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Title: Communities of Practice facilitating learning and innovation in the Indian Administrative Services : a qualitative investigative study
Author: Bhattacharyya, Kaustav
ISNI:       0000 0004 2752 5122
Awarding Body: City University London
Current Institution: City, University of London
Date of Award: 2012
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The objective of this thesis is to investigate, identify, record and capture the formation of Communities of Practice and the associated processes of Communities of Practice facilitated learning, i.e. Situated Learning and Communities of Practice - facilitated innovation within the organizational context of Indian Administrative Services (henceforth referred to as IAS) officers. The organizational context of the IAS is a fascinating one with its rich legacy and tradition of being the successor to the erstwhile Indian Civil Services (henceforth referred to as ICS) of the British Raj; and its subsequent position as the administrative elite in the political scenario of post-independence India. This research context was selected driven by personal considerations of the researcher who enjoyed familiarity with the social world of IAS officers. Communities of Practice (henceforth referred to as CoPs) are a cutting-edge, modern, progressive business theory of knowledge management, knowledge creation and learning. The location of CoPs lies in the theory of Situated Learning as proposed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in their work 'Situated learning'(1991) on contextualized learning. Situated Learning proposes that the learning process of an individual is much more than the cognitive process of acquisition of skills and knowledge but situated in a social context, and it is through participation in the social context that the learning process occurs. This theory of Situated Learning has been adopted in the current research as a key conceptual framework. The objective of this research investigation was to capture and record the learning processes of the IAS officers through formation of CoPs and their participation in them. CoP-facilitated innovation was studied by the researcher deploying the framework of an informal network of innovative champions, i.e. individuals with innovative ideas and practices who facilitate the diffusion of innovative practices through the organization. The research methodology adopted has been qualitative, ethnographic, interpretive and case-study based. Two discrete case-studies were conducted in two distinct regions of India, Karnataka and West Bengal with distinctly diverse administrative and political histories. There emerged a key surprise in this research which was the evidence of IAS officers forming an elite group, this phenomenon which was manifested while conducting the case-study on West Bengal cadre IAS officers. There were methodological issues which were emergent during the conducting of the case-study on West Bengal cadre IAS officers like access, process of data collection i.e. conducting interviews which clearly indicated an elite character of the group being researched. This necessitated revisiting and revising of relevant research literature on elites and methodology pertaining to elite research issues. The current research study did not intend to study IAS officers considering them as an elite group but more as professionals and hence the elite section in this research thesis was incorporated at later stage and separately. The research literature on CoPs has progressed since the researcher commenced this study and there have been several differing views. This particular research work has influenced the contemporary research literature on CoPs by demonstrating the boundaries of the existing theories, the limitations of their applications and has expanded the scope of the existing theories in terms of accounting for several extraneous factors like the organizational legacies and traditions. The research findings question the avant-garde nature proposed by theorists of CoPs and it is not necessarily a panacea for all challenges of knowledge transfer and creation. Codes of Conduct, a clear, definitive, unwritten guide to appropriate behaviour as an IAS officer, a kind of dos and donts for a good IAS officer emerged as an important building block for formation of CoPs. This well-defined behaviour guide, the Codes of Conduct were transmitted in a tacit form from one generation to another. In conclusion, the findings of the research study indicates the tremendous influence of legacies and traditions of the ICS on the formation and functioning of CoPs and the associated processes of CoP-facilitated learning, that is Situated Learning. The ICS legacy and tradition determined their status as an elite group to a large extent, since the IAS cadres belonging to the regions which were directly under ICS rule, the IAS officers attached to those cadres displayed traits of an elite civil services group which were not evident and present in the parts of India that were not directly ruled by ICS officers. The findings indicated fragmentation of Communities of Practice when the ambient conditions were missing which have been defined in this study as Codes of Conduct and is identified as one of the key building blocks of the formation of Communities of Practice.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: HM Sociology