A Commitment to Study

A headshot photo of Mark Sidel
Mark Sidel

Mark Sidel has devoted years to the study of regulation of civil society in Asia.

Mark Sidel has devoted many years to the study of regulation and policy issues of nonprofits and philanthropic organizations in Asia, first in a number of years working in senior program positions for the Ford Foundation in Beijing, Hanoi, Bangkok and New Delhi, and now in academic life.

The COVID-19 pandemic obviously made some of his work more complicated over the past three years.

“Thankfully, research travel to Asia and across the world is now re-emerging,” said Sidel, Doyle-Bascom professor of law and public affairs at University of Wisconsin Law School.

Sidel said exploring aspects of how governments regulate the nonprofit sector—and how nonprofit sectors try at times to regulate themselves—has real-world implications.

“The regulatory and policy environment that nonprofits and foundations face in Asia is often determinative of their ability to carry out useful work and sustain themselves,” he explained.

For policy implications of the work that he and his colleagues do, Sidel cites research and advocacy on China’s regulation of its domestic nonprofit and of the international nonprofit sector’s activities in China, work in Vietnam on restrictions on domestic civil society, and work in India on restrictions on domestic and foreign civil society organizations.

Recently, for example, he has been writing about the revision of China’s omnibus Charity Law, and on newer restrictions on nongovernmental organizations in Vietnam.

While Sidel said the work comes with its challenges, the impact and the relationships he makes with foreign colleagues are deeply rewarding.

“I’ve worked with academics and activists across Asia for several decades now,” said Sidel. “We have become not only close collaborators, but also, in many cases, good friends.”

Currently, Sidel is working on articles about the approaches to domestic nonprofit regulation in China, India and Vietnam. He also works on nonprofit regulation in the United States, most recently doing research on a series of cases on changing the objects of donor intent—the issue of charitable cy pres.