International Conference highlights important lessons on implementing policy and public services
Almost five hundred policy makers and managers from public services and NGOs across twenty five countries around the world are taking part in the Global Implementation Conference which opened today at the Convention Centre in Dublin.
Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health, formally opened the conference at 9 am and addressed conference delegates. Speaking at the opening he said: “How do we know that policies work, and how do we make sure they actually do work? Those are two of the biggest questions facing everyone in Government and across the public sector. I have been asking those questions since I was appointed a Minister. We needed to ask them in every case across a range of major projects, including The Gathering, granting independence to Shannon Airport, joining up the Luas lines in Dublin, and planning for universal healthcare. Each project is very different, but all depend on co-operation across Government, but also with staff, and especially with stake-holders outside of Government. I’m delighted that these important questions are being asked in Dublin this week by the Global Implementation Conference, which is taking place outside of the US for the first time. And I look forward to hearing more about how we make policies work.”
Those attending this two day conference include people working in areas such as education, health, justice and social care.
Implementation is now recognised as a huge challenge for all governments, not only in Ireland. The increasingly complex social challenges that face governments around the world, the financial crisis of recent years, and developments in technology and social media require new approaches to the delivery of public services. While there is now more research available about ‘what works’ in public services, the outcomes for people using those services have not improved as much as governments, policy makers and researchers had expected. Policy makers, funders and service providers must also think carefully about how to implement policies, services and other interventions.
The Centre for Effective Services and Trinity College Dublin are the local partners for the conference. Katie Burke, Senior Manager with CES said ‘We have a mixed record on implementation in Ireland. The ‘Smoking ban’ is as an example of a policy that was successfully implemented. But many people talk about our ‘implementation deficit disorder’. Recent policies where implementation has fallen short include reform of the Seanad and the introduction of water charges. This conference is a great opportunity for those involved in public policy and services to share their experiences of getting better at implementing policy, services and other interventions for people.’
One of the international examples being presented at the Conference shows how effective implementation of evidence informed services improved outcomes for children in care in New York City. Dr Allison Metz, one of the international speakers at the conference, said ‘we found that investing in staff training and coaching, selecting the right approaches for children and young people engaged in child welfare services, and better use of data can make a big difference to the quality of children’s lives.’
A case study of successful implementation in Ireland that will also feature is the Media Initiative for Children devised by the organisation Early Years in Belfast. ‘Early Years’ promotes high quality childcare for children up to the age of 12 and their parents. The organisation developed the Media Initiative for Children in response to research which showed that by the age of 6, one in six children were making sectarian and racial remarks. The programme has already been adapted for use in conflict settings outside of Ireland, including Israel, Lebanon, El Salvador and South Africa.
Early Years CEO Siobhan Fitzpatrick puts the success of the initiative down to good implementation. ‘We set up an implementation team to oversee the programme’ she said. ‘We made sure that the people delivering the initiative had extensive training, and we provided them with mentoring and support. Findings already show that the initiative is making a real difference to how children behave with children who are different from them.’
The Irish organisers of the conference hope that the event will accelerate learning about better implementation across all of Europe. A new website, www.implementation.eu which allows for sharing of experience and research about implementation across European countries was also launched by the European Implementation Collaborative as part of the conference activities.
Notes to Editor
1. Spokespeople available for interview include Katie Burke (Senior Manager, Centre for Effective Services), Alison Metz (International/New York case study) and Siobhan Fitzpatrick (CEO, Early Years, Belfast). Photos from the event are also available from Marc O’Sullivan www.marcosullivan.ie )
2. About the Centre for Effective Services – CES is a not for profit organisation which connects research, policy and practice to improve outcomes for families, young people and children across the island of Ireland. For more information visit www.effectiveservices.org.
3. About the Global Implementation Initiative – The Global Implementation Initiative was founded in 2012 and was established as a not for profit organisation to improve the implementation of policy, programmes and services in health, education, justice, social care and the wider public services. This conference is one of the activities organised by the Global Implementation Initiative. For more information about the conference and the full programme of events visit http://gic.globalimplementation.org/
4. About the European Implementation Collaborative (EIC) visit www.implementation.eu
5. For more information about the Media Initiative for Children, visit