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Navigating the Implementation Cs: Back to School Reminders and Tips

September 1, 2023

As the back-to-school tide rolls in, it’s time to hoist the sails of excitement and set the course for a remarkable implementation journey. Like skilled captains, implementation support practitioners are at the helm, steering the ship through the uncharted waters of a new school year. Whether you’re an executive sponsor, an implementation team member, a teacher, a coach, member of an educational community or an external support partner, this transitional period marks the beginning of when strategically aligned efforts to ensure the effective implementation of evidence-based programs and practices become a functional reality. Read on as we navigate the Implementation Cs and provide you with a treasure trove of timely reminders and tips to ensure smooth sailing throughout the year.

Change: Implementation Teams “Make It Happen”

An implementation team plays an active role in supporting change efforts. The implementation team works to make change happen by planning, communicating, utilizing data-based decision making, ensuring training and coaching, and allocating resources (Fixsen, et al., 2019), to promote effective implementation. Creating teams purposefully designed to lead and monitor the implementation of programs and practices improves organizational efficiency and quality. 

Tip: Center equity in implementation planning and activities. To do so, implementation teams should invite critical perspectives and voices to the table that help ensure implementation efforts move from mere action to transformative experiences. Try the NIRN Guidance for Engaging Critical Perspectives to help you get started.

Champions Exist at Every Level of the System

The presence of champions at every level of an organization is crucial for driving positive change, fostering innovation, and ensuring effective implementation. These champions are individuals internal to an organization who passionately advocate for the effective implementation of a program or practice. Champions can hold formal or informal leadership positions. They play an instrumental role in pushing the organization forward. 
Tip: The NIRN Champion Identification and Reflection Tool is available to help you identify the champions that exist at varying levels of your organization. 

Capacity Assessment Serves as an Organizational Compass for Forward Movement

Capacity assessment is a way to find out how well educational organizations can use implementation methods and techniques to adopt, use, and maintain evidence-based practices or programs (Ward, 2019). This action-oriented self-assessment helps implementation teams determine organizational strengths and areas of growth. The learning from the assessment can be used as a compass to help organizations move in the best direction to build their capacity and keep programs and practices sustained over time.  

Tip: Prioritize assessing organizational capacity for implementation. Taking this measure can proactively reduce internal barriers while continuing on the best path to successfully implement change. Check out the NIRN District, Regional, or State Capacity Assessments for more information.

Context Matters

Context influences how decisions are made. For example, the decision to adopt, adapt, or abandon a program or practice is dependent on whether or not the program or practice is best suited to meet an identified need of the implementation site (Metz et al., 2020). Additionally, understanding context sheds light on the factors influencing implementation (Watkins & Ward, 2023). Failure to consider context could be costly in reaching desired outcomes. 

Tip: The NIRN Hexagon Discussion and Analysis Tool can be used to help implementation teams understand the context for the implementation of a program or practice.

Final Thought…

By engaging in these implementation reminders and tips, you’re charting the path for the effective implementation of evidenced-based programs and practices. Remember, effective implementation not only contributes to results but also enhances collaboration, builds confidence among teams, and paves the way for future achievements. Here’s to embracing the journey ahead!



Fixsen, D. L., Blase, K. A., & Van Dyke, M. K., (2019). Implementation practice & science. Chapel Hill, NC: Active Implementation Research Network.

Metz, A., Louison, L., Burke, K., Albers, B., & Ward, C. (2020). Implementation support practitioner profile: Guiding principles and core competencies for implementation practice. Chapel Hill, NC: National Implementation Research Network, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 

Ward, C., (2019, November 5). Exploring connections between implementation capacity and fidelity [Practicing Implementation Blog]. National Implementation Research Network, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Watkins, C., & Ward, C. (2023, January 18). What is on the menu…context! [Implementation for Educators Blog]. National Implementation Research Network, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.