Learning, development and change in a community-based enterprise in Myanmar

Oliver S. Crocco (School of Leadership and Human Resource Development, Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA)
Maria Cseh (Department of Human and Organizational Learning, George Washington University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)

European Journal of Training and Development

ISSN: 2046-9012

Article publication date: 18 November 2020

Issue publication date: 13 July 2021




The purpose of this paper is to understand the process of large-scale organizational change in a community-based enterprise in Myanmar.


A qualitative case study methodology was selected to understand the phenomenon of change in a community-based enterprise in Myanmar. Data were collected over a four-week period of fieldwork through individual interviews, focus groups, observations and document collection. Data were analyzed via a modified inductive analytic strategy using constant comparative analysis.


Findings revealed the processes used in this large-scale organizational change as impacted by the national cultural dimensions of Myanmar and the social learning experienced by the participants. Learning about organization development and change and sharing that learning in the organization by its members who participated in a certificate program in organizational development designed by Payap University (Thailand) and the International Rescue Committee had a major role in the change processes. Myanmar’s high power distance and collectivist culture facilitated social learning by highlighting authority figures as role models and providing high interaction environments conducive to learning.


This study illuminates the change process in a community-based organization in the emerging economy of Myanmar where no roadmaps for change in these types of organizations exist. The findings of this study are transferrable to community-based organizations in emerging economies with similar national cultural characteristics and call for future case studies to understand the complexities of change in these unique organizations and environments.



Crocco, O.S. and Cseh, M. (2021), "Learning, development and change in a community-based enterprise in Myanmar", European Journal of Training and Development, Vol. 45 No. 4/5, pp. 436-448. https://doi.org/10.1108/EJTD-12-2019-0198



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

The late 1980s marked the height of a catastrophic period in Myanmar’s history. Decades of military oppression and civil war led Myanmar to be named the “least developed country” in the world by the United Nations in 1987. The poor quality of education throughout military rule, the lack of government support and the ongoing conflict made it difficult for people in rural areas to access high-quality health and educational services. This led to a resurgence of civic engagement (Fink, 2009) and the emergence of thousands of community-based organizations (CBOs) – an overarching term for local organizations based in and serving their communities, including health care, educational and agricultural organizations (Steinberg, 2013; Ware, 2012). An estimated 214,000 CBOs are operating within Myanmar with a variety of structures, sizes and purposes, some of which function as community-based enterprises (CBEs) (Steinberg, 2013). According to Peredo and Chrisman (2006), a CBE occurs when community members work together to identify an entrepreneurial opportunity that could be used to serve the common good. Despite these efforts, a major human resources challenge still exists in Myanmar, where the lack of skilled labor plagues social and economic development in the nation (Rieffel, 2015).

One international project created to address this shortage of skilled labor was the Project for Local Empowerment (PLE), which was a $40m project implemented between 2012 and 2017 funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) after the USA and Myanmar resumed diplomatic relations in May 2012. One of the many initiatives of the PLE was the development of a certificate program in organizational development offered in conjunction with Payap University (PYU), a private university located in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This human resource development (HRD) initiative, known as the PYU-IRC certificate program, was based on Western, evidence-based organization development and change (ODC) concepts. The PYU-IRC certificate program has been offered to hundreds of CBO staff members along the rural areas of the Thai–Myanmar border and Southeast Myanmar since 2013. This made it unique as the first organization development program of its kind to be offered inside Myanmar which was previously closed to outsiders. Although there is anecdotal evidence that learning and ODC occurred as a result of the certificate program and a pilot study by the first author revealed different applications of the PYU-IRC certificate program in a variety of organizations, no studies have been conducted to understand the process of change in these organizations or the way that learning and the Myanmar context influenced these change processes.

