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Learning from environmental actors about environmental developments: the case of international organizations


  • Böhling, Kathrin


This article makes a case for viewing international governmental organizations (IOs) as corporate agents capable of learning. In doing so, it attempts to go beyond prevailing conceptions of IOs as means or settings for multilateral negotiation and bargaining. The proposed theoretical framework argues from an organizational learning perspective. By integrating notions from neo-institutionalism and policyanalysis it tries to capture the impact of IOs' publicness on learning processes. The focus is on IOs' relations with stakeholders and constituencies for the development and implementation of transboundary policies. These interactions are seen as a means to learn about external demands, expectations and expertise. Their impact on the internal dynamics in IOs tends to be of a dual nature: enhanced adaptability in its margins and buffering the organizational core from environmental fluctuations. Hence, some skepticism is appropriate in assessing IOs' capacity to engage in profound changes as a result of learning. It rests on the contention that the social constitution of the organization-environment nexus and its linkages with intraorganizational processes is of crucial importance for IOs' ability to learn about environmental changes and developments. Emphasis is placed on the contested and controversial nature of knowledge absorption and the limiting effect of administrative routines and procedures on IOs' absorptive capacity.

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  • Böhling, Kathrin, 2002. "Learning from environmental actors about environmental developments: the case of international organizations," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Organisation and Technology FS II 02-110, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:wzbotg:fsii02110

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Haas, Peter M., 1992. "Introduction: epistemic communities and international policy coordination," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 46(01), pages 1-35, December.
    2. Eising, Rainer, 2002. "Policy Learning in Embedded Negotiations: Explaining EU Electricity Liberalization," International Organization, Cambridge University Press, vol. 56(01), pages 85-120, December.
    3. Neunreither, Karlheinz & Wiener, Antje (ed.), 2000. "European Integration After Amsterdam: Institutional Dynamics and Prospects for Democracy," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198296409.
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    Cited by:

    1. Berthoin Antal, Ariane & Dierkes, Meinolf, 2002. "Organisationslernen und Wissensmanagement: Überlegungen zur Entwicklung und zum Stand des Forschungsfeldes," Discussion Papers, Research Unit: Organisation and Technology FS II 02-113, Social Science Research Center Berlin (WZB).

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