Transnational learning through local experimenting:

the creation of dynamic complementarities between economy and society

TRANSLEARN is an EU funded research project.

The overall objective of the Translearn project is to develop a road map for transnational learning for how citizens in different socioeconomic models can make experimental use of existing institutions, create new governance modes and collaborative partnerships across sectors, levels and divisions of interests. This objective will be reached through a stepwise inductive research process containing comparative cross-national analyses and multi-professional dialogues.

Translearn has five specified research objectives:

1. How and why the varieties of national business systems in the Nordic countries have enabled surprising achievements in terms of global market competitiveness

By analysing and synthesizing the experience of Nordic countries, the project will assess the relevance of these historically developed national systems (models of development). Particular attention will be paid to the way Nordic citizens make use of social institutions. The approach adopted is based on the evidence that civil society plays an important role in all Nordic countries as a source of agency. It enables citizens in various labour markets and in various local economic activities to adjust to global competitive pressures. The emergence of new multilevel governance systems appears to play an important role in these transformations into globally competitive national economies. However, despite relatively similar national socio-economic models, the learning histories to be constructed from the cases are expected to reveal considerable variety between the Nordic countries. When taking steps towards becoming a competitive knowledge-based society, and creating economic growth and jobs outside the metropolitan areas, the local cases will inform us about general as well as situational factors.

2. Comparing the studied cases from the Nordic countries to investigate the interrelations between local experiments, transformation, and emerging new governance systems

By using cross-national case-study designs and national systemic comparisons the variety in the loci of dynamics in each of the Nordic countries will be documented. The comparative exercise will identify the type of sector, institutional setting, and/or the level of aggregation within the national business systems where the momentum for off-path changes is created. Similarly, descriptions of chain reactions in the mechanisms of unexpected outcomes help to reveal emerging governance systems that are supporting local actors in their experiments. Understanding such differences across nations is crucial for implementing effective reform policies and for encounters of transnational learning, and these will be addressed in the action research approach of the project. Such encounters involve large group interventions for discussing problems and solutions in each of the participating countries.

3. Exploring how the Nordic transformative capacity can be transferred to and used within other small EU countries, and in particular new small EU members using Slovenia as a test case

Our assumption is that transnational learning is possible only by translating both the experience of the past and present situational factors to local and national contexts. For this reason we are using only one test case from one of the small new EU member countries. For some time Slovene policy makers have demonstrated interest in the Nordic socio-economic models. This positive attitude is a necessary precondition for transnational learning. When venturing into policy innovation, comparative exercises at both the local and national level can serve as an important source of ideas.

4. Extending the comparative exercise to include other socio-economic models in Europe and the United States

This research project is paralleled by other national and cross-national researcher teams and networks both in Europe and in the United States. Our research has been coordinated through the European Group of Organizational Studies (EGOS), and particularly its Standing Working Group (SWG) No. 1 íThe Comparative Study of Economic Organisationsí. The ultimate goal of the research project is to converge the reporting of these parallel projects into a conference in order to create visibility of the diversity of change in national business systems. An objective of such an intellectual encounter is to deepen our understanding of the dynamics of change in various business systems/socio-economic models.

5. Developing constitutive elements for a grounded theory of transnational learning

The formation of such a theoretical approach can explicate the problem solving processes involved in successful outcomes of decentralised experiments. As to the dynamics of change, we are doubtful as to the relevance of convergence models of change despite cross-border diffusion of institutional reforms. However, through cross-national comparisons the deficiencies of convergence models can be disclosed. The road map for transnational learning is expected to demonstrate how to bypass this problem.






















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