Introduction to Implementation


Implementation can be defined in many different ways.

Implementation refers to a set of planned, intentional activities that aim to put into practice evidence-informed policies and practices in real-world services.

The goal of effective implementation is to benefit end-users of services – children, youth, adults, families, and communities.

Why does Implementation Matter?

A great deal of knowledge about what works in human and social services has been amassed in recent years. Outcomes for clients, however, have not improved in line with these advances in knowledge. This deficit has become known as the ‘implementation gap’, and refers to the difference between our knowledge of ‘what works’ and the application of this knowledge in real-life practice.

Evidence suggests that carefully planned and sufficiently resourced implementation is key to successful outcomes in human services. A review of studies assessing the outcomes from prevention and health programmes, concluded that the quality of implementation affects programme outcomes, and that effect sizes were at least twice as high for studies where optimal implementation conditions existed (Durlak & DuPre, 2008).

What the Research Tells Us

The science of implementation is a young discipline. Advances over the last 15 years have led to a better understanding of factors that may contribute to effective implementation. 

There is a strong interest in identifying the core components of effective implementation, or “specific actions (i.e. the ‘how to’), that can be employed to foster high quality implementation” (Meyers et al., 2012). Researchers from various disciplines have integrated these core components into a number of different implementation frameworks, which are often viewed as reflecting “best practice” in guiding and supporting implementation of policies, programmes, interventions and services – across different human service settings.

The research also often emphasises that implementation happens in stages. These involve exploratory and planning activities, the implementation of the innovation, and its full integration into routine practice. The literature indicates that completing a full implementation typically takes 2 to 4 years.


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