Enhancing viability through better management of learning in non-profit organisations.
The question of how to enhance viability is ever present in the minds of leaders of Non Profit Organizations. By using a methodological pluralism approach involving concepts in organisational learning, appreciative inquiry, systems thinking and the Viable Systems Model, this study investigates the capacity for learning in five Non Profit Organizations and links this capacity to their viability. A case is established through a review of literature that only organizations that adopt a generative learning posture, can survive in times of great change and contextual turbulence. The study, which followed an appreciative inquiry process, interviewed leaders from the five organizations in both semi-structured interviews as well as questionnaires. It found that while learning is taking place all the time in the organizations studied, most of that learning is lost to the organisations for lack of effective capturing, storing, disseminating and rewarding systems. These organisations also lack a clear conceptual framework to guide their learning. The learning present in most of the organizations is of a single loop nature, which is limited in not allowing the critique of the assumptions and worldviews behind the experiences of individuals in the organisation. This study therefore recommends prioritisation of collective learning within the organizations studied by investing in policies, structures and systems that support dialogue and reflective practices. To this end, the study recommends that if these organizations are to better their viability, they will have to develop a more systemic approach not only to their learning but also to their management. Keywords: Learning Organisation, viable systems model, knowledge management, participatory action research, systems thinking and practice, strategic conversations, dialogue, non profit organizations, Appreciative Inquiry, vocabularies of hope.