Author: Kristin Opaas Haugli
(PhD student at the University of Gothenburg, dept. of Sociology and Work Science, (2019-2022), an employment-based PhD-project funded by the Research Council of Norway’s public sector PhD-program. The research project “Tacit knowledge among employees in a Foreign National Prison” aims to visualize the tacit dimension in working with foreign nationals only in Kongsvinger prison. Kristin Opaas Haugli has been working as resettlement coordinator at Kongsvinger prison since 2015. She also has experience from different prisons and probation in Norway in addition to senior adviser at the staff academy, University College of Norwegian Correctional Service. In 2005-2014 she was head of the secretariat for program accreditation in Norway.)
Since 2013, Kongsvinger prison has been the only Foreign National Prison in Norway, so far one in four in Europe. The inmates, women (capacity 20) and men (capacity 120) from about 70 different nations, are to either be expelled from Norway or transferred to their home country for serving the remaining part of their prison sentence. Experience shows that there are huge challenges regarding communication with the inmates due to many different languages and culture differences. Methods and solutions are not documented but are lived by the employees in everyday work with the inmates. There is limited research on methodological work with this target group.
Tacit knowledge as described by Polanyi (1966) is characterized by the fact that it is unconscious, abstract and difficult to express. “We can know more than we can tell”. Kongsvinger prison has established an employment based PhD project to visualize tacit knowledge, methods and new knowledge useful to the entire organization. The objective of the study is:
“What is the tacit dimension in working with foreign nationals only in Kongsvinger prison?
How is tacit knowledge expressed, how do employees share their knowledge, in what arenas, and how can making tacit knowledge visible affect the learning environment in the organization?”
The study will follow a qualitative, longitudinal design. The material will be collected through interviews with the prison staff before and after participation in Livspondus, which is a group-based dialogue method that Kongsvinger prison is implementing in 2019-2020. Livspondus aims to visualize, guard and spread tacit knowledge. This dialogue method also becomes part of the collection of empirical data to gain knowledge of the tacit dimension, document how reflection skills develop and what kind of tacit knowledge is linked to working with the target group.
The overall goal of this project is to study how professionals with general education acquire knowledge about working with a new target group when sources of explicit knowledge are limited. If successful, this may provide new methodological approaches, not only with regard to the employees within the correctional services, but also to other occupations and labour market sectors.
Polanyi, M. (1966). The Tacit Dimension, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul