Learn, Innovate, Improve (LI2): Enhancing Programs and Improving Lives

Publication Date: January 18, 2018

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The Learn, Innovate, Improve (LI2) process is a systematic, evidence-informed approach to program improvement. LI2 involves a series of analytic and replicable activities, supported by collaboration between practitioners and applied researchers, to help human services programs design, implement, and iteratively test programmatic changes. As a continuous improvement process, LI2 is intended to build practitioners’ capacity for better using and producing high-quality evidence; ultimately, this process can be institutionalized within the program environment.

Human services programs (such as workforce development and employment services, safety net programs, child welfare services, early childhood education programs, and healthy family programs, among others) often seek to improve their practices in order to better help their clients. For various reasons, however, undertaking a systematic and evidence-informed approach to program change may not always happen. The LI2 process was collaboratively designed as a flexible solution to help programs embed analytic methods into their change and quality improvement efforts.


This publication is the first in a series that aims to help researchers and practitioners consider how this collaborative improvement process might work in their particular contexts and prepare them to execute such a process. This brief provides a general overview of the LI2 approach; subsequent briefs will offer more in-depth guidance on each stage of the process.

Key Findings and Highlights

  • The LI2 process unfolds in three phases—Learn, Innovate, Improve—and each phase builds upon the previous phase toward the goal of improving program outcomes and generating actionable evidence for program decision-making and the field.
  • The Learn phase focuses on clarifying the reason for making a programmatic change and understanding the root problem to be solved.
  • The Innovate phase focuses on exploring and designing evidence-informed solutions that map to the problems identified during the learning phase.
  • The Improve phase involves executing a series of small-scale, analytic pilots —known as a “road test”—to gather feedback and refine the intervention’s implementation. As the intervention is gradually scaled up, more rigorous evaluation methods can be applied during this phase, for both continuous improvement and testing for impacts on key outcomes.
  • LI2 is marked by close collaboration between researchers and practitioners; it incorporates strong evidence and analytic approaches at every stage; it emphasizes capacity-building to institutionalize the improvement process within programs; and it contributes to building the knowledge base for the human services field.
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