Until 2014, Myanmar was ruled by a military junta and essentially closed to foreigners interested in conducting research in this context. Despite recent pathways opening up for research in this area and the importance of HRD in emerging economies, a search of HRD-related journals including the European Journal of Training and Development, Human Resource Development International, Human Resource Development Quarterly, Advances in Developing Human Resources, Human Resource Development Review and Industrial and Commercial Training, revealed no studies conducted in the Myanmar context. Considering the “context sensitive” nature of social learning (Lebel et al., 2010, p. 248) and the importance of contextual factors such as national culture in change processes (Cagliano et al., 2011; Schneider and De Meyer, 1991), HRD-related studies conducted in this context can inform local practices and be transferrable to comparable contexts.

Purpose of the study and research questions

The purpose of this study was to understand the process of large-scale organizational change in a community-based enterprise in Myanmar. The following primary and secondary research questions guided this study:


What has been the process of change at the CBO? How, if at all, has the Myanmar context affect learning and change processes?

Theoretical framework

The “disciplinary orientation” (Merriam and Tisdell, 2016, p. 85) of this study comes from the interdisciplinary field of HRD. As this study was designed to develop an understanding of the process of learning and organizational change in a CBE in Myanmar, it was guided by the concepts of social learning, large-scale organizational change and dimensions of national culture. Bandura’s (1977) social learning theory states that learning occurs within a context that has a “continuous reciprocal interaction between cognitive, behavioral, and environmental determinants” (Bandura, 1977, p. 7). Social learning theory has proved useful in HRD to understand complex learning processes related to workplace learning and organization development (Gibson, 2004). According to Bandura (1977):

[…] most human behavior is learned observationally through modeling: from observing others, one forms an idea of how new behaviors are performed, and on later occasions, this coded information serves as a guide for action (p. 22).

Social learning can lead to “new knowledge, shared understanding, trust, and, ultimately, collective action” (Lebel et al., 2010, p. 334). It also moves from phases of incremental learning related to action and strategy (single loop) to learning about individual and organizational assumptions (double loop) (Argyris and Schön, 1978) to learning related to one’s paradigm, values and beliefs (Pahl-Wostl, 2009). In a study on social learning in the Mekong River Delta, social learning was found to contribute to an organization’s adaptiveness and “empower actors to undertake adaptive actions” (Lebel et al., 2010, p. 347); however, social learning in organizations varies case-by-case and is largely “context sensitive” (p. 248). This is relevant to this study in Myanmar, which may differ from social learning in CBOs in other contexts.

Given the large-scale interventions evidenced in the studied CBE, this study was informed by Waclawski’s (2002) integrated model of large-scale organizational change (LSOC) that focuses on the role of managerial guidance in bringing about organizational change through changes in “mission and strategy, culture, leadership, and structure” (pp. 299–300). The highlighted role of managerial behaviors in this model is particularly relevant to a small CBE such as the one in this study where the director has a large managerial role. LSOC also relies on involving a variety of stakeholders in the process (Nyström et al., 2013). As a manager changes his or her behavior and brings about changes in the four dimensions of LSOC, this catalyzes the behavioral changes of other members of the organization and leads to improved performance (Waclawski, 2002). This LSOC change model also stresses the role of flexibility in organizations, which is a characteristic of CBEs (Peredo and Chrisman, 2006). Environmental conditions are also an important part of LSOC, which is germane for this study looking at the unique context in Myanmar.

Dimensions of national culture (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 2012; Hofstede et al., 2010), in particular, the unique cultural context of Myanmar is another component of the theoretical framework informing this study. Rudkin and Erba (2018) built on the exploratory work of Rarick and Nickerson (2008) to understand the cultural dimensions of Myanmar using Hofstede et al.’s (2010) cultural dimensions. They found that Myanmar generally mirrored many of its Southeast Asian peers and scored relatively high in power distance, collectivism, femininity and uncertainty avoidance (Rudkin and Erba, 2018). Other evidence shows the cultural value of cooperation over competition as evidenced by the national sport of chin-lone (Aung-Thwin, 2012). People in Myanmar have a history of typically distrusting strict capitalism as a result of colonial rule (Maung, 1965), which partly explains the rise of CBOs.


