Elizabeth Castillo

USE 250
Arizona State University
PO Box 870604
Asst Professor
TEMPE Campus


Dr. Castillo studies organizational leadership through the lens of complex adaptive systems. Her research investigates capitalization of nonprofit organizations, particularly how intangible assets like social, cultural, and political capital contribute to the production of social and financial returns (the double bottom line). Her scholarship is inspired by two decades of management experience in the nonprofit sector, including the San Diego Natural History Museum and Balboa Park Cultural Partnership. Her mission is to repair the world through scholarship that promotes thriving organizations, fulfilled people, connected communities, and a world we can be proud to pass on to our children.


2016  PhD, Leadership Studies (Nonprofit Specialization)                                                                                                    University of San Diego                                                                                         

2010  M.A., Nonprofit Leadership and Management  University of San Diego                                                                            Award of Distinction (faculty award for outstanding nonprofit Masters student)                            

2006   Certificate in Fundraising Management The Fund Raising School, Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, Indiana University                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          

1985   B.A., Philosophy and History (summa cum laude)                                                                                                      University of San Diego  Outstanding Student award, Philosophy department faculty                                                  Outstanding Student award, History department faculty                                                                                                                                                                                                                            

Google Scholar

Research Interests

A fundamental question my research addresses is how does the creation, activation, and conversion of intangible assets (e.g., social, reputational, moral, political, intellectual capital) relate to organizational sustainability and the production of public benefit?

Key Words: multiple capitals, embeddedness, emergence, nonlinear dynamics, capabilities, leadership, resources, process, interdependence, generativity, integrated reporting.

Methods: Through the analytical lens of Complex Adaptive Systems and using a mixed methods approach, I investigate how activating processes (e.g., leadership, capacity building, learning, collaboration) generate, catalyze, and monetize intangible resources. Depending on the research question, methods can include agent-based modeling, case study, content analysis, dynamic modeling, grounded theory, process tracing, surveys, and statistical analysis.                                                                   

Research Group

Faculty Affiliate, Center for Behavior, Institutions, and the Environment, Arizona State University

Faculty Affiliate, School of Community Resources and Development, Arizona State University



Castillo, E. A. & Trinh, M.P. (2018, in press). In search of missing time: A review of temporal effects in leadership studies. The Leadership Quarterly (Yearly Review issue). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.leaqua.2017.12.001

Jones, J.A. & Castillo, E.A. (2017). A fundraiser’s journey: A developmentally-informed, grounded theory analysis. International Journal of Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Marketing, 22(4), 1-8. doi: 10.1002/nvsm.1584

Ihm, J. & Castillo, E.A. (2017). Development and transformation of collaborative networks in events. Journal of Convention and Event Tourism, 18(3), 205-224. doi: 10.1080/15470148.2017.1322021

Castillo, E.A. (2016). Beyond the balance sheet: Teaching capacity building as capital building. Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership, 6(3), 287-303. doi: 10.18666/JNEL-2016-V6-I3-7586

Castillo, E.A. & Titus, A. (2015). Activating the power of place: A case study of Market Creek. Foundation Review, 7(3), 6-22doi: 10.9707/1944-5660.1252

Castillo, E.A., McDonald, M.B., & Wilson, C.P. (2014). Where heart meets smart: The making of a grantmaker. Foundation Review, 6(2), 27-40. doi: 10.9707/1944-5660.1199



Castillo, E.A. (in press). Review of “Passing the torch: Planning for the next generation of leaders in public service.” Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership.          



Castillo, E.A. (2017 Dec 7). Vital signs: Catalyzing community well-being indicators. Nonprofit Quarterly. Retrieved from https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2017/12/07/vital-signs-community-wellbeing/

Castillo, E.A. (2017 Oct. 31). Restoring reciprocity. How the nonprofit sector can help save capitalism from itself. Nonprofit Quarterly, 10/31/17. https://nonprofitquarterly.org/2017/10/31/restoring-reciprocity-nonprofit-sector-can-help-save-capitalism/

Castillo, E.A. (2015) Are we there yet? A conversation on performance measures in the third sector. Nonprofit Quarterly,     12/08/15. http://nonprofitquarterly.org/2015/12/08/are-we-there-yet-a-conversation-on-performance-measures-in-the-third-sector/

Research Activity

My use-inspired research focuses on developing a theoretical framework & practical road map to help social sector organizations become financially sustainable. Projects include:
1. Developing a theory of capacity building that incorporates economic principles and complexity theory to explain causal mechanisms of how and why capacity building works.
2. Discerning the intersection of collaboration and mutualism using principles of biomimicry (nature as a model) to inform the formation and sustenance of collaborations.
3. Developing theory to explain the rationale for integrated reporting.                                                                             4. Establishing a grantmaking framework that builds adaptive capacity in organizations based on process structures. An outcome of this research will be actionable philanthropic strategies that foster emergence, fitness, and sustainability in nonprofit organizations.        

