New strategies, new action plans, new legislation, new funding and new training.
These are all approaches that are widely used to bring about changes in our education, health and social work systems to improve the lives of those supported by these services. Yet despite the time and resources allocated to these very well-intentioned approaches, do they genuinely achieve the transformational changes we aspire to?
Evidence and experiences teach us that unfortunately they rarely do.
As someone who previously worked on developing new strategies and action plans, it is somewhat dispiriting to look back and accept that these were unlikely on their own to have ever brought about the positive changes that colleagues and I had hoped for.
There is however a silver lining.
Since joining CELCIS I have been exposed to Active Implementation, and I've been encouraged by the emphasis it places on how strategies and action plans should 'come off the page' and actually be delivered.
So what is Active Implementation, and in what ways does it transform our understanding of how to bring about change to public sector systems?
These are big questions that undoubtedly extend beyond a blog. Yet, what I offer here are my reflections on what Active Implementation is and isn't, drawing on my past consultancy experience and my current role within CELCIS' Protecting Children team. This dual perspective provides, I hope, a useful insight for those who are new to and intrigued by Active Implementation.
Flipping the order and beginning with the 'what Active Implementation is not', I feel useful distinctions can be made between Active Implementation and other consultancy work. Key differences of Active Implementation that I have seen are that:
So if we have a better understanding of what Active Implementation is not, then what is it?
Developed in the United States, Active Implementation provides a framework that helps organisations to respond to all factors, including those that are often overlooked, required to successfully implement an approach. Examples of its use can be found in the implementation of evidence-based programmes and evidence-informed approaches in the fields of child welfare, education and mental health. The University of North Carolina's National Implementation Research Network (NIRN) and its Active Implementation Hub also offer a wide range of publically available resources.
Learning from these and drawing on CELCIS' early experiences of using Active Implementation in Scotland, my thoughts are that:
Strategies, action plans, legislation, funding and training all have a place, but we also have to recognise the limitations of these approaches to change.
If we are serious about achieving transformational changes to our systems, such as ensuring that all children's needs are truly met in the right way at the right time so that we 'get it right for every child', then we must devote more time and effort into the 'how we do it' as opposed to the 'what we should do'.
Active Implementation provides the tools to do just that, which makes it a very exciting time to be part of CELCIS' Active Implementation journey.