A qualitative case study research methodology that allows for an “in-depth description and analysis of a bounded system” through “delimiting the object of the study” to a particular case (Merriam and Tisdell, 2016, p. 37) was selected for this study. In this study, the phenomenon of interest was the process of learning and ODC in a CBE in Myanmar. Considering the embeddedness of the phenomenon within a bounded system and “interconnections in nonlinear and adaptive ways” that learning and change occur, this made case study the most appropriate methodological design (Schwandt and Gates, 2017, p. 353).

Case selection

A pilot multi-case study designed to understand how leaders of CBEs in Myanmar used an organizational development certificate program to navigate organizational change processes was conducted by the first author in 2016 in Myanmar. This pilot study also provided the opportunity to understand how members of the participating CBEs related to a researcher considering the fact that these organizations had never participated in a research study, test the data collection tools (e.g. interview and observation protocols, document review guide) and explore the features of CBEs in the cultural context of Myanmar and their functions within that context. Based on the pilot study and the understanding of the different CBEs and their features and functions in the Myanmar context, one CBE was selected for this case study based on the following rationale:

  • the leader of the organization participated in the Training of Trainers (ToT) program for the certificate program and became part of the program’s training team, and several staff members also participated in the certificate program; and

  • the organization showed evidence of LSOC.

Data collection methods and participants

Data sources in this research included semi-structured interviews, participant observation, document review and a focus group. This triangulation of data collection methods to facilitate the “convergence of multiple perspectives for mutual confirmation of data” contributed to the trustworthiness of the study (Krefting, 1991, p. 177). Data collection occurred over a four-week site visit. All members of the organization were invited to the focus group, and all members who had been working at the organization since 2014–2015 were invited to be interviewed. Also, community members who witnessed the evolution of this organization since its inception in 2005 were invited to be interviewed. In total, 15 people participated in this study (11 members of the organization and four community members). All participants were Myanmar nationals from the same state, nine males and six females, and ages 21–41. Despite the fact that the members of the organization who participated in the certificate program or ToT had a command of the English language, not all members were fluent in English. To address this situation, an interpreter was invited to participate in each of the interviews and focus group. Throughout the site visit, four weekly staff meetings were observed according to an observation protocol along with eight different courses offered by the organization. In addition, eight sets of organizational documents were collected and analyzed based on the following selection criteria:

  • documents related to strategy and culture as a result of new organizational change efforts such as vision and mission statements and an office poem written by the organization’s members;

  • policy documents recently enacted as the result of new organizational change processes; and/or

  • forms and receipts designed and implemented as the result of new policies.

Data analysis

Data were analyzed simultaneously with data collection (Merriam and Tisdell, 2016), and a modified inductive analytic strategy was used (Yin, 2014) using constant comparative analysis (Boeije, 2002). Throughout the data collection and analysis, analytic memos were used to continuously reflect on the process of inquiry throughout the study (Saldaña, 2016). All interview and focus group transcripts, observation notes and documents were coded with descriptive codes and process codes, followed by identifying a list of valid, mutually exclusive and exhaustive axial codes (Corbin and Strauss, 2014). From these axial codes, emergent themes or categories were analyzed using thematic analysis (Ryan and Bernard, 2003). To establish trustworthiness in the data analysis, an inter-coder reliability process was used where several HRD researchers were invited to independently analyze part of the data and discuss points of convergence and divergence in coding with the authors. Then, confirmability (Lincoln and Guba, 1985) was established via an audit trail where raw data, field notes, analytic memos (Saldaña, 2016), coding and analysis processes and protocols were collected and reviewed by an auditor to corroborate the analysis. Despite the lead author having extensive experience in Southeast Asia, the application of an inquiry audit was used, which involved discussion of interpretations made from the data with Myanmar scholars in the field (Johnson, 1997).

Findings and discussion

This section presents a brief presentation of the case followed by a description of the change processes that occurred in this case and a discussion about the role of social learning as a driver of development and change processes in the organization and within the context of Myanmar.

