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Title: A bounded rationality approach to inter-organisational learning : comparing local authority learning schemes around community engagement
Author: Brannan, Tessa
ISNI:       0000 0004 2683 2729
Awarding Body: The University of Manchester
Current Institution: University of Manchester
Date of Award: 2010
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This thesis examines the rationales and processes of inter-organisational learn ing by conducting a comparative analysis of two local authority learning schemes around community engagement. In so doing, it constitutes a challenge to dominant assumptions about how and why such learning takes place. Learning from others is predominantly portrayed as a rational, systematic and largely unproblematic process with obvious benefits in stimulating improvement. Alternatively, it may be rejected on the basis of issues of transferability of knowledge or practices between contexts; or for its failure to comply with the rational model. Two aspects of th is research are central in challenging these assumptions. The first is the application of an alternative analytical framework - bounded rationality - as a means to understand inter-organisational learning. The second is the utilisation of broadly interpretive methods of empirical research in which the focus is on the perspectives and experiences of the actors engaged in learning processes. This approach reveals learning processes which diverge markedly from the prescribed rational approach. They are instead characterised by apparently 'nonrational' behaviours; and by ad hoc and incremental processes which are difficult to link to behavioural change. However, it is argued that such learning is generally valued by participants and, indeed, may be more appropriate to the way in which human minds and organisations operate. Bounded rationality offers both a means of identifying the way in which learning takes place, and a framework for understanding why. Bounded rationality's central notion of 'frames of reference' enables learning to be conceived as an activity entailing the interaction of various actors and processes. Considering learning in terms of a relationship draws attention to the potential role of learning mechanisms in determining the processes and outcomes of learning. This forms the basis for the comparative study between two contrasting learning schemes. Differences between the schemes are identified: some of which relate to the mechanisms used for learning and the relationships between people and processes; others of which are dependent upon how the schemes are set up and run, and the attitudes and behaviours of participants. However, fundamentally the nature of learning appears to be very similar across the two schemes; albeit perhaps better aligned with the network approach than to the Beacon Scheme's 'best practice' model. By combining a bounded rationality analytical approach with an in-depth empirical study, this research constitutes a valuable contribution to the previously circumscribed debate on inter-organisational learning.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available