Establishing an AHRQ Learning Collaborative, A White Paper

Recommendations for the AHRQ Learning Collaborative

Based on a synthesis of the current literature, as well as the essential insight from current trainees, program directors, and experts in the field, we recommend the following for an AHRQ Learning Collaborative. 


  • Explore establishing two mechanisms for mutual helping among T32 programs: (1) an informal, voluntary network of AHRQ T32 programs; and (2) several ongoing learning collaboratives. These will be supported by formal communication mechanisms such as in-person meetings and virtual forms of communication.
  • Informal network: Following the 2011 T32 program directors meeting, program directors, trainees, and faculty would be invited to join a LinkedIn AHRQ Training Program Group. Within that group, there would be at least two sub-groups: one for training directors, and one for pre and postdoctoral trainees. The network could be informal and Internet-based, with portals and other electronic media.
  • Ongoing collaboratives: In the startup phase, one or more learning collaboratives could be created based on new issues generated at the T32 annual meetings and/or organized around specific research interests. Each collaborative would be championed by several people, and could cover a wide range of technical or problem-driven areas. The model for this is the work that Chris Forrest and Diane Martin led on health services research doctoral core competencies.36

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The key activities of an AHRQ T32 Network would include:

  • Establishing mentoring relationships between trainees and senior researchers within and across T32 programs.
  • Networking through social media and in-person events.
  • Solving problems.
  • Helping each other with requests for information.
  • Collaborating based on complementary skills and experience.
  • Pooling resources, including data, expertise among faculty and trainees, and other assets.
  • Discussing critical training issues.
  • Sharing best practices.

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Roles and Responsibilities

The AHRQ Learning Collaborative is a joint effort by trainees and program directors with support from AHRQ. AHRQ representatives, program directors, and trainees will play an important role in investing in and building social relationships across programs.

  • AHRQ T32 program directors meet once a year at NRSA, and those meetings offer an opportunity for productive helping and collaborating:
    • Trainees could be invited to participate with program directors during T32 meetings to think about how to build capacity and enhance innovation across programs. Trainees with the support of program directors could co-lead and be engaged in these discussions.
    • AHRQ could support the Learning Collaborative by setting aside time during the annual T32 meeting to engage in collaborative activities (for example, sharing what we are learning about tough problems and identifying candidate issues for ongoing learning collaboratives).

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Trainees and directors could apply for funding through AHRQ's Small Conference Grant Program to support and establish 1-year learning collaboratives that result in workshops and sessions at the annual NRSA conference. This program is intended to encourage members to share learning, connect with stakeholders and programs, develop new thinking, and build capacity in health services research.

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Launching the Collaborative

To launch the Collaborative, we would need to begin preliminary conversations on issues relating to engagement and evaluation, which may include:


  • How do we create a national identity?
  • How do we cultivate and leverage an open network of training programs whose members have promising ideas and want to help each other?
  • How do we create opportunities for faculty and student exchanges or linkages across programs among faculty and students with common interests? Student rotations at AHRQ and/or collaboration with AHRQ researchers?
  • How do we engage the more than 1,500 past and present trainees in new and interesting ways?
  • How do we find better ways to connect and develop existing AHRQ research and dissemination awards?
  • How do we connect with AcademyHealth and other stakeholders around the work they are doing?
  • What communication media will help to rally the people interested in collaborating?
  • In addition to the Annual AHRQ T32 Program Directors Meeting, what other forms of collaboration could we use (e.g., webinars, in-person local or regional meetings, discussion forums, and wikis)?


  • Can we establish a set of common performance measures with common definitions for the purpose of comparative benchmarking across programs?
  • How would the network and future collaborations help to establish a national identity for AHRQ trainees that will transcend fellowship appointments and funding?
  • Should one criterion for AHRQ training grant renewal be the amount of mutual helping, networking, and collaborating with other training programs? Would AHRQ want to establish "proof of collaboration" as part of renewal? How would this be measured?
  • For each core competency, can we create a Knowledge Map (K-Map) that identifies the experts, practitioners, locations, and sources of knowledge? The model for this is the work that Jonathan Weiner, Diane Martin, Tim Carey, and other programs have been doing to map courses, resources and other capabilities to health services research core competencies (Appendix F).
  • How can we highlight achievements of former and current trainees to demonstrate the value of this investment and solidify a national identity?
  • How do we work to sustain this effort and maintain buy-in over the long-term?
Page last reviewed October 2014
Page originally created March 2012
Internet Citation: Recommendations for the AHRQ Learning Collaborative. Content last reviewed October 2014. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.