nep-ppm New Economics Papers
on Project, Program and Portfolio Management
Issue of 2008‒05‒17
three papers chosen by
Arvi Kuura
Parnu College - Tartu University

  1. Social Learning Through Evaluation: from Evidence Based Management to Collective Action for Complex Problems By Thomas G. Measham
  2. Communities of Practice and Virtual Learning Communities: Benefits, barriers and success factors By Fontainha, Elsa; Gannon-Leary, Pat
  3. Corporate Social Responsibility Through an Economic Lens By Forest L. Reinhardt; Robert N. Stavins; Richard H. K. Vietor

  1. By: Thomas G. Measham (CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Australia)
    Abstract: The role of evaluation in environmental management in Australia tends to be limited to restricted measures of program effectiveness rather than contributing towards supporting environmental managers in addressing complex environmental problems. This paper shows how a social learning approach can be incorporated into evaluating public investment in environmental management dealing with the complex environmental challenges which are inherently difficult to understand, predict and manage. The paper draws on a case study of salinity management amongst a Landcare group in the wheatbelt region of Western Australia. In this region, there are major knowledge barriers impeding salinity management which are being addressed through a program of participatory trials driven by local landholders linked to research partners and government funding. The research presented in this paper focused on evaluating this innovative initiative and tracking its impact through its design, implementation and monitoring phases. The paper shows that, by incorporating social learning principles and some additional practical elements, program evaluation can promote collective action and critical reflection which can assist individuals and communities to respond to complex problems.
    Keywords: Salinity, participation, capacity building, uncertainty, monitoring
    JEL: H43
    Date: 2008–05
  2. By: Fontainha, Elsa; Gannon-Leary, Pat
    Abstract: A virtual Community of Practice (CoP) is a network of individuals who share a domain of interest about which they communicate online. The practitioners share resources (for example experiences, problems and solutions, tools, methodologies). Such communication results in the improvement of the knowledge of each participant in the community and contributes to the development of the knowledge within the domain. A virtual learning community may involve the conduct of original research but it is more likely that its main purpose is to increase the knowledge of participants, via formal education or professional development. Virtual learning communities could have learning as their main goal or the elearning could be generated as a side effect. Virtual communities of practice (CoPs) and virtual learning communities are becoming widespread within higher education institutions (HEIs) thanks to technological developments which enable increased communication, interactivity among participants and incorporation of collaborative pedagogical models, specifically through information communications technologies (ICTs) They afford the potential for the combination of synchronous and asynchronous communication, access to -and from- geographically isolated communities and international information sharing. Clearly there are benefits to be derived from sharing and learning within and out with HEIs. There is a sense of connectedness, of shared passion and a deepening of knowledge to be derived from ongoing interaction. Knowledge development can be continuous, cyclical and fluid. However, barriers exist in virtual CoPs and these are defined by the authors and illustrated with quotes from academic staff who have been involved in CoPs.Critical success factors (CSFs) for a virtual CoP are discussed. These include usability of technology; trust in, and acceptance of, ICTs in communication; a sense of belonging among members; paying attention to cross-national and cross-cultural dimensions of the CoP; shared understandings; a common sense of purpose; use of netiquette and user-friendly language and longevity. The authors recognise the enormous potential for the development of CoPs through e-mail discussion lists and discussion boards but have themselves experienced the difficulties inherent in initiating such a community. These are corroborated and illustrated with text from interviews with academic staff. Much of the literature on CoPs emanates from outside Europe, despite the fact that e-learning articles have a large diffusion around Europe. The authors suggest further exploration of this topic by identifying and studying CoPs and virtual learning communities across EU countries.
    Keywords: Communities of practice; collaborative; informal learning; interactivity; usability; e-learning
    JEL: A20 Z13
    Date: 2008
  3. By: Forest L. Reinhardt; Robert N. Stavins; Richard H. K. Vietor
    Abstract: Business leaders, government officials, and academics are focusing considerable attention on the concept of "corporate social responsibility" (CSR), particularly in the realm of environmental protection. Beyond complete compliance with environmental regulations, do firms have additional moral or social responsibilities to commit resources to environmental protection? How should we think about the notion of firms sacrificing profits in the social interest? May they do so within the scope of their fiduciary responsibilities to their shareholders? Can they do so on a sustainable basis, or will the forces of a competitive marketplace render such efforts and their impacts transient at best? Do firms, in fact, frequently or at least sometimes behave this way, reducing their earnings by voluntarily engaging in environmental stewardship? And finally, should firms carry out such profit-sacrificing activities (i.e., is this an efficient use of social resources)? We address these questions through the lens of economics, including insights from legal analysis and business scholarship.
    JEL: L51 M14 Q50
    Date: 2008–05

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