The concept of learning organisations is gaining prominence in the non-profit sector. Most organisations see the concept as a means of attaining organisational change for greater impact on development. While the principles of organisational learning (i.e. team learning, shared vision, common goal, and strategy) seem to have produced impressive results in the private sector and some non-profit organisations, the question is whether these principles can be adopted with similar results in complex bilateral programmes. This article explores this question in relation to a programme between the Dutch and Kenyan governments in Keiyo Marakwet, Kenya. It analyses the process of institutionalising participation as both a learning and a conflict-generating process. In the highly politicised context of bilateral programmes, learning is not necessarily carried forward from one phase to the next due to rapid changes in actors, national politics, diplomatic considerations, and the international development agenda.
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