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Planning Pilot Projects With an Eye Toward Sustainability

Posted on December 19, 2011

Peter Fajans (bio) and Ruth Simmons (bio) recommend starting with the end in mind when it comes to implementing initiatives.


Peter Fajans, MD, MPh: So our [ExpandNet's] latest tool that we've developed goes back to this issue of beginning with the end in mind. How can they plan these initial explorations, how can they plan these initial research projects to look at the acceptability, the feasibility, the effectiveness of the innovation on a small scale before scaling up and to plan them in ways that help facilitate the transition to wider implementation later on? So making sure that, for example, they don't design a Cadillac when they have funding for a Ford Focus.

Ruth Simmons, PhD: That really is so easily said, but for us it's a very big struggle because—and Dean Fixsen and the things he has written about the implementation literature, of course, has observed the same thing—is that people always have very atypical resources when they start something on the small, small implementation or small pilot demonstration project: special leadership, special motivation, special financing, special equipment, special settings. And of course, the result is success.

And when you try to tell people and ask, "Do you want this innovation, if it succeeds, to have large scale impact?" "Yes, we do." All right, but then you can't start like that. If you need to just test, have a proof of the concept, if you need to assess whether this innovation, if appropriately implemented, works, then you do a proof of concept study like that, but it needs to be followed with a proof of implementation study.

So we need to not just help individual projects move forward, but also keep developing in that capacity, so that in India and Thailand, in Mali, Uganda, the people are there who've worked with us who can then move on and share things with others.

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Excerpted from interview with Dr. Fajans and Dr. Simmons at the 2011 Global Implementation Conference in Washington, DC.


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