Exploring carbon reduction through tales of vision, chance and determination: developing learning histories in an inter-organisational context

  • Margaret Gearty

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisPhD


In this work, the action research approach called learning history is being taken from its traditionally single organisation setting and into a field of local government organisations to address how a meaningful response to climate change might be accelerated through the connection of human experiences and situated learning. This thesis describes the development of what I now call “learning history in an open system” and explores the practice of it, its form, its scope and its potential for facilitating learning across a field. The inquiry brings narrative and participative approaches together with learning history to articulate a fresh methodological approach that has relevance for learning in any field of connected organisations. The thesis is itself presented as a layered learning and innovation journey reflecting in its form the subject of the research. The subject of the study is technology-related innovation for carbon reduction. Five breakthrough low carbon projects from local government are featured. By creating learning histories of these projects the question of what it is to innovate has been explored, both narratively and analytically, not from a distance but from within the messy, uncertain human experience of change. The resulting picture, and one that is echoed in the journey of the research, is that of fallible humans innovating together with tenacity and vision in the face of shifting agendas and changing fortunes. The proposal is that innovation occurs in the micro-practice of the mundane moment, in well-timed ‘different moves’ involving non-heroic actors embedded with each other and with technology. The role of technology in this picture is explored and it is proposed this is a perspective that complements and challenges current models of sociotechnical transition in an interesting way. It is by continuously expanding the narrative, theoretical and practical scope of this work, that a meaningful action research response to the ‘big issue’ of climate change has been sought.
Date of Award1 Jun 2009
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorPeter Reason (Supervisor)

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