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Organizing after Crisis

The Challenge of Learning


Edited By Nathalie Schiffino, Laurent Taskin, Céline Donis and Julien Raone

How do actors organize after crisis? Do they «simply» return to normal? The post-crisis phase is anything but a linear process. Actors and their practices may be transformed by learning from crises and by implementing the lessons.
In this volume, 19 contributors from 7 countries analyse how learning happens after crisis in a dynamic political environment where framings, strategies, discourses, interests and resources interact. Exploring various policy sectors, they ask whether and in what ways organizations in charge of crisis management perform well. Where political responsibility is located? What changes do lessons trigger at political, organizational and individual levels? The book answers these questions by addressing issues like blame and responsibility but also the influence of communication, social dynamics and the institutional environment.
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Chapter 10: Organizational and policy learning. Post crisis assessments


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Organizational and policy learning

Post crisis assessments


North Carolina State University, USA


Accidents and disasters may serve as opportunities for organizational and policy learning. Comparing policies and practices that existed before these focusing events with what followed them can reveal event-driven learning by providing an opportunity for highlighting existing organizational and policy failures (Birkland, 2009; Comfort, 2005; Deverell, 2009). Deverell even goes as far as calling a crisis a “learning trigger” (p. 179). However, it is unclear if the reports following a crisis actually demonstrate either organizational learning or policy learning.

These reports are known by many different names, including “lessons-learned reports,” “after action reviews,” or similar terms. Presumably, these reports are reflective of efforts to address the gaps between promised and actual performance in a disaster. Comfort (2005) states, “after action reviews represent a method of organizational learning” (p. 344). From an organizational learning perspective, this seems sensible. However, Birkland (2009) doubts these after-action efforts’ ability to accurately represent anything more than “single-loop learning” (Argyris, 1999) about narrow policy interventions, while Boin et al. (2005) highlight how crisis research is undecided whether or not crises can serve as a promotion for learning and change or as a hindrance. It is therefore worthwhile to understand the relationship between crises and organizational and policy learning.

The purpose of this chapter is to understand...

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