Work-based learning in international humanitarian organisations

  • J Landolt

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)

Abstract

This study focuses on informal collaborative learning, including communities of practice as knowledge creation and sharing tools for work-based learning, essential for the competitiveness of organisations in today’s dynamic environment. Three research questions are explored in the context of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC): how can informal collaborative learning be conceptualised in international humanitarian organisations; how do ICRC managers perceive the role of, and opportunities for, informal collaborative learning; how can informal collaborative learning be furthered?
The first question is addressed through a literature review. Even in the age of rising artificial intelligence, communities of practice appear to be a powerful knowledge management and creation tool. International humanitarian organisations, operating in diverse and dynamically changing contexts, have all the characteristics to adopt expansive approaches to learning and work. In practice, it seems most organisations have not yet reached that stage.
The second question is addressed through a cross-sectional mixed-methods study (focus group discussion (n=7), survey questionnaire (n=84) and in-depth interviews (n=6)). ICRC managers recognise and value opportunities for informal collaborative learning in the organisation. However, informal learning groups appear poorly defined with limited membership, while strong organisational structures seem somewhat restrictive and supportive of vertical hierarchies. Less than half the participants in the study simultaneously feel part of a learning community of managers and of an organisation-wide learning community, with differences apparent between expatriates and locally-hired staff, pointing to unmet needs in the area of informal collaborative practices.
The third question is addressed through aligning the above findings with the literature review. Communities of practice benefit from more expansive organisational structures, and need to be recognised and “cultivated”. Using the affordances of modern technology, they should be based on inclusiveness and diversity, reaching beyond organisational boundaries, leading to innovation and adaptability in today’s dynamically changing environment.
Date of Award1 Oct 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorLeon P Tikly (Supervisor)

Keywords

  • work-based learning
  • communities of practice
  • collaborative learning
  • informal learning
  • humanitarian organisations

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