BOX 4.1 The Learning Organization
Drug abuse treatment programs are not the only corporate entities struggling for survival. Demands for change affect large and small organizations in all settings. For the past decade, chief executive officers and managers have found guidance for corporate change in Peter Senge’s concept of the learning organization, as described in The Fifth Discipline: The Art & Practice of the Learning Organization (Senge, 1990). Senge defines learning in organizations as “the continuous testing of experience, and the transformation of that experience into knowledge—accessible to the whole organization and relevant to its core purpose.” The testing of experience is the essence of the experimental method. Treatment programs that follow this model will be comfortable linking research and practice.
not impossible, to implement in their situations. Consequently, bridging the two perspectives by linking research and practice may improve the relevance of research and the effectiveness of treatment and, ultimately, the viability of treatment programs.
This integration of practice and research is not without its own challenges. On the one hand, the linkage between treatment organizations and research institutions is neither uniform (there are different types of linkages possible) nor universal (not all CBOs will benefit from a relationship with the research enterprise). On the other hand, the direct benefits of research participation may include staff enhancement and development, as well as financial support for direct and indirect expenses of the research. In addition, programs and consumers may benefit indirectly from access to "leading edge" services and technologies, consumer empowerment, and support for developing an organizational culture and structure that would enhance long-term competitive position.
As in any partnership, it is important to clarify the expectations of the potential partners (see Box 4.2). As these questions asked by a program director illustrate, a research project has the potential to become a hidden cost to the treatment provider. Costs of research participation should be covered by research funds. There should be additional benefits for program staff such as access to emerging clinical issues, enhanced opportunities for professional training, and improved information and quality assurance systems. In some cases the opportunity for staff education could extend beyond training, to access to a degree or other credentialing programs offered by a research partner organization. Treatment agencies invited to collaborate with academic research centers should explore the possibility of negotiating tuition remission benefits or a specific number of credit hours (equivalent in value to the costs incurred) for staff development. Other