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Dr Thomas Bauwens from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) and two co-authors won the Best Paper Award 2023 for 3-year Impact from Organization & Environment for their paper Understanding the diverse scaling strategies of social enterprises as hybrid organizations: the case of renewable energy cooperatives. The award was announced at the Academy of Management conference in Boston in the summer of 2023.

By studying renewable energy co-operatives, researchers Dr Thomas Bauwens, Prof. Benjamin Huybrechts and Dr Frédéric Dufays feature the importance of a social enterprise's focus on mutual benefit versus the common good when developing its scaling strategy.

Their award-winning paper analyses the diversity of scaling strategies of social enterprises, which can be considered as emblematic hybrid organisations. For this, the researchers compared three Flemish renewable energy co-operatives with contrasted scaling strategies. They show how these strategies can be understood in relation to the organisational mission. The researchers extend the notion of hybridity beyond the combination of institutional logics to highlight the interest orientation (mutual versus general interest).

Growth objectives

Surprisingly, they found that mutual interest orientation may be associated with “scale-up,” business growth strategies, while general interest orientation may lead to less growth-focused “scale-out” and “scale-deep” strategies. The findings illuminate aspects of the hybrid nature of social enterprises by explaining their diverse scaling strategies and extend the notion of imprinting to the interorganisational level by highlighting how social enterprises may collaborate to collectively achieve the pursuit of their multiple missions. Additionally, the authors show the critical role of collaboration between social enterprises in achieving their growth objectives. Read more in The Conversation.

The members of the Organization & Environment’s editorial board unanimously chose the paper as the one with the highest reception and impact out of the five most-cited papers from its 2020 issue. In 2020, the Financial Times also featured the paper in its list of business school research with social impact.

Read the paper here.

More information

Dr Thomas Bauwens is an assistant professor in sustainability and collective action in the Department of Business-Society Management. He specialises in sustainability and energy issues with a pronounced interest in multi-disciplinarity. His research concerns the conditions conducive to the creation of effective collective solutions to the social, economic or environmental grand challenges of our times. He combines insights from geography, institutional economics, and organisation studies to create new theoretical frameworks and empirical insights. He was recently awarded a €1.5m Starting Grant from the European Research Council for the ambitious, five-year research project SCENSUS (Scaling the Societal Impact of Community Enterprises for Sustainability).

Benjamin Huybrechts is a professor of business and society at IÉSEG School of Management in Lille, France. He teaches two courses on sustainability. His research topics include the entrepreneurial dynamics leading to the creation of organisations pursuing a social mission – in particular social enterprises and co-operatives – and the partnerships and networks that these organisations form to collectively address grand challenges.

Frédéric Dufays is assistant professor of social and sustainable entrepreneurship at HEC Liège-ULiège and KU Leuven in Belgium, with an interest in atypical organisations: co-operatives, social enterprises, hybrid organisations. He holds a PhD in management and economics from the Centre for Social Economy within HEC-Management School of the University of Liège (Belgium).

Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) is one of Europe’s top-ranked business schools. RSM provides ground-breaking research and education furthering excellence in all aspects of management and is based in the international port city of Rotterdam – a vital nexus of business, logistics and trade. RSM’s primary focus is on developing business leaders with international careers who can become a force for positive change by carrying their innovative mindset into a sustainable future. Our first-class range of bachelor, master, MBA, PhD and executive programmes encourage them to become critical, creative, caring and collaborative thinkers and doers.

For more information about RSM or this release, please contact Erika Harriford-McLaren, communications manager for RSM, on +31 10 408 2877 or by email at

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