The professional commitment of practitioners in a changing society requires them to continuously acquire new professional knowledge. Since robust and relevant knowledge is often in short supply, practitioners must learn to acquire the knowledge they need. Similarly, social agencies must become institutions that support the use of available knowledge and the development of practice innovations. Organizational learning is a means of engaging in this process. This implies that social agencies both adopt an organizational culture and create structural arrangements conducive to learning. In order to successfully create such a culture and structure, it is first important to understand the philosophical, conceptual, and methodological underpinnings of organizational learning as a strategy for guiding practitioners and organizations in a systematic endeavor to invent and manage knowledge. In addition a methodology for the application of organizational learning in social services is essential to practical application. The use of organizational learning methods to drive innovation and knowledge management has been applied in a varied spectrum of social work practice areas and social welfare agencies.
Yekutiel Sabah and Patricia Cook-Craig
David P. Moxley
Through cycles of systematic and purposeful iterative engagement with problems they face in specific practice settings, social workers engaging in action research build knowledge that is useful in advancing practice for the purposes of social betterment. This entry situates action research in the development of social-work knowledge and then examines variants of action research formed when degrees of participation and control vary among members of vulnerable populations, particularly within community situations involving coping with a degraded quality of life. The author identifies the importance of methodological pluralism and addresses how sound action research results in knowledge dissemination and utilization for the purposes of social betterment, often through alternative methods of inquiry. The entry concludes with caveats social workers engaged in action research should heed, and the author emphasizes the pivotal role social work can serve in local efforts to engage in knowledge development for social betterment.