Human Interaction Research Institute - Using Behavioral Sciences to Help Nonprofit Organizations Handle Innovation and Change 

Go to HIRI Home Page More information about the Human Interaction Research Institute Publications of the Human Interaction Research Institute Current work of the Human Interaction Research Institute Go to the Philanthropic Capacity Building Resources Database

Contact Us:

5435 Balboa Boulevard Suite 115
Encino, CA 91316

phone  (818) 386-9137
fax  (818) 386-9582

Website Roadmap:
To visit Valley Nonprofit Resources' website, click on VNR.
To download or order a HIRI publication, click on Publications, or click on Search to locate a particular publication.
For our Board, Officers and Staff, scroll down on this section.
Also on this section is our contact information and list of strategic partners.
To learn more about our five main areas of work, click on Key Areas of Work.
To learn more about our projects, click on Current Projects.

Also on that section is information on upcoming activities, like conferences.

Strategic Partners:
Kunz and Company

Copyright & Privacy Notices

Website last updated:
May 2014

     NOTICE: After 53 years of nonprofit sector research and service,
     the Human Interaction Research Institute closed on May 31, 2014.
     Valley Nonprofit Resources has moved to California State
     University Northridge, and a HIRI Legacy Page will soon appear on
     the CSUN website, along with a VNR webpage. This site will
     remain functional until November 1, 2014. If you have questions
     please contact Dr. Thomas Backer at

The Human Interaction Research Institute (HIRI) helps nonprofits, funders and communities handle the challenges of innovation and change, using behavioral science strategies. Founded in 1961, the nonprofit Institute is based in Los Angeles. Its work ranges from research, to technical assistance on systems change, to disseminating innovations or helping others to do so. The emphasis in all these activities is on the complex human dynamics of change - how to get people personally committed to change and feel rewarded for their involvement, and how to address people's fears and resistances about change.

Current priority areas are: (1) nonprofit capacity building, (2) community collaborations and (3) philanthropy, along with longstanding interests in dissemination and health communication. HIRI's 160 projects range across the fields of health, human services and the arts. Examples include national evaluations of youth violence prevention programs, a national research study of strategies for partnerships in the arts, Capitol Hill hearings for Congressional staff on the needs of people with mental illness in the criminal justice system, and a national study of advisors to wealthy donors and their impact on donor philanthropic strategies.

Products from these projects are disseminated in both print and electronic formats. The Institute's work is supported by Federal and State agencies, foundations, and the corporate sector. For more information on the Institute's history, click on HIRI 30 Year Report and HIRI 40 Year Report.

Under the leadership of President Dr. Thomas Backer and a multi-disciplinary Board of Directors, the Institute's small staff works in a "virtual office" environment, supported by electronic communications. Core staff are based in Southern California, upstate New York, and Metro Washington, DC. Part-time senior staff include distinguished university-based researchers in youth violence prevention, mental health and related fields.

The Institute has a tradition of community service, ranging from individual efforts of staff (working with advocacy and support organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness), to coordinating volunteer groups such as the Entertainment Industry Workplace AIDS Task Force, to hosting (with California State University Northridge) both the first Los Angeles conference on AIDS in the workplace (April 1987) and an April 2003 event on nonprofit capacity building.

Projects concerning nonprofit capacity building include ongoing research, and maintaining the world's largest searchable database of foundation capacity-building programs. In Southern California and several other regions, the Institute studies and enhances community-wide infrastructure for capacity building. Projects addressing community collaborations include a recent book, Evaluating Community Collaborations (Springer, 2003), and national evaluation studies in the youth violence and mental health fields. Recent projects in philanthropy include studies of stakeholder interactions, individual donor perspectives on capacity building (reported in Stanford Social Innovation Review), collaboration and internal capacity-building strategies for small foundations, methods for promoting sustainability of foundation initiatives in communities, and peer networking and foundation place-based initiatives. Current projects include administration of a family foundation's capacity-building grantmaking initiative.

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Board of Directors

Thomas E. Backer, PhD
     President, Human Interaction Research Institute; Associate Clinical
     Professor of Medical Psychology, UCLA School of Medicine
Vivian Brown, PhD
     Consultant, Manhattan Beach, CA
Areta Crowell, PhD
     Mental Health Consultant, Los Angeles
James L. Dearing, PhD
     Senior Scientist, Kaiser Permanente, Denver
Herman DeBose, PhD
     Professor, Department of Sociology, California State University
Alex Kopelowicz, MD
     Director, San Fernando Mental Health Center, Granada Hills, CA
Alan Kumamoto
     Partner, Kumamoto Associates, Los Angeles
Richard Moore, PhD
     Professor, Department of Management, California State University
Jeanne Obert
     Executive Director, Matrix Institute on Addictions, Los Angeles


Thomas E. Backer, PhD, President
Vivian B. Brown, PhD, Vice-President
Richard S. Hibbs, CPA, Secretary and Chief Financial Officer


Thomas E. Backer, PhD, President (bio)
Jane Ellen Bleeg, Project Manager (bio)
Joan Ewing, Volunteer Research Assistant
Lilli Friedland, PhD, Senior Research Scientist (bio)
Kate Groves, BA, Project Coordinator (bio)
Nancy Guerra, PhD, Senior Research Scientist (bio)
Janice P. Kern, MA, Senior Research Scientist (bio)
Julaine Konselman, Project Coordinator (bio)
Alex Kopelowicz, MD, Senior Research Scientist
Cynthia Kunz, Senior Research Scientist (bio)
Alan N. Miller, PhD, Senior Research Scientist
Terri Ruddiman, Project Coordinator (bio)
Adryan Russ, Project Coordinator (bio)
Ashley Wright, Office Manager
Roberto Zarate, PhD, Senior Research Scientist

Technology Consultant
Mary Anne Shew, Business Vitality

Edward M. Glaser, PhD, Founder, 1911-1993

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