Four Takeaways from 4 days at Amsterdam

The 13th ISTR International Conference in Amsterdam
was a very productive encounter for me. I had attended
two Asia Pacific editions of the conference in Tokyo (2015)
and Jakarta (2017). However, I was attending the international
conference for the first time. I was not only new to
the conference, but also Amsterdam was the first European
city I had visited.

I left the Bangkok airport with a mixed feeling. While
I was excited about the opportunity to meet some of the
authors whom I had been following and reading for a long
time, my heart was pounding with nervousness to present
in front of distinguished academics of the sector. In this
post, I highlight four takeaways from the conference.

Learning: Overall, the conference in Amsterdam was
full of learning. Sessions were very insightful and very wide ranged.
I was able to attend roundtables discussing good
practices in nonprofit education to emerging research areas
in the third sector. It was wonderful to explore the
diversity of interest and myriad aspects covering a wide
range of topics concerning the Third Sector.

Methodology Development: One of the important
personal learning takeaways from the conference was definitely
the ‘Building the Data Science Toolkit’ session. It is always
exciting to know that you are not only the one who is working
on a certain research idea. Megan LePere-Schloop’s work of
using machine-learning to categorize NGOs in Ghana was
identical to my efforts of to classify NGOs in Nepal. The
only difference was she was using machine-learning while I
was using a simple excel-based intervention. I realized the
extent of my efforts could be streamlined using the emerging
machine methodologies.In addition, Brent Never’s introductory tour to spatial
methods helped me see the potential limitations of using
simple linear regression on geospatial data. After attending
the session, I ended up reanalyzing my own data overnight.
The next day, I was able to sit with Brent again to compare
the results from the old analysis to the newly-learned analysis.

Mentoring Program: The ISTR Secretariat connected
me with my mentor, David O. Renz, from the University
of Missouri -Kansas City. Dave and I were able to chat extensively
on my career aspirations and the direction of my
future research. Dave asked very crucial questions relating
to my work and motivated me to explore further in my research.
The mentorship session and additional two meals
I had with Dave helped me learn a lot about his expertise
and was able to see areas where I could ask for his guidance
and support.

Meetings and Networking: The Amsterdam conference
also allowed me to understand ISTR as an organization
more clearly. It was wonderful seeing a very vibrant
community of scholars and practitioners from all around
the world and have the opportunity to get to know fellow
ISTR members. In addition to the members meeting, several
other breakout sessions, like the Storytelling Workshop
and strategies to pursue a postdoctoral position professional
development workshop were quite insightful.
In addition to meetings, I think one big takeaway from
the conference is the ability to establish a network that is
active beyond the conference. Earlier last week, I received
feedback from Christopher Pallas about one of my working
papers. It would have been impossible for such connections
to happen without meetings like ISTR conference.
The 13th ISTR international conference has officially
ended. However, the benefits of the conference are
just beginning to materialize. I am starting my brand new
mentorship relationship, am exploring new research areas,
strengthening my methodological understanding, and most
importantly, nurturing all the crucial connections initiated
during the conference.

(This post originally appeared in the July-September edition of Inside ISTR Newsletter )