Increasingly, development initiatives are delivered through consortia, which in some cases include a formal ‘learning partner’ role. Who are learning partners and what is their role? What is their potential comparative advantage in different knowledge and learning processes? Drawing on traditions of knowledge management and organisational learning, and documents on 11 learning partner roles, this article suggests that they may contribute more to heterogenous groups, at a programme-wide rather than project level, and in addressing inter-organisational barriers to knowledge sharing and use. The article offers a systematic approach and questions to guide future inquiry into their roles and effectiveness in practice.