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PhD Scholarship at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (Belgium)


The impact of voluntary principals and agents on npo governance and performance: a theoretical study

This study's aim is to develop micro-economic models of organisational behaviour explicitly taking the presence of volunteers into consideration. Therefore, the researcher will be selected on the basis of the assessment of her/his thorough knowledge of (and preferably experience in) theoretical micro-economics.

The models to be developed fit into the aforementioned principal-agent framework (see Bénabou and Tirole (2003) as an example of the approach to be taken), and will depart from the confrontation of organisational and individual utility functions. Important arguments in the individual utility functions will be the effort of the volunteer, her attachment to the organisational goals and her attachment to the clients’ goals (for the introduction of this distinction, see our previous work in Caers et al. (2006b)), her inclination to shirk, and the possibility of alternative activities. The impact on organisational performance will be analytically assessed. Given the expected amount of analytical difficulties to be met due to the complexity of the utility functions involved (see also Caers et al., 2005, 2006a), the modelling effort is planned to gradually evolve from simpler cases to more realistic ones, as is traditional for this kind of work. In the next paragraphs we describe a preliminary structure of this work.

The first year, after having reviewed the literature, the ‘simpler’ models will be constructed. We will model organisations with only operational volunteers (the other categories of persons involved being professionals), then with only managerial volunteers, and then with only voluntary board members. These first models will concentrate on the agency costs without bonding and monitoring, which will be introduced later on. Volunteers will be modelled as utility maximisers, therefore not necessarily exclusively pursuing organisational goals. Agency costs then are the differences between the performance levels obtained, and the ‘first best’ levels. Clearly, performance based reward schemes, which play an important role in the governance literature on profit organisations, are not relevant here.

In the second year, we will first introduce bonding and monitoring in the models developed in the first year, monitoring reflecting essential aspects of organisational governance. Furthermore, we will also consider volunteers still to be present at only one level in the organisation, but now together with paid staff members. Also, models with only volunteers at two of the three levels described above will be conceived.

In year three the most comprehensive models will be derived: volunteers at all levels, together with professionals at all levels, leading to a set of empirically testable hypotheses, to be verified in the fourth year, at least within one large organisation grouping both paid staff members and volunteers at all levels.

For further information: Marc Jegers, VUB, Pleinlaan 2, B-1050 Brussel, Belgium 00 32 2 629 21 13 [email protected] website: www.vub.ac.be/MICE


Vrije Universiteit Brussel

The Vrije Universiteit Brussel is the offshoot of the French-speaking Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB) that was founded in 1834 by a Brussels lawyer with Flemish origins, Pierre-Théodore Verhaegen. He wanted to establish a university that would be independent from the state and the...

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