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Research Domain: Group Five - Informal Learning in Different Workplaces

Title of Project: New Forms of Social Learning for Those Outside the Mainstream Labour Market

Start Date: April 1, 1997
Academic Co- Investigators: Dr. E. Schragge (McGill U.), Dr. Jean-Marc Fontan (UQAM), Dr. Roxana Ng (OISE/UT)
Partner Co-Investigator: Dr. Kathryn Church (761 CDC)
Student Researchers: Anne O'Connell (McGill), Peter MacDougall (McGill), Jeannie Samuel (McGill)

The focus of our NALL project is the informal learning in community/union organizations that work with people excluded from the labour market. The research sites have different approaches to the problem. The psychiatric survivor groups have set up alternative businesses for their community. UNITE is working with the government funded labour adjustment programs, and training-businesses in Montreal incorporate a training program for those who are unemployed within a community run business. We are less concerned with the formal outcomes of the processes-the business development or whether or not participants are able to find jobs, but with the informal learning and the related social processes. We are interested in the learning that takes place in the setting that is shaped by the sociopolitical culture of the organizations. In all of these sites, there is immediate concern about either preparation for entry into the labour market or the creation of an alternative labour market (psychiatric survivors). At the same time each of these organizations is involved in social processes with groups of people who have been excluded from the labour market. We are primarily interested in these social processes and the impact that they have on participants in the programs or businesses. These, we would describe as informal social learning, and are linked to such issues as personal and political identification, citizenship, participation, and the building of networks of social solidarity.

Our approach to research begins with examining the wider contexts in which these organizations work. This context is the specific economic and social development of Montreal and Toronto, and more specifically, the traditions of community-based organizations. (Note- UNITE is a union but in its practice in working with those who have lost their jobs, it is similar to community organization working with the unemployed.) The next stage to describe the organizations themselves. Finally, field observation and interviews will be used to look at the informal learning of participants.


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