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7 Can Development Agencies Learn & Help Clients Learn? Introduction: A “Church” versus a Learning Organization In this chapter, our focus is on the organizational structure of the helping agency from the cognitive point of view. In the modern world it is now commonplace to accent the importance of intellectual capital and knowledge management. Most organizations want to be seen as learning organizations. Yet many old habits persist that are directly opposed to learning and to the advancement of knowledge. The new rhetoric of “learning” is applied as a veneer onto a churchlike organization proselytizing its own dogmas—an organization that shuts its eyes to the sun so that it can see better by the glow of its own moon. In the previous chapter, I consider questions about the methodology of knowledge-based development assistance and the subtleties introduced by different types of development knowledge. Now I focus on the organization or agency involved in knowledge-based development assistance. There are two different sites of learning: within the organization and within the client country or group being assisted. How can such an agency function as a learning organization, and how can it foster active learning on the part of the clients? These questions are approached by considering some of the major roadblocks in the way of organizational and client learning. 149 The case in point for this chapter is the World Bank. President James Wolfensohn raised the idea of the Bank as a “knowledge bank” in addition to being a money bank. In addition to all the accumulated development experience of the Bank’s operational staff, the Bank has several hundred PhDs (mostly in economics) in its research department —a vice presidency called Development Economics (DEC) with the chief economist at the head of it. It is the largest concentration of researchers on development issues in the world. Moreover, the researchers have inside access to World Bank experience and can even, in theory, move in and out of operational positions to gain ‹rsthand experience at doing what the Bank does (which is sometimes called development experience). In this chapter, we examine whether or not such an organization can be expected to function as a learning organization —as a “knowledge bank.” Roadblock to Learning 1: Of‹cial Views as Dogma, with Examples To put it simply, the basic problem is that in spite of the espoused model of a learning organization, the theory-in-use of a development agency is often a model of a “development church” giving de‹nitive ex cathedra Of‹cial Views on all the substantive questions. As with the dogmas of a church, the brand name of the organization is invested in its views. This is true for any large powerful organization that enunciates Of‹cial Views, but I concentrate here on my primary case study, the World Bank. Once an Of‹cial View of the Bank has been announced, then to question it is an attack on the Bank itself and on the value of its franchise, so subsequent learning is in fact rather discouraged . Thus when licensing an Of‹cial View in the ‹rst place, the Bank authorities need to have what Milton calls the “grace of infallibility and incorruptibleness” since any subsequent “learning” would be tantamount to disloyalty.1 The end result is what Milton calls the “laziness of a licensing church”—an organization populated with intellectual clerks dutifully producing the statistical factoids and politically correct banalities that pass through the ‹lters. When the Bank takes Of‹cial Views, then the discussion between the agency staff and the clients is a pseudodialogue since the agency staff are not free to unilaterally change Of‹cial Views (just as missionaries are not free to approve local variations in church dogmas). In fact, 150 HELPING PEOPLE HELP THEMSELVES the staff are not even free to publicly state their personal views as personal views if they differ from the Of‹cial Views. Here is the current of‹cial language from the External Affairs Department instructing Bank staff. All staff should recognize that journalists assume that whatever statements they make on Bank Group activities or development issues re›ect the institution’s policy or thinking. Accordingly, staff members making such statements have a responsibility to be fully informed about the Bank Group’s position. Expectations of staff in their dealings with external audiences are explained in the Administrative Manual, under Section 14. Crucially, staff contemplating a speech, article, opinion/editorial , or letter to the editor must realize that a disclaimer that...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780472021765
Related ISBN
9780472031429
MARC Record
OCLC
607605817
Pages
354
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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