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Community Contribution

Learning: Four Reasons Why It Should Matter to You and Organizational Leaders

Mar 21, 2016
Monalisa Salib

As our name implies, we here at LEARN love learning. But why does it really matter? We ask ourselves that question continuously and have found, in asking others as well, there are four key arguments worth sharing:


In a nutshell, “Learning matters because it empowers us all to make better decisions and achieve greater impact.” If we gain relevant knowledge about our programs, sectors, and operating contexts, we can use that knowledge to make wiser decisions. Others working on similar interventions or in similar contexts can as well. This ultimately enables us to continuously improve and leads to better development.

Shelia Jackson from FSN/TOPS

Shelia Jackson, TOPS/FSN
“Learning matters because it empowers us all to make better development decisions and achieve greater impact.”


This argument is a bit more nuanced. Learning can actually slow things down. We need to carry out assessments, evaluations, collect monitoring data, reflect with stakeholders and local communities, and synthesize all that we learn into something usable for decision-making. So no one is debating that it takes time and resources.

But on the flipside, if we are spending years implementing the wrong intervention or using the wrong approaches, how much of our time and resources are we wasting? And if we come to realize, only years later, that we reinvented a wheel that already existed and failed to function, how much time, energy, and money could we have been saving and putting towards something with greater promise?

Courtney Calvin USAID LEARN        Maciej Chmielewski, USAID LEARN  

Left: Courtney Calvin, USAID LEARN, "Learning matters because the wheel has already been invented."
Right: Maciej Chmielewski, USAID LEARN, "Learning matters because stupid is more expensive."


What made you excited about coming to work today? I’m guessing it wasn’t the four page memo you had to write explaining your lost receipt. It is the discipline of development that pulled us in and keeps us around. So wouldn’t we be a happier and more engaged workforce if we spent more time grappling with the tough questions and strengthening our discipline?

Image of person holding "Learning Matters because..." sign

(l-r): Karishma Patel & Kat Cooley, DAI and Monalisa Salib, USAID LEARN
"Learning matters because...if I stop learning, am I really living?"


This last one is related to how we see ourselves and the world in which we live. If we recognize that there is so much we have yet to understand about the contexts in which we work, how change happens, and how best to go about achieving results, we see a clear need for institutionalizing curiosity in our organizations. There is always another question, but how can we go about answering those questions without systematic, intentional, and resourced approaches to learning?

Melissa Patsalides, USAID/PPL

Melissa Patsalides, USAID/PPL, "Learning matters because we don't know everything."

woman holding sign

Suzanne Polak, USAID/RDMA
“Learning matters because there is always another question.”

woman holding sign 
Lauren Leigh Hinthorne, USAID/PPL
“Learning matters because there is so much that we do not understand (yet).”