2001FRANCECSCA GAMBAROTTO, MARCO RANGONE, STEFANO SOLARI
Collective learning A systemic framework And Some evidence from two local systems
Despite the acquired popularity, the concept of collective learning (CL) remains rather unspecified theoretically as well as poorly investigated empirically. On the one hand, the theorisation of processes of learning in systems larger than the individual poses some conceptual difficulties that reside chiefly in the connection between logical levels (the individual, the organisation, the system). On the other hand, applied work has looked at indicators that proxy channels and performance but has neglected the process by which learning occurs. The definition of CL adopted here is that of a "co-ordinated change of competencies", a structural change allowing for an adaptation of the economy to its context by the acquisition of new knowledge. Accordingly, the concept of CL is seen here as both the process of improving productive capabilities and co-ordination schemes among actors. The focus is therefore how individual competencies are transformed into a co-ordinated system of division of labour. The aim is to single out and describe which collective dynamics favour (or inhibit) the development processes of local economic systems. We introduce a theoretical framework for understanding CL, based on the concept of competencies and compatible with empirical investigation. Following the milieu innovateur field of studies, the main assumption is that structured relationships among actors are the crucial variable for understanding economic co-ordination. The content of the empirical work carried out in two italian districts (the spectacles and sportshoes production systems in the Northeast of the country) follows the theoretical background. First, we analyse how competencies change. Secondly, how this affects the structure of relations among firms is inspected. Results from univariate and bivariate statistics are reported. Third, the role of formal and informal institutions in regulating those changes is taken into account. A correspondence analysis is carried out to find out structured pattern of behaviour of different types of firms.