oa Journal of Education - The trade union as a learning organisation ? A case study of informal learning in a collective, social-action organisational context

Volume 39, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0259-479X



The �learning organisation� literature tends to take a narrow view of what constitutes an organisation, assuming that all organisations are guided by the logic of profitmaximization. Understandings of the learning organisation could be enriched by research into other kinds of organisation, particularly those that have primarily a social purpose. This paper critically examines processes of informal learning within a South African trade union. It draws on Situated Learning and Activity theories to illuminate these processes of learning in an organisational context which is collective and non-hierarchical in character, social-action oriented, and directed towards social change. It concludes that proponents of �the learning organisation� may have something to learn by studying the processes of learning in organisations which are social-action oriented and social purpose in nature. At the same time, however, a �learning organisation� is not simply the product of good design; its existence is subject to history and to shifting power relations both within and outside of organisations.

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