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Reupold, Andrea (2009): Learning Network Management: An Analysis of the Network Manager’s Learning Experiences in Germany’s Learning Regions. Dissertation, LMU München: Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences
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Abstract

Social networks are regarded as powerful resources that have available novel solutions, innovative ideas and can create new pathways. Networks exist as informal webs of affiliation between individuals and also as ties between organisations in the form of professional networks. These different forms of networks have in common that there is a social structure that connects particular agents with each other and enables the flow of information and knowledge between them. Thus, in creating new ties and connecting already existing networks/individuals/organisations, a richer structure is created and with it access options to novel knowledge. The exchange and combination of knowledge is a means for creating innovations. The national initiative “Learning Regions – Providing Support for Networks” (2001-2008) fostered this macro-structural change process in Germany on a regional level, so that a new learning culture and with it innovative products and ideas could emerge. An underlying concept for this programme is the theory on ‘learning organisations’ (Senge et al. 2007) which is referred to concerning the interpretation of the data. Moreover, in order also to focus on the associated change processes, the guiding theoretical elaborations of Scharmer’s “Theory U” are applied to the findings. In this thesis the data gathered during the evaluation of this initiative are re-analysed with the research focus on particular social role inhabitants in networks: network managers. Based on a combination of survey and network data as well as expert interviews, the structural position and the resulting perspectives, perceptions and role learning processes are explored. By means of interpreting the findings, the thesis illustrates a developmental role-taking process for network managers with five stages along a U-curve. Thus, it becomes evident that the above described structural changes of interaction and knowledge flows are accompanied by deep change and the acquisition of certain skills. These skills are identified for example as a high tolerance for complexity and uncertainty, a “bridging capacity”, an awareness of tie structures, a high level of personal mastery and the capacity to act skilfully in interdependent structures and perceive himself or herself as part of a larger system. Network management is recognized as a service function that needs to be filled in professional educational networks. In the networks of the learning regions, network managers are inclined to act as societal change agents and social entrepreneurs who try to induce a process of conscious co-evolution within a defined region.