Network of volunteers and paid staff:

A mixed method analysis on network positions, structure and effectiveness

Project description

In recent decades, volunteers have played an increasingly important role in the social sector. Despite the growing demand for social assistance, the trend towards individualisation and the rise of the participatory society, this sector is also facing budgetary constraints from public authorities. As a result, many public and non-profit organisations are increasingly relying on volunteers to achieve their organisational goals and ensure the continuity of social services. These volunteers need to be coordinated and supervised regardless of the organisation's mission, organisational structure or size.

In the academic literature, teams of volunteers and paid staff are usually considered as entities consisting of two separate groups facing each other, while coordination is considered as a third, separate entity. In contrast, this study approaches such collaborations as networks, characterised by the interrelationships between these sub-groups, where coordination may also be an integral part of the network. This relational approach provides an opportunity not only to examine the roles of volunteers, paid staff and coordinators, but also to analyse the patterns of relationships in a team and to understand how these relationships affect the social actors within the network.


This research (2023 - 2027), funded by the Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek Vlaanderen (FWO) and the Austrian Wetenschapsfonds (FWF), uses a mixed-methods research design and social network analysis to investigate 1) what network structures of collaboration between volunteers, paid workers and coordinators in the non-profit sector look like; 2) what positions volunteers, paid workers and coordinators occupy within the network; 3) how teams of volunteers and paid workers can be effectively managed to achieve successful collaboration.



Volunteers, Paid Staff, Teams, Non-profit organisations, Social network analyses


  • Nathalie Colpin (VUB)
  • Sarah Dury (VUB)
  • Willems Jurgen (WU Oostenrijk)
  • Kai Udo Klein (WU Oostenrijk)
  • Peter Raeymaeckers (UA)
  • Martha Van den Bergh (UA-VUB)

Contact persons

Prof. Dr. Sarah Dury -