This paper is part of the series Lessons for change about organisational learning, resulting from a collaboration between ActionAid, DFID, Sida and the Participation Group at the Institute of Development Studies to explore understandings of learning and to document innovative approaches. This paper explores the observation that much learning is done in the person-to-person and organisation-to-organisation relationships that make up the daily course of development work. The association of relationships and learning is two-way: not only is learning needed to maintain a successful development relationship, but relationships are needed for learning about development, about its context, processes and impact. This paper offers a new perspective on how a development agency can approach learning so that its staff and departments can consistently look for and make improvements to their performance: by attending to their interpersonal and inter-organisational relationships. It does not examine knowledge management systems, nor look at training (both important elements of a learning system), but rather looks at a form of learning that is particularly appropriate to improving the quality of the relationships that are vital to the delivery of development assistance. Section one justifies a focus on learning about relationships to improve development effectiveness, and briefly outlines some literature on knowledge and organisational learning which gives insight into this domain. Section two describes experiences of learning about relationships in practice, and highlights key lessons. Section three draws attention to some implications of learning about relationships for organisational change.
Pasteur, Kath|Scott-Villiers, Patta
Institute of Development Studies