Case description

Founded in 2005, the CBE selected for this study prepares young adults to be effective in their next stages of life whether that is higher education or participation in the workforce. This preparation is accomplished through a five-month training program, which is the main activity and function of the organization. While the courses offered in the training program have evolved over time, the organization currently offers courses in nine subjects: English language, computer, religion (which included topics such as ethics and personal development), civic education, guitar, international music notation, physical education, speech and debate and management (which included topics such as project management and leadership). Students pay 30,000 Kyats (US$22.20) each month of the five-month program. The program is delivered in classrooms on a compound with several buildings that is owned by a local religious institution that has supported the organization and its founders.

When the organization is not offering the five-month training program, the staff members perform other services such as offering private classes for adults and going to villages on the outskirts of the city to teach English or other subjects. Although these classes are less profitable than the five-month training program and generally bring in about 10,000 Kyats (US$7.40) per participant, they build the reputation of the organization in the larger community surrounding the city and give staff members a way to make income during the seven-month break in between programs. Enrollment and graduation in the organization’s five-month program have fluctuated since its founding with a dramatic increase in the past two years, which the director attributes to recent changes in the delivery of the program, including becoming more student-centered. The organization has 12 staff members (eight males and four females). At the encouragement of the director of the organization who participated in the Training of Trainers (ToT) program, three members of the organization graduated from the certificate program, and two of those three were selected to participate in the ToT program.

The nature of development and change processes in the community-based organizations

The essence of the development and change processes in this organization in Myanmar is captured through a description of the change processes and a discussion on the role of social learning in these changes processes.

The processes of development and change

The three major change processes captured in this study centered around the creation and implementation of instructor and student policies; vision and mission statements and job descriptions; and financial and HR policies. The first change in the organization, relating to instructor and student policies, was initiated by the director in January 2015. At that time, the organization was not officially registered with the township government, and there was high staff turnover. The director reflected on how the development of the instructor and student policies emerged from his own changing perspectives as a result of his participation in the ToT program. He described his desire to run the organization based on well-thought-out policies inclusive of stakeholders that have different religious and ethnic backgrounds. He reflected in the following:

Because of those courses [Cross-Cultural Communication and Ethical Leadership Skills], I changed myself also. I changed my attitude. I changed the way I’m teaching, the way I’m thinking. I changed everything. Before I used to think negatively but now I’ve changed to positive thinking […] I changed my attitude, I changed my organization’s policies […] My instructor’s policy and student’s policy – to be flexible. All the policies are flexible for students and flexible for the instructors or staff as well because I learned that different cultures have different attitudes, different perspectives, different styles, different backgrounds, [and] different expectations.

The director decided to roll out this change process during the summer break when members of the organization had time to discuss and incorporate the policies in their work. Interviews with the director showed that he was careful not to be rigid in his enforcement of these policies. Interviews with the director showed that he gave a lot of thought to the implementation of the policies and understood that exceptions should be made in special circumstances. Observations also showed that he made exceptions for certain students paying fees late and for some staff members who could not attend weekly meetings. This process reflected the director’s mindset for understanding diverse perspectives during development and change processes, which created an environment in the organization where further change was encouraged. This process highlighted the role of the leader/manager in facilitating LSOC (Waclawski, 2002) as well as how the change first emerged in a top-down fashion due in part to the high power distance of the cultural context. Even the fact that the director encouraged so many of the organization’s members to take the certificate program is a reflection of the role that leaders play in creating the conditions for learning to occur in small enterprises (Nafukho et al., 2009).

The second change effort – the Vision and Mission Statements and Job Descriptions – was developed by three members of the organization as a result of their participation in the certificate programs and their subsequent discussions on the needs of their organization. They all agreed that the organization needed a new strategy informed by a clear vision and mission and a new structure supported by well-defined job descriptions. With the blessing of the director, these three members began discussing with other members of the organization the idea of developing the vision and mission of the organization followed by the objectives and goals that would fulfill this vision and mission. One member recalled:

So firstly, the three of us and the other staff of the organization had to discuss what things should be included in the vision and mission and objectives and goals as well. And we did an interview with each of the staff and also the former staff as well.

