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Accounting and Performance Challenges in Hybrid Organizations: Case studies

Guest editors:

Giuseppe Grossi, Nord University, Norway; Kristianstad University, Sweden
Martin Piber, University of Innsbruck, Austria
Massimo Sargiacomo, University G. d’Annunzio of Chieti-Pescara, Italy
Marie-Soleil Tremblay, École nationale d'administration publique, Canada
Jarmo Vakkuri, Tampere University, Finland

Key words:

Accounting, Performance, Hybrid Organizations, Hybridity

Background to the special issue

In the quest for modernity, rational order and legitimacy influenced by New Public Management (NPM) doctrines and related neo-liberal ideologies, public sector systems in different parts of the world have adopted some kind of hybrid governance and organizational forms in their activities. It has thus become common to provide public services (such as infrastructure, utilities, education, health care, art, culture and social services) through hybrid organizations operating at the intersection of the public sector and the market (Hood, 2000; Billis, 2010; Almqvist et al., 2013; Battilana and Lee, 2014; Grossi and Thomasson, 2015; Haigh et al., 2015). Hybridization in this context refers to those inter-organizational relationships, roles, calculative practices, and performance measurement systems that operate in the area between public, private, and non-profit sectors and therefore have to combine potentially conflicting goals, institutional pressures, complexity and accountabilities related to different institutional logics (Hopwood, 1996; Johanson, and Vakkuri, 2018; Pache and Santos, 2013; Skelcher and Smith 2015; Gebreiter and Hidayah, 2019; Kastberg and Lagström, 2019; Wüstermann and Conrath-Hargreaves, 2019). It is known that accounting theory is not perfectly fit with understanding activities and networks that transcend the institutional or professional boundaries (Hopwood 1996; Kurunmaki and Miller 2006; Gstraunthaler and Piber 2012)). Hybrid organizations need to combine social and political objectives with maximization of profit in a context with new social structures and “accountability regimes” with the presence of both market and traditional public accountability (Guthrie, 1993). It is also difficult for hybrid organizations to meet every stakeholder’s needs, for instance, financial as well as non-financial disclosure, since they may have different interests and values (Kurunmäki and Miller, 2006). In this respect, value pluralism in society may be facilitated by hybrid forms of governance and organizations (Alexius and Cisneros Örnberg, 2015; Thornton, Ocasio and Lounsbury, 2012; Vakkuri and Johanson 2018).

Hybridity also exists in the sense of values, identities, processes, actions, activities and practices where the agents are real people (Kurunmaki, 2004; Noordegraaf, 2007). Consider the role of different actors (such as politicians, managers, street-level workers, professionals, controllers, auditors, and accountants) who are enveloped in different hybrid settings at different contexts of government or in multi-faceted interfaces between public and private sector roles and identities. Previous research in hybrid organizations states that the development of accounting tools is complicated because actors may have divergent values and thus interpret the organizational mission differently making hybrid organizations complicated venues for understanding, valuing and demonstrating performance (Hyndman and McConville, 2017).

There is still an important research gap concerning the role and impacts of hybridity and hybrid organizations on the design, strategies, value creation, measurement and evaluation (Grossi et al. 2017). Future studies would likely benefit from going deeper into the actual practices in order to observe not only from the outside or to make interpretations based on what is written in different formal documents (Grossi et al., 2019). Furthermore, in accounting research there is need for further theorization concerning the role of individual actors in the design, implementation and use of accounting tools and performance evaluations in hybrid organizations (Berry et al., 2009; Dobija et al., 2019). There is also a need in accounting research for further theorization on the different ambiguities related to measuring and communicating performance in different kinds of hybrid organizations (Johanson, and Vakkuri, 2018; Grossi et al., 2019).

With this AAAJ special issue we aim to improve the theoretical and practical understanding of accounting and performance challenges in hybrid organizations which seek the simultaneous advancement of public policy goals and business aims with the use of both public and private resources. The focus of this special issue is particularly on case studies of hybrid organizations.

We encourage theoretical, conceptual and empirical submissions from different institutional contexts and by scholars across disciplines.

Interesting topics for the papers include but are not limited to the following issues:


  • Which accounting and performance challenges are influenced by the combination of private and public logics in hybrid organizations (e.g. the “leaking” of public money, unfair competition, problems around equal access, diversity, transparency, multiple values and accountability)?
  • How do accounting and performance measurement systems aim to cope with the problems of ambiguity in evaluating and managing hybrid organizations?
  • How do different actors promote accounting and performance measurement changes in hybrid organizations?
  • How do internal and external stakeholders use accounting and performance measurement systems of hybrid organizations and what kind of organizational and institutional decisions are supported?
  • What are the effects of hybridity on the forms of control and accountability in hybrid organizations?
  • What would be the most important building blocks for a theory of accounting for hybrid organizations?
  • How could we develop accounting theory to better understand hybridity by making sense of the activities that transcend the boundaries of organizations and professions?
  • How can single, multiple or comparative case studies on hybrid organizations contribute to accounting theories?
  • What type of challenges does the role of professionals provide in hybrid organizations operating in different institutional fields (e.g. in health care, education, art, culture and social services)?

