Beyond service production: Volunteering for social innovation

Arjen de Wit*, Wouter Mensink, Torbjörn Einarsson, René Bekkers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to JournalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Building on theories from different fields, we discuss the roles that volunteers can play in the generation, implementation, and diffusion of social innovations. We present a study relying on 26 interviews with volunteer managers, other professionals, volunteers, and one former volunteer in 17 (branches of) third sector organizations in eight European countries. We identify organizational factors that help and hinder volunteer contributions to social innovation. While volunteer contributions to social innovations are encouraged by decentralized organizational structures, systematic “scaling up” of ideas, providing training, and giving a sense of ownership, they are hindered by a reluctant attitude and a lack of resources. This rich, explorative study makes it a fruitful start for further research on the relationship between volunteering and social innovation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)52S-71S
Number of pages20
JournalNonprofit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly
Issue number2S
Early online date12 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2019


  • human resource management
  • nonprofit management
  • social innovation
  • volunteering


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