Jim Stewart and Graham Beaver
This book arose out of the ESRC funded Research Seminar Series on ‘HRD: the emerging theoretical agenda and empirical research’. The series itself was an initiative of the University Forum for HRD. The Forum had identified the practice of HRD in small organisations as both an underdeveloped and growing field of research and so one of the award holders of the ESRC grant and co-editor of this volume, Jim Stewart, organised a seminar on the subject. The papers presented at the seminar form the core of the book and are joined by additional contributions from leading researchers in the field, drawn from membership of the UFHRD.
In common with the other volumes in the Studies in HRD Series, the overall purpose of the book is to advance knowledge and understanding of the concept of HRD and its professional practice. Debate on the meaning of the concept continues to be vigorous (see McGoldrick et al. 2002) and so this volume does not impose or even reflect a single or unified definition. Neither does it reflect a single research paradigm. All of the chapters are based on recent or current research. However, there is diversity in the methodological assumptions informing the design of that research. The contributions therefore reflect the eclectic nature of HRD research and writing signalled and celebrated by McGoldrick et al. (2002). What is distinctive and important about the contributions is the common and unifying focus on small organisations. The latter term is a deliberate choice. The more commonly used term small and medium enterprises (SMEs) was rejected for three reasons. First, that term implies and is associated with organisations operating for profit in industrial and commercial sectors of the economy. By definition, this excludes the public and voluntary sectors, although it is recognised and acknowledged that the latter is likely to be most significant in terms of organisation size as a defining characteristic. The factor of size though is the second reason for rejecting the term SME. Various official agencies such as the European Commission and ministries of national governments provide and operate different definitions of SME based on numbers employed. This variety is reflected in the contributions to this volume. Our position as editors has been to accept the variety of definitions applied by the contributions. Finally, our view is that the term SME tends to emphasise and support the assumption of scaled down versions of large or larger organisations. In contrast, the term small organisations