Organisational risk-learning: a case study of social care capital projects in Scottish local authorities

C. McCann, D. Asenova, S.J. Bailey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Risk literature in the public sector tends to be concerned with the development of risk management in relation to financial innovations and public policy making. This paper focuses on risk-learning in the management of Social Care capital projects financed by the Prudential Borrowing Framework (PBF). Despite the drive to integrate risk management into all aspects of local government operations, it appears that risk management is relatively novel within each local authority and is fragmented. Risk-learning appears to be limited to individuals with some indication of team-learning and to a lesser extent organizational learning. Whilst evidence suggests that a number of processes are in place to communicate risks at an organizational level, such system(s) do not tend to support ‘explicit’ as opposed to ‘implicit’ risk-learning from capital projects. The paper draws on 10 in-depth interviews with risk managers and senior management in Social Work departments across five Scottish local authorities. It proposes the development of risk processes, and a risk culture, whereby all levels of the organization are capable of challenging and dealing with emerging risks in capital projects underpinned by organizational learning (Senge, 1990; Argyris & Schon, 1975). Accordingly, in developing risk models local authorities should adopt similar effective risk practices and learn from previous project successes and failures to improve performance and outcomes for service delivery. Thus, this paper provides an analysis of risk management in social care capital projects within a framework of organizational learning.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-21
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Risk and Governance
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 13 Apr 2014


  • risk
  • public management
  • risk-learning
  • organisational learning


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