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Taking Nonprofit Intermediaries Seriously: A Middle-Range Theory for Implementation Research


Jennifer Shea is an assistant professor in the Department of Public Administration at San Francisco State University, where she teaches and conducts research in public policy and nonprofi t management. Her current research focuses on policy implementation frameworks and community empowerment initiatives that rely on nongovernmental actors for their success. Her doctoral dissertation in public policy focused on the impact of Compassion Capital Fund Demonstration Program funds on the field of high-risk youth services in Boston, Massachusetts.


The federal government often works through nonprofit intermediaries to reach and empower communities in the United States. One increasingly popular policy strategy is to offer grant funding to intermediary organizations in an effort to strengthen communities. Funded intermediaries are tasked with building the capacity of faith-based and community organizations at the local level, but the policy theory that informs these programs does not specify how these capacity-building efforts will lead to stronger communities. Missing is a middle-range implementation theory that links inputs to community-level changes through the actions of an intermediary. Derived from empirical case study evidence using process-tracing analysis, the theory of the community-integrated intermediary posited in this article helps fill that gap.