Implementation Practice

May 17, 2019

Implementation science includes research and practice. Implementation research seeks to understand the approaches that work best to translate research to the real world. Implementation practice seeks to apply and adapt these approaches in different context settings to achieve outcomes.

A fundamental goal of implementation science is to integrate research and practice experience in ways that improve the outcomes of those being served (see Estabrooke and colleagues). For this to happen, implementation scientists must work with all communities and embrace the diverse experiences that both drive and shape implementation efforts. This requires competent implementation practice and an explicit commitment to equity.

  • Implementation Practice is the application of evidence emerging from implementation science by people (individuals and teams) with the skills and competencies to tailor implementation frameworks, strategies and approaches to different contexts and settings to meet the unique needs of communities and people and to improve outcomes.
  • Equitable implementation occurs when strong equity components (including explicit attention to the culture, history, values, and needs of the community) are integrated into the principles and tools of implementation science to facilitate quality implementation of effective programs for a specific community or group of communities.

Leeman and colleagues (2017) have called for a classification system that specifies the implementation actor and the implementation target, in order to build knowledge related to how specific implementation strategies delivered by certain actors can facilitate the use of evidence to improve outcomes. One set of actors that has received minimal attention in the literature is individuals who provide a system of support for implementation including building delivery systems’ capacity (Wandersman et al., 2018) to adopt and integrate research evidence into day-to-day practice.  These actors reside outside of the delivery system and may be referred to as a technical assistance provider, implementation specialist, consultant, or intermediary. There is increasing interest in understanding what these actors do, and in what ways the external support they provide relies on specific skills and competencies.

In recognition of this need, we’ve developed a practice profile for Implementation Specialists in collaboration with our colleagues at the Centre for Effective Services. The practice profile outlines the skills and competencies needed by practitioners to effectively use interventions/approaches and evidence to improve outcomes. To develop this initial draft, we drew upon the research literature and the practice experience at NIRN and CES. We are now in the process of conducting a content validation survey and systematic scoping review to further refine our model.

Review the Implementation Specialist Competencies and let us know in the comments:

  • How could you apply Implementation Specialist Competencies in your own work?
  • How could the competencies be used to support workforce development?
  • How could the competencies be used to reflect on and assess the quality of implementation practice?
  • What additional support or resources would be needed to build the capacity needed for effective implementation practice?