Research program

Define leadership, measure resilience.

We invite academic and professional scholars to work with us to understand social resilience, effective grassroots crisis response, and what it takes to help it happen.

Research to improve social resilience

To guide our work, we are looking for answers to questions such as:

What inspires people to rise up and succeed in a crisis?

What individual and situational factors inspire a bystander to take action in a crisis? What skills and mindsets lead to successful collective action and improvised leadership?

What learning methods can prepare people for grassroots crisis response?

What educational techniques promote and reinforce the skills and mindsets of collective action and improvised leadership? What techniques yield effective behaviors years later in a time of uncertainty and stress?

What support do those who take action need?

What common challenges do grassroots crisis response efforts face? What are the most effective ways of overcoming them? How can coaching and support services help grassroots responders to improvise and adapt in their unique situations?

How do we measure outcomes?

How do we measure behavioral change, long-term impact, and complex social interactions? What methods will give us reliable actionable answers in the chaotic and emotionally difficult environments of crisis?

Research projects


Research Roundtables

Understanding crisis, collective action, and improvised leadership draws on many scientific fields. We are leading a series of roundtable discussions that bring together diverse groups of researchers and practitioners to exchange ideas and share insights.

LEARN MORE about Roundtables →

Project (completed)

COVID-19 leaders study

When COVID-19 became a pandemic, we immediately knew that grassroots efforts would emerge all over. We interviewed leaders and experts in the thick of it to uncover what emerging spontaneous leaders need to succeed, and how we can support them.


Project (on hold)

Hurricane Harvey study

A few days after Hurricane Harvey first struck Texas, we learned of this exceptional case of improvised crisis leadership. Within weeks, we were doing ethnographic interviews in Rockport TX to learn what happened, and why people did what they did.


From our blog

From our blog


Research Collaborators

Work with us to study the many research questions that surround grassroots crisis response. We have the questions, we have the field opportunities. We need research collaborations to get the answers.


Impact researcher

Help us to answer the question: Does playing our Wildfire Board Game actually change what participants do when they get home?


As soon as possible!


3-6 months


We're looking for a highly motivated researcher — possibly a Master's or PhD student — to design and implement a study to evaluate the short-term outcomes of our wildfire learning experiences. We're actively delivering them, and are ready to insert what's needed to support the research. We'd like to have data by October when community events wind down.

LEARN MORE about this opportunity


Case Study Writer

Bring amazing stories of grassroots response efforts to life so others can learn from them.


When available


Occasional or ongoing


Help us write case studies from amazing stories of people stepping up to help their communities cope in crisis. We need writer-analysts to dig deep into interview data, and come up with compelling fact-based narratives.

“‘Google’ is not a synonym for ‘research’.”

— Dan Brown, The Lost Symbol