This process was a highly iterative one that included continuous input from current and past members of the organization who are still members of the community. This inclusivity fostered buy-in from the organization’s members, and the change process was met with enthusiasm and a desire from all staff members to collectively implement the changes within the organization. After the collective drafting process, the final documents were agreed upon at a staff meeting in March 2015, and implementation approaches were discussed. According to Cummings and Worley (2015), change processes regarding strategy are among the most critical for organizations in the establishment of their relationships with their stakeholders and the environments in which they work. As a CBE with strong ties to its community, it was particularly important for this organization to build a strategy that will ensure its continued embeddedness in the community. This inclusivity and relationship with the community are also emblematic of the high levels of communitarianism in this context and the loyalty to the group. Additionally, while Cummings and Worley (2015) talk about crafting new vision and mission as the start of large-scale change interventions, the need for crafting a new vision and mission emerged organically during the change process based on the learning and experiences of the members of the organization who participated in the certificate program.

After developing the Vision and Mission Statements, the three members of the organization also initiated the development of job descriptions. They approached each staff member and discussed with them the nature of their jobs and a description of their daily tasks. They also talked with them about the importance of the alignment of job descriptions with the organization’s structure. This created buy-in for the change effort. To supplement what they learned in the certificate program about job descriptions and the information they gathered from the members of the organization, the three members who initiated this change looked online at examples of job descriptions in organizations similar to theirs. The review of the documents in the job descriptions and the structure of the organization showed their alignment with the established vision, mission, objectives and goals of the organization.

The third change effort of financial and HR policies was developed by two members of the organization who participated in the certificate program the following year during which they became interested in human resource systems and financial policy. They also noticed that the organization had no clear system around documenting the money coming in and going out of the organization. The director recalled that there was an initial discussion at a staff meeting when these two members introduced their interest in developing and implementing HR and financial policies. However, interviews revealed there were no further discussions, and other staff members were not included in the process of creating these policies.

The HR Policy, which included staff recruitment, performance management and benefits was presented to the organization by the two members in September 2016. As interviews with the organization members revealed, the director recognized the work of the two members in developing the policy but decided to postpone their implementation because they were not aligned with the practices of the organization or were duplicating other policies. The same situation occurred with the financial policy. The two members’ approach to developing these policies without consultation with the director and other members of the organization and without taking into consideration the other policies in the organization led to proposals that were not supported by the director and other organizational members. According to Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner (2012), decision-making processes in communitarian cultures take longer because they rely on “detailed consultations with all those concerned” (p. 77). The authors go on to say that if the group is “not consulted first, an initial ‘yes’ can easily become a ‘no’ later” (p. 77). This is precisely what occurred with the HR and financial policies. An initial “yes” during a discussion about creating those policies was not followed up with detailed consultations with all members of the organization. This led to a lack of buy-in from members of the organization based on their perceived misalignment with the needs of the organization. This sequence of processes was not a surprise given that going through large-scale change processes is a novelty for CBOs in Myanmar where leaders are not experienced in leading change and learning in their organizations.

The diffusion of learning as a driver of organizational change

Social learning processes facilitated the diffusion of learning in the organization in support of development and change processes. Social learning was evident in two distinct phases of the study participants’ experiences. Social learning in the first phase was described by the participants who were graduates of the certificate program or the program’s ToT. They often referred to their observations and the role modeling of the PYU-IRC instructors in these programs. Participants mentioned learning how to teach more effectively by observing and interacting more with the PYU-IRC instructors. One instructor in the organization described how she learned a new strategy to facilitate learning called a “problem tree” by observing how it was used in the PYU-IRC courses. She said:

Most of my teaching skills are also from the Payap course, like problem-solving skills […] before [the PYU-IRC certificate program] I would just do like a group discussion or a discussion as a class […] but it was not like writing down what is the problem or we didn’t draw a problem tree, so [the students] didn’t know what kinds of problems there are and also how they can solve those problems […] I like applying the problem tree because before I was taught in the Payap course, most of the time we used Powerpoint or only a document, so it seemed boring. But when we draw the problem tree it is like a virtual picture, and students are able to easily understand that the stem is the core problem, the roots are the causes of the problem, and the branch is the effects of the problem […] and we can write down what would be the problem and how we could solve those problems as well.

