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Organisational learning and change in a public sector context

It is broadly accepted that learning is important in supporting the delivery of change. Furthermore, during times of public sector budget cuts there is a growing interest in innovation and change. However, it is also generally accepted that austere times typically lead to a reduction in training and development budgets – particularly within the public sector. This paper explores the extent to which the assumed link between learning and change is contested during austerity. Fifty-one public sector managers from Wales and Scotland participated in the study, over a period of 13 months, from a wide range of public sector organisations across two devolved parts of the UK. The research explored issues surrounding motivations for learning, expectations of outcomes and perceptions around the drivers of change. It is found that public sector budget cuts are having a direct impact on learning and development opportunities across the UK public sector. Whilst budget cuts may lead to change, this is likely to be piecemeal rather than strategic. In conclusion, this research supports the view that austerity is a barrier to meaningful change in the public sector and not a driver.

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