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Best Paper Award 2019 for Voluntas

Wednesday, September 16, 2020  
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By Faina Diola, (Philippines) Chair, Voluntas 2019 Best Paper Award Committee

With pride, we present the winner of the Best Paper Award for Voluntas (Vol.30) 2019. For 2019, we had to choose from among 107 original papers from Issues 1 to 6.

As always, the papers published in Voluntas for 2019 are of high quality, coming from a diverse geographical sphere and which represent the breadth of both theoretical and practical nuances in Third Sector research.

The Committee members have had to make further deliberation towards the final phase of the selection as there were two papers that came quite close in the rankings. It was then at a virtual meeting in June that we deemed it best to also present the next best paper as Honorable Mention, worthy of its merit.

We present below the Best Paper and the paper that deserves an Honorable Mention.

Best Paper Award:

Purpose, Commitment and Coordination Around Small Wins: A Proactive Approach to Governance in Integrated Hybrid Organizations
By Miriam Wolf and Johanna Mair
Voluntas Volume 30: No. 3 (June), pp. 535–548
(The paper will be open to all on the Voluntas website from September to November 2020)

Research work on hybrid organizations has become a favorite topic by scholars and practitioners alike. The paper by Wolf and Mair on hybrid organizations, specifically on social enterprises, is however more proactive: it makes an original contribution to the study of hybrid organizations by focusing on governance mechanisms that provide a new perspective, away from the traditional control view on organizations.

Indeed, the paper makes a strong focus on a key challenge of social enterprises (i.e., mission drift) and suggests an important approach to expanding governance concerns beyond narrow compliance questions. It brings home the point by drawing on the legacy of the old institutional theory on purpose, commitment, and coordinating around small wins, but treating these as interlocking governance mechanisms that allow social enterprises as hybrid organizations to mitigate the risk of mission drift.

Despite the obvious absence of empirical data, the paper is no doubt theoretically solid, exhaustive, and relevant. Wolf and Mair’s paper is solid in its theoretical review and in the use of literature to lodge the new knowledge it has created and by which it weaves the study’s discourse and elucidates its theoretical arguments. Based on the objectives and the scope of the paper, the use of theory and related studies nevertheless warranted the analysis and conclusions. Its research methodology is therefore robust, while providing strong analytical frameworks as probable bases for tests in future empirical research.

The paper is highly relevant in terms of policy for the third sector in different countries, giving valuable sense by arguing on the importance of going beyond control and compliance approaches in hybrid organizations. The paper especially stresses on the intertwined mechanisms: coordinating around small wins as a governance mechanism provides the opportunity to align both commitment and purpose over time and to ensure continuous adaptation and development of the organization. Essentially, the paper introduces a governance approach that recognizes features providing for space for proactivity and self-correction. This theoretical argument helps to unlock mind boggling pressures of how social enterprises may cope with how to align multiple institutional pressures and demands within and outside of the organization, that is, a fresh look that focuses on common ends rather than diverging means.


Honorable Mention

The Obligation to Volunteer as Fair Reciprocity? Welfare Recipients’ Perceptions of Giving Back to Society
By: Thomas Kampen, Lex Veldboer, & Reinout Kleinhans
Voluntas Vol. 30 (2019) : No. 5 (October), pp. 991–1005


The paper’s original contribution is its slant on the impacts of mandatory volunteering while bringing in a strong social justice analysis. The paper has clear implications for social justice, welfare states, and touches on broader debates on volunteerism across countries. The paper uses solid research method by adopting in-depth qualitative analysis conducted over an extended period of time (2009 to 2013) and is rigorous and critical in its analysis.

The global pandemic and resultant rise in global unemployment makes this paper more relevant than ever! Its approach to focus on the volunteers is excellent. The different responses and views of volunteers shed light on the practice and the impact of the reward system associated with labor. Indeed, the paper is theoretically sound with clear options for extending the research to other contexts.

This said however, the paper’s relevance depends a bit on how prevalent underlying policies may be or become in the future. Also the analytical discussion and social justice issues may vary significantly vary from country to country and whether or not some countries may actually have volunteering policies at all. For other countries, the concept of "mandatory volunteering itself" may also sound controversial. Nevertheless, the paper merits its recognition as Honorable Mention.

Thanks to all our hardworking and conscientious committee members, as this work wouldn’t have been possible without the painstaking and valuable work of our esteemed members: Alice Acejas (Philippines), Marzina Begum (Bangladesh), Monica Estudillo (Mexico), Armine Ishkanian ( U.K.), Rafaella Rametta (Italy), Kimberly Reed (USA), Itamar Shachar (Belgium), and Hans Schmitz (USA).

Our congratulations to the Top Winners!

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