Their learning during this phase served as an antecedent to their continuous learning in the organization. Social learning in the second phase was observed during the four-week data collection period and described by members of the organization who did not participate in the certificate program or its ToT. Weekly staff meetings allowed staff members to observe and learn processes related to financial management, project management, problem-solving and leadership from those members who participated in the certificate program or its ToT. On Friday afternoons, members of the organization who participated in the certificate program organized noncurricular learning activities to foster staff-student interaction. During these activities, they role modeled student-centered learning facilitation styles. According to Bandura (1977), social learning through modeling incorporates four processes: attention, retention, reproduction and motivation. The author noted that “attentional processes determine what is selectively observed in the profusion of modeling influences to which one is exposed and what is extracted from such exposures” (p. 24). The level of attention is derived from the perceived stature and respect of the people who are role modeling. The fact that the members who participated in the certificate program had university certificates made them more respected as role models thus garnering the attention of others. This is reflective as well of the Myanmar context and the role that power distance played in the learning process. In high power distance cultures, teachers and those with pedagogical accolades such as university certificates were shown respect and listened to attentively by the other members of the organization (Hofstede, 1986). For retention to occur in social learning, observers must have enough exposure to models to “produce enduring, retrievable images of modeled performances” (Bandura, 1977, p. 25). Given the small size of this organization within a communitarian environment where people are often together, there were many opportunities for people who did not participate in the certificate program to interact daily with those who did. This interaction occurred in curricular settings like observations of other instructors’ classes and non-curricular settings such as the Friday afternoon activities. Observations showed that instructors who did not participate in the certificate program reproduced similar student-centered facilitation styles in their classrooms. As repetitive experiences are vital to the processes of social learning, communitarian environments with high levels of interaction (Trompenaars and Hampden-Turner, 2012) as observed in this organization are primed for social learning.

Members of the organization also described how they learned together to craft the vision and mission statement. Shteynberg and Apfelbaum (2013) ran experiments that showed that shared in-group attention, i.e. adults observing something “co-attended with one’s social group”, is particularly important for social learning (p. 739). This shared in-group attention was evidenced in this study through staff meetings when they envisioned the future of the organization together and where the members of the organization discussed the vision and mission of the organization. During these meetings, each member of the organization shared their own view for the future with supporting arguments informed by their own experiences and in specific cases by their own learning from the certificate program or ToT. Both the observations of these meetings and the descriptions of the meetings by the members of the organization showed how these collective observations contributed to their social learning. One member of the organization who did not participate in the PYU-IRC certificate program himself spoke about his learning from those who finished the certificate:

After they have done their training, sometimes they take the lead on how the organization should be or while they’re working they apply their knowledge, so during those times I can observe what kind of knowledge or what kind of work they are doing or implementing, so I can learn from them […] I can learn indirectly from them.

Although the changes initiated in this organization are still quite recent, there was already evidence of their outcome at the time of this study. The openness to diverse stakeholders and their perspectives incorporated in the vision and mission of the organization led to a larger student body with an increased number of students of diverse religious and cultural backgrounds. As the community has a broad representation of different religious and ethnic groups who typically do not interact among one another, these changes in the organizational mission led to social change in the community. Observations of classrooms in the organization also showed instructors’ approaches to student-centered learning, which are novel approaches in the Myanmar education context. The most evident output as a result of the development and change processes was a changing mindset of the members of the organization as it related to their students, the facilitation of learning, the inclusion of different perspectives in the content of their instruction and the potential for further change in the organization.

Implications for human resource development research and practice

The findings of this study are significant not only in the Myanmar context, but could also be transferrable to CBOs going through LSOC in contexts with similar economic, political and social issues as well as similar cultural value dimensions. In this case, the high power distance and communitarianism of the Myanmar context influenced social learning in the organization. Future studies looking at organizational change in CBOs in emerging economies with different cultural value dimensions could reveal similar and different social learning processes during large-scale change interventions.

