The steps for implementing a program for children and youth may seem straightforward: identify a need, hire staff and provide the service or product to a target population. However, implementing programs that work requires careful advance planning, the involvement of multiple stakeholders, and a process that ensures accountability. When programs are implemented poorly, it not only reduces the potential for helping children and youth in need, but it wastes scarce public resources because poorly implemented programs are unlikely to be very successful. In addition, when a program is implemented poorly, we don't know whether or not it works.
Research on quality program implementation has identified a number of factors that can significantly improve implementation process to increase the effectiveness of programs. This issue brief discusses some of the fundamentals of quality program implementation that have been identified through research and practice and that may be useful for practitioners, policymakers and researchers alike.
This brief defines quality program implementation, and highlights the importance of a high quality implementation, identifies 23 factors that affect implementation, discusses 14 steps in achieving quality implementation (10 of which need to occur before a program starts), and notes that responsibility for quality implementation is shared by key stakeholders. The factors that can affect implementation quality range from societal, community, program, practitioners, and organizational influences, as well as the implementation process itself. The brief explains how implementation should focus on core components, allowing adaptation of other aspects to suit the population and setting.