S. Wojciech Sokolowski, senior research associate at the Center for Civil Society Studies at the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences, died at home in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Saturday, May 2, after a 10-year battle with inclusion body myositis. He was 67.
Working within the center's Comparative Nonprofit Sector, Listening Post, and Nonprofit Employment Data projects from 1992 until his death, Sokolowski's research interests focused on comparative research of organizations and civil society institutions, measurement of non-market social action and behavior, macroeconomics and economic sociology, organizational behavior, and social determinants of cognitive processes. He researched the legitimating role of civil society organizations in Eastern Europe and Russia during the period of transition to market economy, social movements, organizations, work, occupations, and professions.
"Wojciech has been a stalwart and brilliant collaborator with me across a broad front of activities over some 20 years, from the early days of the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project; through our work with the United Nations and International Labor Organization to put the third sector on the economic map of the world; and to our work on nonprofit employment in the U.S.," says Lester Salamon, professor emeritus in the Department of Political Science and the center's director. "He was an incredibly skillful researcher and methodologist with an ability to find innovative solutions to virtually any research dilemma. He effectively mastered the arcane details of national income accounting and brought that to bear in our work with the United Nations to devise methodologies to assess the scale and character of the nonprofit sector. With his voracious reading and academic curiosity, there are few topics on which Wojciech did not have an informed opinion. Wojciech's contribution to the field of third sector research has been monumental, and we are all in his debt."
Born in Gdansk, Poland, Sokolowski earned a BA in philosophy from Lublin Catholic University in Poland, an MA in sociology from San Jose State University, and a PhD in sociology from Rutgers University in 1997. He taught at the Defense Language Institute in Monterey, California, from 1982 to 1988; at Hartnell College from 1985 to 1990; at Rutgers University from 1990 to 1992; and at Morgan State University from 1996 to 2000.
From 2002 to 2010, Sokolowski served as a visiting researcher at the Bureau of Labor Statistics, where he designed and implemented a system of assembling data on tax exempt organizations from the administrative data systems maintained by U.S. government agencies. He served as the principal investigator of a research project on environmental NGOs in Russia funded by the MacArthur Foundation and as a consultant to several nonprofit organizations where he designed and implemented program evaluation strategies. Sokolowski was one of the world's leading experts in national income accounting and advised national statistical agencies in the U.S. and abroad on the development of data systems reporting on nonprofit institutions.
"I worked with Wojciech for the entire duration of my career, straight out of graduate school in 2004," says Megan Haddock, the center's former international projects manager. "He had a brilliant mind and was able to transform our group's collective ideas and theories into rational logic models and then build data systems around these ideas. Our creative process sometimes felt maddening as the discussion went around in circles, but eventually these marathon conversations would settle and Wojciech would emerge with a new idea he had been piecing together that would solve the problem. He never seemed to tire of these discussions or this process, and was always patient with me and open to considering my point of view. I am grateful to have learned so much from him and I will miss him dearly."
Sokolowski authored more than 40 academic journal articles, books, and technical reports describing and explaining variations in national and cross-national patterns of organizational capacities and behavior. He is the author of Civil Society and the Professions in Eastern Europe: Social Change and Organization in Poland, and a co-author of several toolkits, manuals, and handbooks. His articles, authored individually or jointly with center colleagues, have appeared in the International Journal of Voluntary and Non-Profit Organizations, VOLUNTAS, Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Nonprofit Management & Leadership, Northwestern Journal of International Human Rights, Journal of Civil Society, the International Journal of Contemporary Sociology, the International Journal of Cultural Policy, and several edited volumes.
Outside of work, Sokolowski loved his cats and tinkering with model trains, and was an avid world traveler. Colleagues describe the boundless curiosity and commitment to social and economic justice that led him to spend time in Shanghai during the Cultural Revolution as a teenager; escape authoritarianism in Poland; and serve as an election monitor in Uzbekistan.
Sokolowski is survived by his wife, Andrea Schneider; a son, Sebastian Sokolowski; and daughter, Dominika Sokolowska.