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Implementation Research and How to Plan for It Webinar


  • Matodzi Amisi, Director of Evaluations, Department of Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation, South Africa
  • Chandre Gould, Senior Research Fellow, Justice and Crime Prevention Programme, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria
  • Dr. Nwabisa Shai, Senior Researcher, Medical Research Council
  • Kati Maternowska, Data and Evidence Lead, GP EVAC

Moderated by Lisa Witter, Co-founder and Executive Chairperson, Apolitical

  • Audio recording here
  • Video recording here

Background Information

Apolitical and GP EVAC have partnered to develop the Violence Prevention policy topic, which curates the most innovative policy solutions and programs from around the world on violence prevention, and gathers together the leading international experts, like you, from both inside and outside government. To sign up to Apolitical for free, simply follow this link:

Policy Briefs from the South Africa Dialogue Forum for evidence-based programs to prevent violence against women and children

Learning and Highlights

  • It is important to have personal, cross-sector relationships with shared goals and missions - know the person not just the professional.
  • Communicate! Unspoken expectations go unmet and can lead to problems with implementation. It is important to define and understand what people classify as evidence.
  • Context and the specific settings for program implementation is obviously critical – context is a variable. Any ideas on how to understand and integrate programs to suit the context are welcome. Adaptations need to be tried and tested during the process of implementation to ensure that the adaptations do not hamper the effectiveness of the programs.
  • It's important for us to identify what the end goals of an implementation research process are. Whose questions are we trying to answer and who needs the knowledge? These questions need to recognise that practice should receive the focus of that implementation research process.
  • Understanding dynamics within and between sectors is critical in the beginning and throughout the process; this is how consensus building can be corrective! We can learn so much from each other. Sometimes this work seems so lonely and hearing about what is being done in another country is inspiring and energizing.
  • Just start! Don’t be afraid of failing—sit together (as implementers, researchers and policy makers if possible), prioritise practice and ask: What programs work? Why and how do these programs work?
  • Implementation research and more traditional forms of research need to go hand-in-hand: it helps us close the research to practice gap in multiple types of contexts.
  • Making the shift from research to practice requires a strategy and dedicated resources and must be planned for from the beginning of the process.
  • The importance of having the right people talking to each other in the right context at the right time.
  • Aim for an iterative process that involves implementers and government representatives in the research process.
  • If there is a will, there’s a way!
  • Knowing how implementation is conducted is critical to understand why expected outcomes and impact are realised or not.
  • Learning from implementation research should inform theory development implementation planning. We need more implementation research outside of the health sector.

Questions and Answers

Q: What was the timeline of the Dialogue Forum?

A: The Dialogue Forum started in November 2015 with bi-annual meetings. Different questions and answer evolved over time.

Q: Great diagram on iterative process. Any insights or promising practice in terms of how to facilitate the exchange between the research team and the programming teams? In other words, what is the best way to present/summarise research in a way that program teams can engage and take ownership of?

A: There is no single way to do this - we must figure out how to communicate on a local level. So, guidelines may be useful, but we need to figure out what we need to know from each other through an iterative process. (Though there are concerns about getting funding for iterative processes - often funding is in one round).

Q: Are there implementation research models we can look at?

A: There is a growing body of literature (see the Fixen monograph attached). What has been important for us in South Africa is to sit together as government officials, NGOs (implementers) and researchers to identify the principles that should inform implementation research. We recognised that often impact evaluations of projects do not answer the questions that policy makers have, and don’t sufficiently engage and reflect the experiences of implementers. There is no one right way, but it is important to ensure partnerships are strong and responsibilities are understood.

Q: In your program implementation, how do you address the levels of harm from colonisation and trauma?

A: Since there are many programs that are being implemented and tested there is no single answer. It did become clear in the last dialogue that frontline staff are experiencing the same traumas as the communities they are serving. Taking care of self is important to delivering services, but we often don't get this right. This is particularly important for the South African context.

Q: How best to approach implementation across sectors? How to plan and ensure different sectors fulfil their roles and responsibilities?

A: The consensus building roles are what are so critical to understanding roles and responsibilities.

Q: How do you define your TOC for going to scale from local level implementation research to national adoption?

A: There are very few examples, from anywhere in the world, where this has been done yet. But many people are trying different approaches. Our theory of change is that if we build relationships between people from the key sectors and they have a way of communicating and working together, we will be able to figure this out together.

Q: What are some best practices for identification, prevention and response of SGBV based on research-based evidence?

A: The Sexual Violence Research Initiative is a great resource for articles and data about what approaches are being tested across the world, and what is working.

The What Works to Prevent Violence Against Women global initiative is also an example of the processes involved in identification of programs, adaptation into the local context to address prevention and response to SGBV.

Q: What is the relevance of the public sector in the care of child victims of abuse?

A: The public sector often holds significant influence in what is implemented in a country. Within democratic contexts the public administration is a means to distribute the country’s resources for the benefit of those who are poor and vulnerable. Therefore, the public sector should not be written out of the care of child victims of abuse. Caring for victims of abuse/violence (both women and children) should be part of a country’s development program. In the case of South Africa, the public sector remains an important institution for sustainable service provision to victims of violence. Though donor supported programs have been very innovative and provided much needed relief in areas with no government services, many of these have not been sustained when donors pull funding or when their priorities change.

Q: How do we build acceptance by funders and what output and outcome measures are produced?

A: We need to be speaking to donors, sharing our experiences and vision. Donors can see that pilots and program evaluations are not leading to uptake and scale – they too are grappling with what needs to be done and are open to solutions.

Q: How can you implement evidence-based practices into routine programs when human and financial resources are limited?

A: A great question – exactly the kind of question that could be answered through doing implementation research – trying something, see if it works and adapt until it does. When done correctly, using evidence can help achieve allocative efficiency allowing us to target resources where they are needed most.

Q: How do you scale up the learning?

A: We need to create more spaces to have honest conversations about what we are learning. This means accepting and sharing about failures. There is a lot to be learned from what did not work.

Resources Shared

  1. The GP EVAC website - - soon to be revamped
  2. The guide to the End Violence Solutions Summit, held in February this year
  3. The ISS Africa website -
  4. Check out the DPME website for the repository of implementation evaluations in other sectors outside of health -
  5. For more examples of Apolitical’s case studies, sign up to the platform.
  6. The What Works to prevent Violence Against Women and Girls program provides innovative examples of: capacity development, research uptake (translation) and researcher/implementer collaboration -
  7. Debra Pepler would be glad to share a paper describing PREVNet in Canada. PREVNet is a national network with 130 researchers, 150 grad students and 62 partner organizations working to Promote Relationships and Eliminate Violence since 2006.


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