On June 26, 2010, during the annual meeting of program
directors from the AHRQ-funded Institutional Health Services Research Training
Programs (T32 programs), the group discussed the idea of working more closely
together. A rich discussion followed, and several ideas surfaced regarding how
to share collective knowledge and experience in ways that would build a greater
capacity to connect across programs. At the end of the meeting a group of 18
training directors volunteered to be part of an informal conversational study
group that would explore how to create more connections among programs and
transfer program knowledge and experiences more effectively. A request for
proposals (RFP) to support this initiative was issued by AHRQ, and Professional
and Scientific Associates (PSA) was hired by the Agency to manage the logistics
of the study group that would culminate in a draft white paper to be discussed
at the June 2011 Annual AHRQ T32 Program Directors' Meeting in Seattle.
In January 2011, an informal working group of 18 program directors,
assisted by Brenda Harding from AHRQ and staff from PSA, began to explore
establishing a learning collaborative across the 28 AHRQ-funded T32 programs
(Appendix A). Participants agreed that a survey was needed to understand the
unique needs, preferences, and challenges of AHRQ training programs with
respect to developing ways to help each other.
Responses came from 10 of the 18 surveyed training institutions.
In total, 24 individuals responded to the survey: 8 program directors, 14
predoctoral trainees, and 2 postdoctoral trainees. To follow up on the survey,
we conducted semi-structured, telephone interviews between February and June
2011. We conducted a total of 18 interviews; each interview lasted
approximately 45 minutes, and extensive notes were taken. A team of three
researchers conducted the interviews; in most cases, each informant was
interviewed by only one researcher.
Analysis proceeded in two steps. First, we used a literature
review to develop a conceptual framework of a learning collaborative as a
construct. In the second step, each researcher identified themes from the
interviews and consolidated those themes into emergent dimensions for a
learning collaborative. These dimensions are presented in this white paper and
serve as a basis for many of the recommendations offered for building mutual
helping relationships among training programs.
In the next section, we present the theoretical frameworks
that guided our work and shaped our conceptual understanding of learning
collaboratives. Extending from this conceptual basis, we identify some existing
models of collaboration, in particular highlighting practices these models have
in common. Then, we present the findings of the survey and interviews and
present a set of recommendations. We organized the interviews into three
- Creating Value for Program Directors and Trainees.
- Organizing and Managing a Collaborative.
- Succeeding and Sustaining.
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