Processes of institutional learning : a comparative evaluation of learning within economic development organisations in Teesside and Cracow
In an era of significant regional economic disparities, attention is turning away from traditional accounts of regional disadvantage towards the insights offered by institutional and evolutionary economics. Such accounts have highlighted the institutional, social and cultural capabilities that drive regional economic success. One aspect of this literature relates to the theme of institutional learning. In particular, a distinction has been made between incremental and radical institutional learning capabilities. Whilst incremental learning facilitates institutional adaptation to changing economic circumstances through the application of established interpretations and solutions, radical learning requires the development of an 'adaptability' capacity that reflects upon the applicability of past actions and promotes institutional innovations that break with existing understandings. Yet despite the importance attached to radical institutional learning capabilities, the internal organisational factors influencing actual learning processes - especially within the context of public sector bodies - have received little attention. This thesis explores these features through a comparative investigation of the institutional learning processes occurring within public sector based economic development organisations in Teesside, England and Cracow, Poland. The research presents the key arguments made regarding the centrality of learning to the regional rediscovery debate and examines the significance attached to the themes of institutional learning and cognition. Through reference to empirical evidence the research discusses the place specific and historically dependent nature of institutional learning processes and considers the extent to which institutional cognition, organisational memories, management systems and techniques act as barriers or stimuli to radical learning.