Willing, Able -> Ready: Basics and Policy Implications of Readiness as a Key Component for Scaling up Implementation of Evidence-Based Interventions. How To Assess Implementation Readiness Through Funding Opportunity Announcements


In various venues, federal staff have expressed a strong interest in asking about readiness appropriately in FOAs. Table 4 presents sample questions that could be included in FOAs that assess the three readiness components along with criteria that federal staff might use when reviewing FOA responses.

Federal staff could use these criteria in several ways to score applicants. Many of these questions and criteria already exist in the problem statement, project design/goals and objectives, management plans, and management capacity sections of FOAs. Therefore, these questions and criteria could be taken from other sections and included in a new form tied to all federal organizations; they could become a Government Performance and Results Act indicator for organizational functioning. (Readiness would be one part of this.) When scoring, one suggestion is to use a tiered scoring approach in which different applicant scores are associated with different levels of funding, TTA support, and evaluation requirements. Each agency should consider the implications for proposal length and overall scoring when adding this type of information to FOAs.

Table 4a. Examples of Readiness Questions Related to the Motivation Construct To Include in Funding Opportunity Announcements

Component Proposed Questions Related to Motivation Proposed Criteria for Assessment by Federal Agencies and Reviewers Related to Motivation
Relative Advantage To what extent does the proposed approach add value to existing practices and programs? Describe how different the proposed approach is from current practices and existing programs and why you think the proposed approach will help you better meet the needs of the youth and communities you serve.

Points given to applicants who describe

  • the programs and practices currently in place and needs not currently being met,
  • how the proposed approach will meet these needs and how it will do a better job than current programs.
Compatibility Describe how the proposed approach is compatible with other programs already in your school, organization, or community and the priorities of your school, organization, or community. (E.g., explain how new and current programs and practices will be aligned, including how the new proposed approach will replace or strengthen existing practices, and describe current priorities as outlined in a Strategic Plan or similar document.)

Points given to applicants who describe

  • the current programs and practices (if not yet done in preceding step),
  • how this program will replace another program or how it will be aligned with other programs (e.g., describe how training and Professional Development (PD) for all existing and proposed programs will be coordinated),
  • how the leadership will message, describe, and support this new approach so that it is not regarded as only another program added to everything else that staff are already doing.5
Observability Describe the extent to which outcomes of the proposed approach are visible (e.g., explain how you will observe the key components of the proposed approach to see whether they are being implemented). These questions are related to a logic model.

Points given to applicants who describe:

  • the different parts of the proposed approach and how it will be observed.6


Table 4b. Examples of Readiness Questions Related to the General Capacity Construct To Include in Funding Opportunity Announcements

Component Proposed Questions Related to General Capacity Proposed Criteria for Assessment by Federal Agencies and Reviewers Related to General Capacity
Organizational Innovativeness Describe the extent to which your organization is adaptive to change (e.g., provide examples of other recently implemented changes to programs and practices similar to the topic of the grant application; describe staff response to these changes; describe successes or challenges encountered during these changes and how a continuous improvement process helps to deal with challenges that arise).

Points for applicants who describe:

  • the way their organization handled the implementation of a recent change to programs or policies (e.g., how the organization handled an implementation challenge),
  • staff survey results about the organization’s openness to intervention or continuous improvement approaches.
Resource Allocation Describe the success of your organization at finding and obtaining additional resources (e.g., list grants awarded over the past 5 years; describe grants that you plan to apply for; describe organizational capacity for writing grants).

Points for applicants who:

  • list grants previously awarded and diverse sources of funding (ideally funding would come from different private and public funders, foundations, or community organizations),
  • have a dedicated grant writer or contract writer,
  • describe how they find out about new grants.
Leadership Describe the degree to which leaders in the organization support organizational activities and how they plan to convey this support to other staff in the organization.

Points for applicants who describe

  • how leadership supports organizational activities and plans for communicating this support to other staff. For example, does leadership send out monthly updates about organizational activities? Do data collection, monitoring, and annual reviews of organizational activities occur?
Structure How do organizational structures support the functioning of the organization on a day-to-day basis? (E.g., describe staff size, background and experience, training provided to new staff, opportunities for staff collaboration, time allocated for staff planning and problem solving, the amount of collaboration among staff, and internal decision making processes.)

Points for applicants who describe

  • the way their organization functions on a day-to-day basis (i.e., what training is provided for new staff, how much, when, what structures will be put in place for people to collaboratively plan or solve common issues)
  • staff survey results about collaboration among staff or the effectiveness of decision making processes.


Table 4c. Examples of Readiness Questions Related to the Intervention-Specific Capacity Construct To Include in Funding Opportunity Announcements

Component Proposed Questions Related to InterventionSpecific Capacity Proposed Criteria for Assessment by Federal Agencies and Reviewers Related to Intervention-Specific Capacity
Having a Program Champion Do key people in your organization support the proposed approach? Who are these people (e.g., role, level)?

Points for applicants who describe:

  • program staff (especially managers and leaders) who have requested this program and who will support it going forward (e.g., what part of the organization these people are in, and how they will continue to be champions of this work throughout the planning and implementation phases).
Implementation Climate What resources will be devoted to the proposed approach? (E.g., Will an implementation team oversee the implementation of the proposed approach? Who will be included in this? How often will they meet? How will the organization or community leaders be involved in this team?)

Points for applicants who describe:

  • the allocation of resources (not only dollars but the number of part- and full-time staff that will be included in the proposed approach),
  • the implementation team (who will be part of this), and
  • plans to hold regular (e.g., biweekly or monthly) meetings with this team.
Interorganizational Relationships Do you plan to establish any relationships with other organizations also interested in the proposed approach? If so, please describe who these organizations are and how you plan to maintain such relationships over time.

Points for applicants who describe:

  • how they will share best practices and learn from other organizations implementing a similar approach over the project period (e.g., a description of a plan to collaborate through monthly, quarterly, or yearly calls and visits, sharing reports and data tools).

5 For example, if an organization already has an established mentoring structure in place for new staff and is proposing to implement a new substance abuse program that all staff will be trained in, an applicant could describe how the proposed approach would build on that mentoring structure. For example, if all new staff are required to attend monthly 1-hour PD sessions, one topic of a PD session could be on the new substance abuse program.

6 Depending on what the proposed approach includes, this could be described as (a) weekly staff meetings for groups of people being trained to allow time for problem-solving implementation challenges as they arise, or (b) monthly data meetings for organization staff to review program data and make appropriate changes to the program.

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