Little is known about how governments learn best or what exactly makes them change their behavior in a targeted way. Governments consist of thousands of state officials and numerous institutional units—the executive branch, parliaments, the judiciary, and the civil service—which
function under unique political conditions and environments. Experience has shown that they learn differently than individuals and/or organizations do. Governmental learning is considered a complex and hard-to-conceptualize matter; it must address many cultural, political, religious, and social
particularities; psychological barriers; and practical constraints that might hinder or even prevent learning at all.The Black Box of Governmental Learning introduces the Learning Spiral, a new concept for organizing effective learning events for governments. The Learning Spiral — a
heuristic and multidisciplinary concept — rests on the assumption that knowledge in public governance is never final and needs to be updated continuously by all the actors involved. The didactic approach of the Learning Spiral is based on an analysis of past and current experiences of
how governments learn, the particular knowledge they learn, and how knowledge gets created and transferred to the learners. It further takes into account particularities of different governmental models; contemporary theories of policy analysis, economics, history, pedagogy, and sociology;
and individual, organizational, and governmental learning approaches.The Learning Spiral has been developed over the past decade through an ongoing dialectical process, where an original theory-based concept was applied in practice, reviewed, and subsequently reapplied in subsequent events.
Therefore, it was repeated on an ongoing basis in numerous events held in developed and developing countries all over the world, with thousands of participants from all levels of governments and nongovernmental organizations.