Professional Development and Certificates


Applying complexity concepts to enhance innovation and global systems evaluation

Agent-based modeling for sustainability (SOS 591), Arizona State University

Master Class for Teaching Online, Arizona State University


Provost’s Teaching Academy, Arizona State University

Independent Applying the QM Rubric Certificate, Quality Matters

Diversity Mentoring workshop, Arizona State University

Social Network Analysis methods workshop, ARNOVA

Dynamic modeling for the social sciences (PSY 576), Arizona State University

Agent-based modeling Winter School, ASU Center for Behavior, Institutions, and the Environment




Spring 2018
Course NumberCourse Title
OGL 260Resource Allocation in Org
Fall 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
OGL 350Diversity and Organizations
Spring 2017
Course NumberCourse Title
OGL 300Theory Practice of Leadership
Fall 2016
Course NumberCourse Title
OGL 350Diversity and Organizations


Faculty Fellow, ASU Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics (2017-18). $1,250 for Moral Capital scale development project (Co-PI).

Research award, 2017 Symposium on Public Policy for Nonprofits ($750 travel grant). Presented by the Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) and Independent Sector.  

$500 Travel Grant, Public Performance and Management Review, paper presentation at PPMR pre-publication symposium, George Washington University, June 7, 2017.

Outstanding Collaboration Award (co-recipient), Faculty of Leadership and Interdisciplinary Studies, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts (May 2017)

Emerging Scholar award, Association of Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (2016)

Finalist, William P. Foster award for outstanding dissertation, University of San Diego, School of Leadership and Education Sciences (2016)

Joseph Rost Scholarship (faculty award for outstanding doctoral student), University of San Diego, Department of Leadership Studies (2015-16)

Doctoral Fellow, Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (2015)

Nu Lambda Mu honor society, awarded for academic excellence by the Nonprofit Academic Centers Council (2015)

Servant Leadership Scholar Award for nonprofit service, awarded by the University of San Diegos Master of Science in Executive Leadership program (2008).

US Forest Service "Taking Wing" award, for outstanding community collaboration for the San Diego County Bird Atlas project (2003).

Professional Associations

<p>Academy of Management (AOM), Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (ARNOVA) International Leadership Association (ILA)</p>



Nonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly

Journal of Nonprofit Education and Leadership

Nonprofit Management & Leadership                

Global Economics and Management Review (2015)

Evaluation and Program Planning (2014)



Academy of Management annual meeting 

International Leadership Association Annual Meeting



Nonprofit Quarterly (2014-17)

Guidestar User Advisory Committee (2015-16)



Chair, faculty search committee for tenure track professor, Arizona State University (2017-18)

Member, ad hoc committee to explore adoption and implementation of the United Nations’ Principles for Responsible Management Education (PRME)

Member, faculty search committee, Arizona State University (2016-17)

Member, Graduate Studies Committee, Arizona State University (2016-18)

Student Member, faculty search committee for tenure track professor, University of San Diego (2014)

Member, Outstanding Leadership Book Award selection committee, University of San Diego (2013-2015)         



Castillo, E. A. (2017). Building capacity: A multiple capitals approach. Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation 2017 Nonprofit Sustainability Conference, Arizona State University, October 18.

Castillo, E.A. (2014). Expanding the capitalization conversation: Creating a wheel of wealth creation for your nonprofit. Arizona State University Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation, November 5.

Castillo, E.A. (2011). Action research as a tool to explore new business models. Action Research Conference, University of San Diego, May 6.



State of California. California Cultural and Historical Endowment (2006)

California Department of Education’s 21st Century Learning Program (2002)



Association for Research on Nonprofit Organizations and Voluntary Action (2014-2017)


Organizational Development Consultant. Assist nonprofits with fundraising, capacity building, program design, needs assessment, strategic planning, group facilitation, and board development.

Evaluation Consultant (2015). Conduct data collection for $3 million arts-based innovation research project funded by the National Science Foundation.



Industry Positions

2009-2012        Director of Development, Balboa Park Cultural Partnership (San Diego, CA)

1999-2009        Director of Foundation Relations, San Diego Natural History Museum

Raised over $28 million for these organizations and partners, primarily through grants, major gifts, and government contracts. Coordinated research and development for new initiatives, including Park-wide membership collaborative business model. Responsible for marketing, membership, and government relations. Expertise in developing and sustaining interagency collaborations with public, nonprofit, and private agencies. Experienced working in multi-cultural environments.



Pro Bono

Pro bono grant preparation for City of Poway Kumeyaay-Ipai Interpretive Center and other health, social service, and community agencies. Generated $1 million in federal and state funding for these organizations (1996-2012).

Member, Biomimicry advisory committee, San Diego Zoo Global (2010-2012).

Madrina (mentor for Latina girls), Niñas de Aztlán Focus on Literacy, San Diego City Schools’ LLAMA Advocacy Program (2001).