Know-who? Know-what? Know-how? : investigating learning in a multi-actor partnership for urban freight transport in the city of Gothenburg

University essay from Lunds universitet/LUCSUS

Abstract: People’s ability to learn holds a promise for sustainability as learning is seen to enable change; yet, the prevalence of norms and values in society that reinforce unsustainability may severely challenge this process. The debate on what role learning can play is centered around the question whether people can learn from others and if so, how to enhance it. More precisely, who has to learn what from whom if to achieve sustainability? This thesis takes a multi-actor partnership for urban freight transport in the city of Gothenburg as a case. The partnership consists of actors from the private sector, public sector, and academia. It was formed with the aim to further develop and implement mitigation options in urban freight transport. Through an EU funded project, individuals in Gothenburg engaged in an exchange of knowledge and experience between seven other European sites. Organizational learning through individual representatives was envisaged to further enhance the development and implementation of mitigation options on local scale. The aim of this thesis is to explore what factors influence individual, inter- and intra-organizational learning. I used a deductive approach based on learning theories. I developed an analytical framework to investigate the participants in the partnership (know-who), the content they share (know-what), and the process in which knowledge was shared and learning enhanced (know-how). Data was retrieved from a document analysis of the project reports, a qualitative online questionnaire, and semi-structured interviews. The overall findings show the relation between the individual participant and their organization influence what of the shared knowledge can be received and used. In this, the intent and ability of the corresponding organizations to learn can be influential factor. Further, even though information is available, acting on knowledge learned was shown to be more complex. Knowledge on urban freight transport is often connected to a specific geographical, political and infrastructural context which limits the transferability. However, creating a network between practitioners on a local scale supports a dialogue and can be the basis for a creating a common understanding. Finally, the application for learning as an analytical framework has been proven to be useful to provide an overview of the actors involved and the solutions that are introduced under the umbrella of achieving sustainable urban freight. This will give a foundation to further investigate the governance dimension of the partnership in regards to steering for sustainability and the specific mitigation options that are being introduced.

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