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Governance Learning: Building a Network around Managerial Innovations

Contingency, Behavioural and Evolutionary Perspectives on Public and Nonprofit Governance

ISBN: 978-1-78560-429-4, eISBN: 978-1-78560-428-7

Publication date: 6 November 2015



Actors of territories faced with new managerial innovations have to develop new knowledge and behaviours to seize these innovations and create a vision of the territory. This is part of what we call governance learning: the ability of individuals to create new knowledge and behaviour for collective action within the territory. The purpose of this chapter is to explore this concept.


Drawing from a case study of a periurban territory in France, we analyse how the board members of a Community of Communes can learn to work together, articulating organisational learning theories, actor-network theory and the concept of organisational myths.


We explore the enrolment process necessary to ‘build’ the network and interest them in using the innovation; identify three types of governance learning that turn the network into a collective: sensemaking, instrument-seizing and sensegiving; show how these myths are necessary to turn collective knowledge into organisational knowledge.

Research limitations/implications

With both a behavioural and evolutionary approach to governance, we show that power, relationships and learning processes are tightly intertwined within the governance networks. Our use of organisational learning theory also demonstrates how it can be used in a more systematic way to describe the learning processes witnessed in governance situations.


This research brings new light to the understanding of how territorial governance can be developed and how managerial innovations can provoke learning situations and more specifically how stakeholders learn to define common goals and a shared vision of their territory to enable collective action.




This work was supported by the French National Agency for Research under grant ‘ANR DAUME-2010-STRA-007-01’; by CIR under their incentive action programme and by ECOS-CONICYT under grant ‘C12H02’.


Vitry, C. and Chia, E. (2015), "Governance Learning: Building a Network around Managerial Innovations", Contingency, Behavioural and Evolutionary Perspectives on Public and Nonprofit Governance (Studies in Public and Non-Profit Governance, Vol. 4), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 275-302.



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