development Grant

December 2020

The Preschool Development Grant (PDG) was a one-year federal grant that supported a Wisconsin needs assessment and the completion of a strategic plan to improve early care and education (ECE) in 2020. The needs assessment examined ECE accessibility, affordability, and quality as well as workforce needs and challenges in a comprehensive, equity-focused way that prioritized Wisconsin’s most vulnerable, underserved, and rural populations.

The Wisconsin Department of Children and Families (DCF) contracted with the CommNS Co-Create team to support one piece of this needs assessment. Co-Create led a team of researchers in a qualitative study looking at the experiences and perceptions of primary caregivers and providers from five populations in Wisconsin: Hmong, Latinx, Black or African American, Indigenous or Tribal, and rural white.

Reports from this effort are available for download below. You can also visit DCF’s PDG Sandbox to read the full report.

Qualitative Interviews Report

Experiences and Needs of Underserved Groups

African American   Hmong  Latinx  Rural white  Tribal

WisNRG Town Hall on Opportunities and Challenges Impacting Wisconsin’s Nonprofits During COVID-19

October 2021

The Wisconsin Nonprofit Resources Group (WisNRG) hosted a virtual Town Hall to provide an opportunity for nonprofit professionals and leaders to discuss strategies they are using to push their work forward during these uncertain times. Attendees also talked about the continuing impacts of COVID-19 on Wisconsin’s nonprofit sector and shared their perspectives on how WisNRG can help address organizational needs.

Download the brief

COVID-19 Effect on the Wisconsin Nonprofit Sector

June 2020; August 2021

This series of reports and targeted briefs is part of a statewide effort to study the response of nonprofit organizations to the COVID-19 pandemic, sponsored by the Helen Bader Institute for Nonprofit Management and the UW-Whitewater Institute for Nonprofit Management Studies. The research team sought to provide real-time data to government officials, foundations, and other decision-makers about the current socio-economic conditions facing nonprofits, and the need for immediate and long-term support to ensure the ongoing provision of critical services throughout Wisconsin. By exploring the pandemic’s effect on the nonprofit sector, we can also better understand what is needed to make a recovery process.

Download the reports from HBI

Choosing the Right Structure for Organizations Participating in the Mission-Based Food Production Movement

July 2021

The Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies (CommNS) Executive Director Mary Beth Collins and Co-Create Graduate Research Assistant Allison Hellenbrand collaborated on this article, outlining entity choice considerations for mission-based food production efforts. View a PDF of the full article by clicking the button below, or open the piece in Google documents here.

View the article

Whether and How to Form a Nonprofit

April 2021

The CommNS partnered with the UW-Madison Law School and Marquette Law School to offer this in-demand CommUniversity session. If you want to form a nonprofit and are curious about where to begin, wonder if it’s a good idea, or just want to know what it takes, check out the recording. Presenters were:

  • Tami PatelSupervising Attorney, Law & Entrepreneurship Clinic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Kathryn MertzDirector of Pro Bono and Public Service at Marquette University Law School
  • Mary Beth CollinsExecutive Director, Center for Community and Nonprofit Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

View the recording

Nonprofit Resource Needs: WisNRG Town Hall on a Wisconsin Nonprofit Resource Inventory

January 2021

The Wisconsin Nonprofit Resources Group (WisNRG) hosted a virtual Town Hall to gather ideas and feedback on an inventory of nonprofit resources. WisNRG developed this inventory, recognizing that nonprofit organizations often rely on supports, training, and resources to meet their organizational needs. The convening drew forty-eight professionals from nonprofit organizations and affiliated sectors. Participants identified gaps in resources and supports for Wisconsin nonprofit organizations and shared their ideas for structuring an effective inventory.

Download the brief

CommUnity Conversations on COVID-19 and the Third Sector

April 2020

These briefs summarize themes from a series of conversations that brought together nonprofit professionals and their allies to discuss the impacts of COVID-19 on their work. This series was a partnership between the CommNS and UW-Extension Organizational and Leadership Development Program.

Youth-serving organizations

Community and basic needs organizations

Community and basic needs organizations


Global Partners

Environmental and Healthy Community Organizations

Preparing the Next Generation

IDEA, DEI, and JEDI Training for Organizations: Consultants’ Perspectives

July 2021

This virtual CommUniversity session featured several consultants who specialize in helping organizations implement IDEA, DEI, and/or JEDI training. Speakers discussed their unique approaches, why this work is important, and what they have learned throughout their careers. Panelists were:

    • Annette Miller, EQT By Design
    • Undraye Howard, Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
    • Nasra Wehelie, Empathy 4 Equity
    • Dr. Siphokazi J. Ntetha, Deloitte Africa Consulting
    • Dikeledi Seleka, Dynamic Timz Coaching
    • Kelvin Alfaro, Office of Strategic Consulting at UW-Madison

Watch the Event Recording

Work Plan: Sustained Engagement for Racial Justice

Summer 2020 – 2021

This resource was developed by Annette Miller of EQT By Design in collaboration with the CommNS, for the CommNS Sustained Engagement for Racial Justice conversations. The work plan provides an outline for individuals and organizations to plan and track their progress on racial equity goals and can be used in conjunction with the video series and resources document linked below.

Access the Work Plan

Sustained Engagement for Racial Justice Video Series

Summer 2021

Our partners at the Morgridge Center for Public Service compiled this video series, which includes recordings of discussions from our Sustained Engagement for Racial Justice events held in summer 2020. These community conversations include key tips and inputs from community contributors, helping individuals and groups with their sustained action plans for racial justice.

Watch the video series

Sustained Engagement for Racial Justice: Ideas and Resources for Ongoing Inquiry and Action for Social Change

Summer 2020

CommNS staff and collaborated developed this document, highlighting resources for sustained racial justice work. Topics covered include learning, self care and community care, exerting influence in our spheres, supporting organizations and change agents, taking action, and sustaining engagement.

View the resource document