Sharon Portwood

Sharon Portwood
Working on the nonprofit holy grail

Sharon Portwood Working on the nonprofit holy grail

Working on the nonprofit holy grail

UNCC's impossible task: find someone with an undergrad in advertising, a law degree, and a doctorate in cultural psychology and hire him or her to head up the university's Institute for Social Capital Inc. (ISC). Fortunately for the university, and for the Charlotte community, Sharon Portwood has that exact set of degrees. Although the institute is only five years old, its role as facilitator and evaluator of social services programs will be increasingly critical as budgets tighten, demands for services increase, and the United Way deals with its distractions.

The forty-eight-year-old Portwood will draw on the persuasive skills of an ad exec when encouraging community organizations to allocate resources to a collaborative effort (for example, homelessness). Under Portwood's direction, participant and program data from dozens of collaborating community organizations and faith communities that provide services to children, youth, and families will be analyzed and efforts will be evaluated. And, hopefully, those groups will learn whether their programs are working. "This is what universities should be doing," Portwood says. "They can't serve the world's problems at arms' length."

But the ISC does more than computing. It provides administrative expertise and resources to plan and evaluate large-scale, multipartner collaborative efforts. Persuading dozens of agencies to collaborate on a project and share confidential data can be daunting, but the former litigator says she's up to it. "This is the job I was meant to do."

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