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What can action learning offer a beleaguered system? A narrative representing the relationship

James Traeger (Mayvin Ltd, Brighton, UK)

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




This is an attempt to write an account of action learning that is as close to the ground on which it was practised as the author can make it. In that sense, the reader can read what follows below as a kind of autoethnography, a “representation as relationship” as Gergen and Gergen (2002, p. 11) call it. This is because in the opportunity of telling a story about his practice as an action learning facilitator, the author hopes to evoke that which is more akin to the contactful environment of quality action learning than any amount of abstract theorising.


This is an example of “narrative inquiry”, best judged, according to Sparkes (2002), in terms of the ability of such accounts to “contribute to sociological understanding in ways that, amongst others are self-knowing, self-respecting, self-sacrificing and self-luminous”.


As the author re-tells this partial account, he has a sense of the massive wider structures around him, but all he can see in his dim lamp is the fleeting glimpse of the local strata. The author traces his hand along the seams, not intending to dig them out, but simply to witness them, or even, in a spirit of yearning, to give them a witnessing of themselves.


To the author, this is about portraying what action learning feels like, rather than thinks like, for his own and for the benefit of other practitioners.



With thanks and acknowledgements to Paul Mulligan, Guys and St Thomas’ NHS Trust.


Traeger, J. (2017), "What can action learning offer a beleaguered system? A narrative representing the relationship", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 30 No. 2, pp. 129-137.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited

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