Manring S.L. 2007. Creating and managing inter-organizational learning networks to achieve sustainable ecosystem management. Organization Environment. 20(325)


This article demonstrates the explanatory and diagnostic power of applying the concepts of virtual learning networks to sustainable ecosystem management to guide stakeholders in learning, consensus building and collaborative decision making.

Geographic Focus: 


Key Findings: 

There is a growing mandate for collaborative stakeholder involvement in attempts toward sustainable ecosystem management. However, there has been limited analysis which explores the maturation of inter-organisational networks into learning organisations. An inter-organisational network model is explored within case studies in the Pennsylvania and North Carolina regions of the United States. The model is applied as an explanatory and diagnostic tool for assisting collective learning, consensus building and decision-making. It is pointed out that individual and organisational learning takes time, requires acceptance of set-backs, involves detailed negotiation and communication, and is based on respect for both the actors and the process. In spite of difficulties, the cases showed that through conscious commitment by network members to the process and to an emerging unified purpose, the culture of decision-making is transformed. A diagnostic checklist of questions is provided to help other practitioners with implementing the inter-organisational network model.


Through its specific focus on inter-organisational networks, this article applies a broader conceptualisation of a learning organisation than is normally applied. This presents an opportunity to view the learning organisation from an alternative perspective. It also provides various insights that are useful for adaptive organisational learning across broader scales. The diagnostic checklist of questions generated toward the end of the article represents simple evaluation criteria that could be used to assess specific capacities important to an adaptive learning organisation