As members of over 100 organizations in Myanmar and along the Thai-Myanmar border have participated in the certificate program, future research could investigate the impact of the certificate program on the learning and change processes of these organizations. Considering the variations of these CBOs and CBEs as it relates to their size, location, sector (e.g. agricultural, health care, education, human rights) and organization characteristics (e.g. self-sustaining or donor-dependent), this study could lead to a holistic understanding of learning and change processes in these organizations.

A longitudinal study of the alumni of the studied organization could contribute to the understanding of the impact of student-centered instructional methods and content presented from diverse perspectives on the alumni’s work and life trajectories and experiences, especially in a country where student-centered approaches and diverse perspectives are not part of the mainstream education system. Given the changes to inclusive policies and instruction related to valuing different perspectives in this organization, a study could seek to understand how these changes, if at all, impacted students’ learning and perceptions of others. Given the cultural richness of the region of Myanmar in which the organization in this study occurred and that of the over 100 organizations whose members participated in the certificate program, ethnographic studies conducted in these organizations could also contribute to the understanding of the impact of culture on the meaning-making process of the organization members’ experiences in the certificate program and its impact on their organizations. Studies of alumni could also reveal the role of collectivism and loyalty to one’s group, which is a hallmark of collectivist cultures (Hofstede et al., 2010).

This study has implications for HRD researchers who are planning to conduct studies in countries where field research is not a common occurrence and organizations are not used to researchers visiting them, observing their activities and interviewing their members. For example, building rapport in countries such as Myanmar, which are characterized by a communitarian culture, does not happen only through individual interactions with potential participants in the study but through collective engagement with the members of the organization where the study is conducted (e.g. playing sports, eating meals and participating in community activities). After the rapport is built with the members of the organization and trust is established, the next challenge is eliciting in-depth, reflective descriptions and stories from the members of the organization who are not used to being interviewed. In cases like this, multiple interviews over a period are recommended to engage the participants in discussions and guide them through a process of reflection. For example, in this study, it took four weeks to collect the data and several interviews in different settings to elicit the reflection of participants on the learning and change processes in the organization. This process could be complicated if the researcher does not know the mother tongue of the participants, and when the participants’ knowledge of the researcher’s language is not at a proficient level. In situations like this, the selection of and rapport built with an interpreter is essential. In the case of this study, the interpreter was selected based on his proficiency in both languages and his understanding of the concepts of learning and ODC. These concepts were further discussed with the interpreter both before and during data collection.

With regard to practice, this study shows the prevalence of social learning through observations and role modeling in the diffusion of learning in the organization as change and development processes were initiated. HRD professionals or professionals who are tasked with facilitating learning and change in community-based organizations similar to the one in this study should take into account the characteristics of the organization, political and economic factors that could impact the organization, and assess the knowledge and skills of members of the organization as they relate to learning and change processes to leverage them.

The approaches to learning and ODC processes found in this study could also provide a roadmap to the members of the organization for their future learning and change. As this is the first research study that includes the impact of the certificate program on the processes of learning, development and change in an organization that had several members participating in the program, these findings show the importance of role modeling learner-centered instruction by the PYU-IRC instructors in the certificate program. Thus, HRD professionals developing training and ToT programs related to learning and change in comparable contexts should consider creating high interaction environments where instructors can serve as role models for their participants. This, in addition to content that is relevant to the needs of the organizations, will allow for processes of continuous learning and change to meet the needs of community-based organizations such as the one in this study.


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Further reading

Knowles, M.S. (1980), The Modern Practice of Adult Education: From Andragogy to Pedagogy, Follett Publishing Company, Chicago, IL.

Leong, L. (2017), “Mobile Myanmar: the development of a mobile app culture in Yangon”, Mobile Media and Communication, Vol. 5 No. 2, pp. 139-160.

PYU-IRC (2014), “Scope of work (amended)”, Internal white paper, Chiang Mai, Thailand.

United Nations (2016), “List of least developed countries”, available at: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/policy/cdp/ldc/ldc_list.pdf

World Bank (2017), “Open data”, available at: https://data.worldbank.org/country/myanmar

Corresponding author

Oliver S. Crocco can be contacted at: olivercrocco@lsu.edu

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