Good, better, best? Inter-organizational learning in a network of local authorities

Hartley, Jean and Allison, Maria (2002). Good, better, best? Inter-organizational learning in a network of local authorities. Public Management Review, 4(1) pp. 101–118.



The UK government’s agenda for the ‘modernization and improvement’ of public service s is based on legislative change, programmes of experimentation and the sharing of better practice. But how does the sharing of better practice take place? The precise processes for the transfer of knowledge and their implications for organizational and cultural change ha ve not been analysed in detail in the public sector context. This article examines the role of a local authority inter-organizational network in transferring better practice in implementing the Government’s major initiative on Best Value. The article draws on the theoretical framework of Nonaka (1994), and particularly the distinction between tacit and explicit knowledge to examine how knowledge is transferred between individuals and between organizations. The article analyses data collected as part of the Better Value Development Programme (BVDP), an inter-organizational network. Findings indicate that the inter-organizational network was valued by participants as a way to share and transfer knowledge about be tter practice through a number of processes. The need to consider both tacit and explicit knowledge transfer in inter-organizational learning is considered. This has implications for traditional policy models of best practice transfer.

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