Development and the Learning Organisation

Edited by: 
Roper, Laura
Edited by: 
Pettit, Jethro
Edited by: 
Eade, Deborah

ImageAs development NGOs and official aid agencies embrace the idea of ‘becoming a learning organisation’, they are increasingly concerned with some form of knowledge generation and organisational learning. To date, the literature on these issues tended to come out of the private sector and reflect a Western world-view. Development and the Learning Organisation is therefore unique in presenting contributions from development scholars and practitioners from a range of institutional backgrounds around the world, some introducing new approaches and models, others offering critical case studies of individual and group learning practice across cultures, and organisational efforts to put theory into practice. Among the lessons to emerge from this cutting-edge work are that learning is hard to do, that we often learn the wrong things, and that huge gaps often remain between our learning and our behaviour or practice. There are clearly no simple recipes for success, but when learning breakthroughs do occur, the organisational whole can truly become more than the sum of its parts.

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Deborah Eade

Development and the Learning Organisation: an introduction
Laura Roper and Jethro Pettit

1. Power, culture, and gender: challenges to organisational learning

Operationalising bottom-up learning in international NGOs: barriers and alternatives
Grant Power, Matthew Maury, and Susan Maury

Should development agencies have Official Views?
David Ellerman

Engendering organisational practice in NGOs: the case of Utthan
Sara Ahmed

Organisational learning: a borrowed toolbox?
David Kelleher and the Gender at Work Collective

Making the organisation learn: demystification and management action
Vijay Padaki

2. Learning together: multi-institutional initiatives

Achieving successful academic-practitioner research collaborations
Laura Roper

Knowledge to action: evaluation for learning in a multi-organisational global partnership
Marla J. Solomon and A. Mushtaque R. Chowdhury

Guest learning and adaptation in the field: a Navajo case study
Gelaye Debebe

Can bilateral programmes become learning organisations? Experiences from institutionalising participation in Keiyo Marakwet in Kenya
Samuel Musyoki

3. Levels of learning: organisational case studies

A chocolate-coated case for alternative international business models
Pauline Tiffen

Learning leaders: the key to learning organisations
John Hailey and Rick James

Leading learning and change from the middle: reconceptualising strategy’s purpose, content, and measures
Colin Beckwith, Kent Glenzer, and Alan Fowler

The struggle for organisational change – how the ActionAid Accountability, Learning and Planning System emerged
Patta Scott-Villiers

Heifer International: growing a learning organisation
Thomas S. Dierolf, Rienzzie Kern, Tim Ogborn, Mark Protti, and Marvin Schwartz

‘New learning in old organisations’: children’s participation in a school-based nutrition project in western Kenya
Charles Ogoye-Ndegwa, Domnic Abudho, and Jens Aagard-Hansen

Organisational learning in NGOs: an example of an intervention based on the work of Chris Argyris
Didier Bloch and Nora Borges

4. Learning from humanitarian action

Mainstreaming disaster mitigation: challenges to organisational learning in NGOs
John Twigg and Diana Steiner

The learning process of the Local Capacities for Peace Project
Marshall Wallace

Humanitarian principles and organisational culture: everyday practice in Médecins Sans Frontières-Holland
Dorothea Hilhorst and Nadja Schmiemann

5. Ways and means: tools and methods for learning and change

Perceptions and practices of monitoring and evaluation: international NGO experiences in Ethiopia
Esther Mebrahtu

Learning from complexity: the International Development Research Centre’s experience with Outcome Mapping
Sarah Earl and Fred Carden

Modelling learning programmes
Molly den Heyer

Learning for change: the art of assessing the impact of advocacy work
Barry Coates and Rosalind David


© Oxfam GB 2003. First published by Oxfam GB in association with Oxfam America and IDS in 2003.
ISBN 0 85598 470 8
All rights reserved.
Available from Stylus Publishing


‘This is an excellent book full of papers presenting different perspectives on how some organizations (mostly NGOs) are increasingly becoming learning organizations. It reflects also a slightly anti-KM approach and deals much more with participatory learning and evaluation processes, focusing on knowledge networking between project team members and beneficiaries and how such networking improves organizational learning.’
Knowledge Networking for Sustainable Development (KN4D)