What is a Learning Agenda?
According to the Office of Management and Budget, a learning agenda is a set of broad questions directly related to the work that an agency conducts that, when answered, enables the agency to work more effectively and efficiently, particularly pertaining to evaluation, evidence, and decision-making. Once the questions are identified, a learning agenda also prioritizes and establishes a plan to answer short- and long-term questions of the highest value across relevant program and policy areas. The process for creating a learning agenda includes gathering stakeholders; reviewing the literature for what is already known about the topic; identifying and prioritizing the right questions to improve program effectiveness; developing a plan for answering those questions; implementing studies and analyses; involving key stakeholders; and acting on the findings through dissemination and diffusion of evidence around what works, for whom, and under what circumstances to program managers and agency leadership. Embedding collaboration, coordination, learning, and adaptation agency-wide can help maximize program results through evidence-based decision making.
A strong learning agenda approach should:
- Maximize results by helping agency and implementing partners learn more quickly and make iterative, timely course corrections;
- Reinforce the strategic direction of agency programs and policies by including learning in all parts of program design and implementation;
- Adapt programs as evidence and context shifts; and
- Help the agency, implementing partners, and others identify and focus on priorities to maintain and strengthen strategic direction.
- Remain flexible. Although the learning agenda may be formally updated on a particular timeline (e.g. once a year), it should not unnecessarily bind agencies or discourage new ideas and updates.
- Accommodate short and longer-term priorities and intentionally build evidence over time towards strategic objectives.