The Danish Model and the Globalizing Learning Economy – Lessons for developing countries


Social capital and interactive learning



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4. Social capital and interactive learning


In the US-dominated literature trust has been presented as rooted in civil society and the frequency of participation in civic activities have been used as indicator of ‘social capital’. It has been argued that big government and big public sectors undermine civil society and thereby also social capital. The Scandinavian experience shows that the growth in the welfare state has not reduced the participation in civic organizations and that levels of trust are much higher in the Scandinavian countries than in countries with smaller states. Especially there is a strong correlation between general (rather than selective) social welfare programs and generalized



trust. In general we can observe that there is a positive correlation between income equality and the degree of trust.



According to the European Social Survey trust among agents seems to be consistently higher in Denmark than in most other countries (see Table 1) and combined with the small size of the system it results in a high degree of interaction among agents both within and across organizations. This gives rise not only to low ‘transaction costs’ but more importantly to processes of interactive learning where new insights about technologies and good organizational practices are diffused rapidly and at low ‘learning costs’. While the Danish innovation system, until recently was rather weak in terms of its production of codified knowledge through its R&D-efforts it has been highly successful in terms of learning by doing, learning by using and learning by interacting.

Table 1: Index of trust in 14 European countries based upon the European Social Survey





2002

2004

2006

Danmark

7,2

7,0

7,2

Finland

6,7

6,7

6,7

Norway

6,8

6,8

6,9

Sweden

6,4

6,3

6,5

France

5,0

5,1

5,1

UK

5,3

5,3

5,6

Germany

5,2

5,2

5,2

Netherlands

5,9

6,0

6,0

Belgium

5,2

5,2

5,4

Ireland

5,7

6,0

5,6

Austria

5,3

5,5

5,4

Spain

5,0

5,0

5,3

Hungary

4,5

4,3

4,5

Switzerland

5,9

6,1

6,1

In the European Social Survey, respondents are asked the two questions (Do you trust most people? and Do you think that most people would take advantage of you if they got the chance?) with degrees between 1-10. The index above gives the average response.

The high frequency of interaction is reflected both in industrial networking and in the patterns of work organization. Table 2 illustrates that innovating Danish firms are more engaged in collaboration with both customers and competitors than the average for Europe. In Table x we indicate that employees are more engaged in ‘discretionary learning’ than they are in other countries with the exception of Netherlands.






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