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Advice for Budding Implementation Researchers

Posted on November 15, 2011

Abe Wandersman reflects on the qualities and skills required for success in the field of implementation.


To do the kind of work that we do, I think that early career researchers, one, need to really have a passion or a commitment that they would like programs to succeed. Now that doesn't mean faking data. What it means is helping people actually achieve true outcomes. So being motivated to do this kind of work, because it involves relationships. You can't do this kind of work without establishing a relationship of engagement, of trust, of caring, and also that outcomes matter. And so those are important attributes.

Learning the basics of evaluation and beyond the basics are an important ingredient. Learning the basics about science and what evidence is and why it's important is another important ingredient.

I look for people who possess the kinds of commitment to developing relationships, to obtaining the knowledge of knowing that they will never stop learning from other experts and from communities as experts because things will keep on changing. They have to be flexible enough to be able to learn and change because things are never smooth.

I think being able to communicate one-on-one is really important. I think being able to communicate in groups, because lots of times you'll be talking to a small group, like a coalition or the staff of an agency or a larger audience, and being able to get people on board with ideas that are new to them is extremely important. So being able to engage is really key.

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Excerpted from interview with Dr. Wandersman at the 2011 Global Implementation Conference in Washington, DC. Dr. Wandersman is a psychology professor at the University of South Carolina.


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