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The genie in the learning organisation? The experience of using multi-level action learning at the Leadership Foundation

Louise Clifton (Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, London, UK)
Paul Gentle (Leadership Foundation for Higher Education, London, UK)

International Journal of Public Leadership

ISSN: 2056-4929

Article publication date: 11 May 2015




The purpose of this paper is to examine the working practices and outcomes of an action research project in a specialist organisation engaged in the field of leadership development. The intention of the project was to enable the company involved to become a stronger learning organisation at a time when it was developing a future strategy.


The paper uses a case study approach to describe and analyse a three-stage process involving the use of a focus group, organisational climate survey and voluntary action learning sets. Interviews with participants are analysed thematically in order to assess the impact of the action research project on the organisation’s culture.


Participation by the majority of the Leadership Foundation’s staff in action learning and related opportunities for feedback within the organisation helped move its culture towards wider participation in strategy development and a whole organisation approach to working. Other organisations wishing to build collaborative working cultures can learn from the implications of the project, particularly those concerning the need to attend to the intended outcomes of action learning and the role of skilled, critical facilitators in action learning processes.


The paper is innovative in that it explores practitioner-led action research work in a setting of leadership and organisational development. It will interest leaders and managers who seek to build learning organisations, as well as organisational developers with an interest in enhancing the impact of action learning.



The authors would like to thank staff at the Leadership Foundation for Higher Education for the support and enthusiasm that they have given throughout the project, and providing the space and time to spend on researching and writing the paper.


Clifton, L. and Gentle, P. (2015), "The genie in the learning organisation? The experience of using multi-level action learning at the Leadership Foundation", International Journal of Public Leadership, Vol. 11 No. 2, pp. 66-76.



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