Allison Metz, Ph.D., is a developmental psychologist with expertise in child development and family systems and a commitment to improving child and family outcomes and advancing equity. Allison specializes in the implementation of evidence to achieve social impact for children and families in a range of human service and education areas, with an emphasis on child welfare and early childhood service contexts. Allison is Professor of the Practice and Director of Implementation Practice at the School of Social Work, Faculty Fellow at the FPG Child Development Institute, and Adjunct Professor at the School of Global Public Health at The University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She is also an Adjunct Professor at the School of Medicine at Trinity College Dublin. Allison previously served as Director of the National Implementation Research Network and Lead of the Implementation Science Division at the FPG Child Development Institute where she also served as a Senior Research Scientist for 13 years. Allison’s research interests include the role of trust, power and relationships in evidence use, competencies for supporting implementation, and co-creation strategies to support sustainable change. She is particularly interested in the development of a workforce for supporting implementation in public systems. Allison is co-chair of the Institute on Implementation Practice and founding director of the Collaborative for Implementation Practice at UNC-Chapel Hill School of Social Work. She is the co-editor of the widely read volume Applying Implementation Science in Early Childhood Programs and Systems.
Implementation support has become a frequently used approach to strengthen organizational efforts to sustainably use evidence. In utilizing implementation support, agencies and funders collaborate with implementation support practitioners (ISPs) whose explicit role it is to support the implementation of evidence-informed practices (1, 2, 3). The goals of this study were to understand what experienced ISPs have learned about supporting evidence use in service systems, and how their approach to providing implementation support has shifted over time as a result of this learning.
A purposive sample of 17 experienced ISPs participated in in-depth interviews. A semi-structured interview guide was used to ascertain participants’ perceptions about various aspects of their work providing implementation support. Data were analyzed using a narrative analysis approach, focusing on broad elements that highlighted the trajectory of respondents’ professional journey in the context of providing implementation support. A team engaged in data coding and analysis in an effort to triangulate observations and maintain consensus with respect to emerging findings.
Respondents foregrounded the development of five main components to their approach in supporting evidence use: (a) supporting participatory learning; (b) engaging in co-creation; (c) building trusting relationships; (d) understanding context and community perspectives; and (e) supporting communication, coordination and collaboration. Interviewees described a necessary evolution in their approach to supporting evidence use. Three main shifts in implementation support practice were observed: (a) didactic to participatory approaches, (b) expert-driven to co-creation approaches, and (c) framework-based to relationship-focused approaches
Respondents highlighted the need to move away from top-down approaches towards a model of multi-level support focused on co-creation, peer learning, and collaborative work. At the heart of this work is development of trusting relationships. All interviewees reported that high quality relationships between ISPs and stakeholders was the most critical factor for achieving implementation results.