Sarah Elizabeth Barry

Organisational Learning on ‘Another Map’ Phenomenological Explorations with Ecological Epistemology as Practical Learning for Development-Aid Organising, Volume I

by Sarah Elizabeth Barry
University of Dublin
March 2010

This thesis is a phenomenological description of organising practices as ‘Irish Aid’. The Organisation is the division of the Irish Government Department of Foreign Affairs that manages Irish Official Development Assistance (ODA). The construct of ‘organisational learning’ is used as an overall perspective for considering development-aid organising practices. International ODA is currently ordered with a rubric of ‘effective aid’, formally structured and practiced with logical modelling. Critique of this approach, on the basis of the complexity of the aid process and organising practices generally, frames one strand of the literature, while another takes a technical perspective, thus leaving the social and discursive complexity insufficiently explored. During periods of participant research-practice over two years it was noted that organisational members seemed to continually make sense of their situation with discourses of ‘gaps’, ‘lacks’ and ‘problems’. This interpreting practice was considered contingent, although unreflexive and disempowering. It was also judged to be a phenomenon appearing consistently with other organising contexts. The aims were therefore to explore and generate different understandings of interpreting processes as practical contingencies and empowering responses, to generate fresh resources to empower practitioners to learn creatively, and to construct ‘learning for development-aid organising practice’ as ethically relevant in ways to be accounted for.