Essay on NACC Accreditation 2023: A Field of its Own
Stuart Mendel, NACC Accreditation Director
Affiliate Professor and Project Director for the Technology Partnership Initiative at Baldwin Wallace University
The NACC accreditation process relies on the 2015 NACC Curricular Guidelines (Ashcraft and Mendel, 2015). Those familiar with the Guidelines recall that they were developed non-proscriptively, less as an imposition for theoretical best model for instruction or knowledge transfer for the field, and more toward endorsement of nonprofit specific or nonprofit first pedagogy. In placing the Guidelines as central to NACC Accreditation, the organizers envisioned the purpose of reviews to be one of validating nonprofit management degree content fidelity; adherence to nonprofit first in the teaching and learning approach to the materials; and, that nonprofit management program design, promotional literature and knowledge transfer to students reflect a truth in advertising. This last aspect of the Accreditation purpose is a necessary “field of its own” (2014) concept such that the degrees conferred are not rebranded business or public management programs (Irwin, 2017).
As we look forward to the next generation of NACC Guidelines and the Accreditation that relies on them, these same purposes are points of importance to parse. There are several reasons.
- First, to confirm, rebut or suggest adjustment that NACC’s approach to accreditation centered on “truth in advertising” is sufficient grounding for past and continued endorsement of programs and degrees.
- Second, to test the field-building concept of program branding and sorting of those brands as might be discerned and whether such a condition is good for the field of nonprofit management. For example, would such practices – banding and sorting – advance and benefit the field of nonprofit management education and truth in advertising for consumers of nonprofit themed education or fragment, atomize or somehow diminish nonprofit management as a field of its own?
- Third, in reflecting on all the participating NACC Accredited programs, we observe that a three mission principle is present and pedagogical entrepreneurialism of faculty and instructors exists to accommodate those three missions. Such a condition raises interest in a nonprofit-management degree program taxonomy of programs with specialties – conceptually similar to the IRS’s categorization of nonprofit institution types. Would this also be a desirable tool to build the field?