The analysis and understanding of cross European project work: towards a grounded theory of collaboration.
University of Southampton, Research and Graduate School of Education,
Summary: I was commissioned in 1994 by the European Commission to lead a project that would produce distance learning materials on cancer education for post-basic nurses across the European Union. In facilitating the process with a group representing eleven countries I adopted an approach based on democracy, participation and experiential learning. The process was researched using grounded theory and aimed to discover the conditions required for collaborative working within the EU and with applications to other settings.
The early chapters reflect both the concerns for the project and the interrelated but separate issues of research method and methodology. Regarding the former the original aims and commitments are set against the constraints imposed by funding and budgeting issues, translation difficulties and the challenges presented by dissemination. The context in which the research arose is given within a brief history of the project, set against the background in which this and similar projects were being funded by the Commission during the early 1990s. A review of the technical literature focuses on the Commission's own evaluations of public health projects in the first two action phases 1990 - 2000 and the subsequent adaptations to funding criteria from lessons learned.
The embeddedness of the research within the project implementation creates complexities that are addressed first by a number of narratives that seek to elucidate antecedents. Brief auto/biographies underpin and provide a rationale for the development of the methodology that informed the implementation of the project. Narratives provide the platform for the ensuing exploration of foreshadowed problems that led to theoretical sensitivity.
The case is made for the adoption of grounded theory methodology, acknowledging the procedural as well as epistemological challenges this poses. Later chapters track the development of the emerging theory by providing thick description about the data, its collection and analysis, as the techniques progress from open coding to explicit theory
formation. Early themes deriving from theoretical sensitivity are re-assessed and some original concepts earn their way into the theory whilst others are rejected or transformed.
The formal expression of the necessary conditions for collaborative project working in the EU is synthesised in chapter 12 in which the proposition is made for a theory of Facilitative Leadership. The case is made for a substantive theory that approaches multi area formality through its wider applicability across similar settings.
The dissonance created for the social scientist in choosing to adopt the original model of grounded theory in its entirety is pervasive throughout the thesis. This theme is addressed explicitly in the closing chapter, in which the major elements of both the project and the research are re-assessed.
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