Submission Instructions


Alexius, S. and Cisneros Örnberg, J., (2015). Mission(s) impossible? Configuring values in the
governance of state owned enterprises. International Journal of Public Sector Management, 28 (4/5),
Almquist, R., Grossi, G., van Helden, G.J. and Reichard, C. (2013), "Public sector governance and accountability", Critical Perspectives on Accounting, 24(7-8), pp. 479-487.
Battilana, J., & Lee, M. (2014). Advancing Research on Hybrid Organizing – Insights from the Study of Social Enterprises. The Academy of Management Annals, 8(1), 397–441.
Berry, A.J., Coad, A.F., Harris, E.P., Otley, D.T., C. Stringer, C.  (2009). Emerging themes in management control: A review of recent literature. The British Accounting Review. 41, 2-20.
Billis D. (2010), Towards a theory of hybrid organizations. In: Billis D. (ed.) Hybrid Organizations and the Third Sector: Challenges for Practice, Theory and Policy. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 46–69.
Conrath-Hargreaves, A., Wüstemann, S. (2019). Multiple institutional logics and their impact on accounting in higher education: The case of a German foundation University, Accounting, Auditing, Accountability Journal, 32(3),
Dobija, D., Górska, A., Grossi, G., and Strzelczyk, W. (2019). Rational and symbolic uses of performance measurement: Experiences from Polish universities, Accounting, Auditing, Accountability Journal, 32(3),
Gebreiter and Hidayah (2019). Individual responses to competing accountability pressures
in hybrid organisations: The case of an English business school, Accounting, Auditing, Accountability Journal, 32(3),
Grossi G., Reichard C., Thomasson A. & Vakkuri J. (2017). Theme: Performance measurement of hybrid organizations - emerging issues and future research perspectives, Public Money & Management 37(6), 379-386.
Grossi, G., and Thomasson, A. (2015), “Bridging the accountability gap in hybrid organizations. The case of Malmö Copenhagen Port”, International Review of Administrative Sciences, 81(3), 604-620.
Grossi, G., Kallio, K.M., Sargiacomo, M., and Skoog M. (2019). Accounting, Performance Management Systems, and Accountability Changes in Knowledge-Intensive Public Organizations: A Literature Review and Research Agenda, Accounting, Auditing, Accountability Journal, 32(3),
Gstraunthaler, T., and Piber, M. (2012), The Performance of Museums and Other Cultural Institutions, International Studies of Management and Organization, 42(2), 29–42.
Guthrie, J. (1993). Australian public business enterprises: analysis of changing accounting, auditing, and accountability regimes, Financial Accountability & Management, 9(2), 101-114.
Haigh, N., Walker, J., Bacq, S., & Kickul, J. (2015). Hybrid Organizations: California Management Review, 57(3), 5–12. 
Hood, C. (2000). Paradoxes of Public-sector Managerialism, Old Public Management and Public
Service Bargains. International Public Management Journal, 3(1), pp. 1-22.
Hyndman, N. and McConville, D. (2018). Trust and accountability in UK charities: Exploring the
virtuous circle. The British Accounting Review, 50, 227-237
Hopwood, A. (1996). Looking Across Rather Than Up and Down: On the Need to Explore the Lateral Processing of Information. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 21(6), pp. 589-590.
Johanson, J-E. & Vakkuri, J. (2018). Governing Hybrid Organisations. Exploring Diversity of Institutional Life. London/ New York: Routledge.
Kastberg, G. and Lagström, C. (2019). Processes of hybridization and de-hybridization: organizing and the task at hand, Accounting, Auditing, Accountability Journal, 32(3),
Kurunmaki, L. (2004). A hybrid profession, the acquisition of management accounting expertise by
medical professionals. Accounting, Organization and Society, 29, 327-347.
Kurunmaki, L. and Miller, P. (2006). Modernizing government: the calculating self hybridization and
performance measurement. Financial Accountability and Management, 22, 87-106.
Pache, A. C., & Santos, F. (2013). Inside the hybrid organization: Selective coupling as a response to competing institutional logics. Academy of Management Journal, 56(4), 972–1001.
Skelcher, C. and S. Smith (2015). Theorizing Hybridity: Institutional Logics, Complex Organizations, and Actor Identities: The Case of Nonprofits. Public Administration, 93, 2, 433-448
Thornton, P.H., W. Ocasio and M. Lounsbury. (2012). The Institutional Logics Perspective: A New Approach to Culture, Structure, and Process. New York, NY: Oxford Univ. Press.
Vakkuri, J. and Johanson, J-E. (2018). Debate: Taming the monster - Understanding hybrid organizations and governance, Public Money & Management 38, 3, 162-163.