An analysis of the learning relationships amongst micro-firm owner/managers and stakeholders in a small-firm learning network in the Irish tourism sector
Reinl, Leana (2008) An analysis of the learning relationships amongst micro-firm owner/managers and stakeholders in a small-firm learning network in the Irish tourism sector. Masters thesis, Waterford Institute of Technology.
This thesis reports the findings from an action research project carried out over a two year period, exploring micro-firm owner/manager learning in a small-firm learning network in the Irish tourism sector. Learning networks are cited in contemporary literature as a key means for creating and sustaining competitive advantage in micro-firms. Specifically, national and international research studies acknowledge the importance of micro-firm network-centred learning in the tourism sector, where an integral part of this learning process is the network of relationships participants cultivate through involvement in formal learning programmes of this nature. Despite their importance in the context of small business development, networks have traditionally been relatively neglected as an area of academic study. This thesis commences with a comprehensive review of literature relating to micro-firm learning, outlining a range of unique features and influences on learning in this environment. The influence that participation in a learning network has on micro-firm owner/manager learning is then considered. The primary research focuses on the south and south east County Based Tourism Learning Network (CBTLN). This initiative is facilitated by Fáilte Ireland and Waterford Institute of Technology and is the learning catalyst in the context of this study. The adopted research methodology is preceded by a review of alternative research methods. The motivations and rationale for adopting an interpretive stance are discussed before the rationale for choosing an action research approach is outlined. The key contribution of this research is the development of a framework for micro-firm owner/manager learning in a learning network environment. Adopting an action research methodology, the author sought to establish, catalogue and analyse the learning relationships amongst micro-firm owner/managers and stakeholders within a small-firm learning network. The thesis concludes by providing an outline of the study‟s contribution to knowledge and its research limitations. Finally recommendations for future research are outlined.