Workplace Development Programmes as Institutional Entrepreneurs - Why They Produce Change and Why They Do Not

Tuomo Alasoini

Research output: ThesisDoctoral ThesisCollection of Articles


This dissertation examines strengths and weaknesses of workplace development programmes, as well as the ability of such programmes to produce broad-based and long-term learning effects and how this ability can be strengthened. The idea of workplace development programmes as institutional entrepreneurs forms the general framework of this study. The study builds on literature on analyses of workplace development strategies and programmes, the diffusion of innovations, learning networks, practice-performance links, and conditions for institutional and social change. The thesis comprises a summary and six research articles. The empirical data concern workplace development programmes in ten European and East Asian countries and regions and 16 learning network projects conducted during 2004-10 as part of the Finnish Workplace Development Programme TYKES. The research data comprise an analysis of the literature, benchmarking of development activities and semi-structured interviews and questionnaires. The philosophical cornerstone is pragmatic worldview, flavoured with ingredients of social constructivism. This study is conducted using qualitative strategies of inquiry and qualitative research methods. The scientific contributions relate to new knowledge that increases understanding of the nature of workplace development programmes, the context in which the programmes are conducted and their potential to act as agents of change. Using a revised version of a model developed by Naschold, the study reveals differences between the Nordic countries, other European countries and the East Asian countries and provides an explanation of their distinct patterns. In addition, the study produces a new, more realistic framework, inspired by neo-institutional theory and Geels and Schot's analysis of sociotechnical transitions, for analysing the possibility of working life change supported by workplace development programmes. Regarding policy contributions, this study constructs a framework for analysing the dynamics of development programmes, and describes the means by which a strategy utilizing learning networks can be implemented successfully. The framework, which perceives programmes as production and development systems, contributes to the understanding of critical success factors for programmes and the versatile nature of their outcomes. By making a distinction between two types of generativity, the study reveals the strengths and weaknesses of different modes of programme leadership for directing learning networks. The methodological contributions include the elaboration of the role of programme theories in cases of complex objects for intervention and the modifications made to the Naschold model.
Translated title of the contributionTyöelämän kehittämisohjelmat institutionaalisina yrittäjinä: miksi ne tuottavat muutosta ja miksi eivät
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor's degree
Awarding Institution
  • Aalto University
  • Vartiainen, Matti, Supervising Professor
  • Vartiainen, Matti, Thesis Advisor
Print ISBNs978-952-60-6626-4
Electronic ISBNs978-952-60-6625-7
Publication statusPublished - 2016
MoE publication typeG5 Doctoral dissertation (article)


  • development programme
  • institutional entrepreneurship
  • learning network
  • working life change
  • workplace development
  • workplace innovation


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