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Appendix 2 - Learning Agenda

The Learning Agenda is a five-year systematic plan for evidence building in support of the 2022-2026 FEMA Strategic Plan. FEMA has identified evidence gaps in achieving the agency’s strategic goals and will address these through the research questions and data projects listed below.


FEMA has developed this Learning Agenda in accordance with the requirements and best practices of the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act of 2018 (Evidence Act). In addition to creating and publishing this Learning Agenda, FEMA is implementing the Evidence Act as a component of DHS and will apply the following principles to guide its learning and evidencebuilding, as outlined in “FEMA Directive 202-000-1, Evaluation and Evidence-Building.”

A. Relevance and Utility

Evaluations and evidence-building address questions that are important and provide findings that are actionable and available in time for use. Evaluation and evidence-building findings inform and are integrated into the agency’s activities, such as budgeting, program improvement, management, accountability, and the development of programs, policies, and regulatory actions.

B. Rigor

FEMA conducts evaluations and evidence-building to the highest standards. Those who conduct program evaluations and policy analysis have appropriate expertise for the designs and methods undertaken, designs and methods are appropriate for the question(s) asked, documentation of evaluation and evidence-building processes and findings are clear and accurate, and the limitations of findings are transparent

C. Transparency

FEMA is committed to ensuring that the agency’s leadership and staff, collaborators, policymakers, researchers, and the public at large are able to learn from our work.

D. Independence and Objectivity

Evaluations and evidence-building activities are conducted with an appropriate level of independence from program, policy, regulation, and stakeholder activities. Those who conduct such work demonstrate objectivity, impartiality, and professional judgement throughout the evaluation process.

E. Ethics

Evaluations and evidence-building meet the highest ethical standards and safeguard the dignity, rights, safety and privacy of participants, stakeholders, and affected entities.

Evidence-Building Priorities

The Learning Agenda is aligned to the goals of the 2022-2026 FEMA Strategic Plan. The research questions and data projects listed below represent those that most directly influence the successful and efficient achievement of these goals. This work will enhance programmatic and operational effectiveness across FEMA, enabling an agency-wide approach to achieving its wide-ranging strategic objectives.

Goal 1: Instill Equity as a Foundation of Emergency Management

Three stacks of blocks that get progressively taller

Research Questions

  1. How do we measure the culture of FEMA’s workforce (i.e., presence of FEMA’s core values of compassion, fairness, integrity, and respect)? Is the measurement of FEMA’s core values related to the diversity of the workforce?
  2. Is there a relationship between the amount of investment and assistance a community receives from FEMA prior to a disaster and the likelihood that the community will access FEMA programs post-disaster?
  3. Is there a relationship between the number of challenges faced by individuals eligible for FEMA assistance and race, ethnicity, sex, or disability status of those applicants?
  4. Are there disparities in outcomes for communities across FEMA programs, and what is the best way to measure this?
  5. Is FEMA’s Individual Assistance for Housing Assistance funding distributed differentially by race, ethnicity, sex, socioeconomic status, and disability status for major disaster declarations? Are there differences in who is deemed eligible? Are there differences in the amount received? Are there differences in who applies for assistance? Are some groups not applying for assistance even when they are eligible? Are there differences for renters versus owners? Are there differences in results for Tribes?

Goal 2: Lead Whole of Community in Climate Resilience

Green illustration of the earth

Research Questions

  1. To what extent is the newly developed Building Resilient Infrastructure and
    Communities (BRIC) grant achieving its desired outcomes?
  2. Has Public Assistance achieved its intended outcome of increasing mitigation funding (is there a difference in the percentage of projects with mitigation dollars awarded)? If so, did it increase community resilience to future disasters?
  3. Beyond financial costs, what is the best way to measure loss avoidance and the
    efficacy of risk reductions? What indicator(s) would best quantify the reduction of risk and lives and resources saved?
  4. Is there a relationship between communities’ use of future conditions data and loss avoidance?

Data Projects

  1. Index or indicators identifying climate-vulnerable populations
  2. Future conditions data (climate change projections)

Goal 3: Promote and Sustain a Ready FEMA and Prepared Nation

Orange checkmark

Research Questions

  1. What is the best method (or set of methods) to index or normalize major disaster
    declarations to be able to compare FEMA’s disaster response and recovery programs across disasters?

Data Projects

  1. Administrative data set of the nation’s emergency managers