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Yanguas, Pablo
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Discussion Paper No. 9/2021
Development cooperation has spent decades wrangling over the merits, evidence, and implications of what we may term "the learning hypothesis": the idea that increased knowledge by development organisations must logically lead to increased effectiveness in the performance of their development activities. Organisations of all stripes have built research and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) departments, adopted a multitude of knowledge management systems and tools, and tinkered with different ways to structure their organograms to stimulate knowledge sharing and learning. The topic of organisational learning is particularly significant as the global development community grapples with increasingly complex problems and the aspiration of evidence-based policymaking.This paper presents an analytical framework for interrogating "the learning hypothesis", breaking it down into causal steps: knowledge causes learning, learning causes organisational change, change causes effectiveness. The framework focuses on the first two sub-hypotheses, mapping out the conceptual space around them by outlining potential relationships between different types of knowledge - tacit and explicit, internal and external - and between different types of learning - operational and strategic. This map provides a foundation for three key research questions: What impact has the rising knowledge agenda had on development organisations? Which factors appear to enable or inhibit organisational learning? What is the relationship between operational and strategic learning and organisational change? [...]
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Working Paper

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