Program Implementation Matters


This research area provides support to organizations and programs serving children and youth. Our goal is to help them improve their quality and effectiveness in achieving intended outcomes. Our evaluation experts conduct implementation research, using multiple methods, to assess program, organizational, and community characteristics that influence program operations. Findings are used to provide formative feedback to help programs identify and address their challenges, to assess programs’ readiness for rigorous impact studies, and to understand the circumstances under which programs operate best.

We also work directly with organizations to promote their ability to act on information to improve their programs. We do this by helping them develop evidence-informed and testable theories of change that align program outcomes with activities, and strengthen how they collect, analyze, and use data to provide actionable information.  And we develop technical assistance materials and strategies to provide youth-serving programs with information that addresses common challenges to their operations, such as outreach and recruitment, communications, retention, and program scaling and sustainability.

Featured Projects

Featured Publications

Organizational and Program Changes in youthCONNECT: What Happened and Why

May 2016 | Maryjo Oster; Karen Walker; Shawn Teague

youthCONNECT is a collaboration of government, philanthropy, nonprofits, and evaluators aiming to improve opportunities for low-income youth (14-24) in the National Capital Region. The project was initiated by Venture Philanthropy Partners. This document summarizes Child Trends' evaluation of youthCONNECT.

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How to Scale Up Effective Programs Serving Children, Youth, and Families

Nov 2015 | Vanessa Harbin Sacks; Martha Beltz; Samuel Beckwith; Kristin Anderson Moore

Scaling up evidence-based programs is not easy, and it is something that program developers and distributors approach in many different ways. This brief reviews the best practices for scale up of effective programs from across the literature and describes the experiences of several effective programs that are at varying levels of scale across the country and internationally.

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J.C. Nalle Community School: A Study of a School Turnaround Effort - Executive Summary

Apr 2015 | Zakia Redd; Daniel Princiotta; Brandon Stratford; Selma Caal; Weilin Li

J.C. Nalle is a public elementary school in one of the District’s poorest neighborhoods. The school is also the first D.C. public “community school,” working with local organizations to address students’ non-academic needs. Child Trends took an independent look at whether test scores were improving for students at J.C. Nalle, and if they were, to see what had contributed to this feat.

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The Skills to Pay the Bills, an Evaluation of an Effort to Help Nonprofits Manage Their Finances

Feb 2015 | Karen Walker; Jean Grossman; Kristine Andrews; Nicholas Carrington; Angela Rojas

Between 2009 and 2013, the Wallace Foundation funded a management consulting firm, Fiscal Management Associates, to provide the 25 nonprofit organizations that participated in the project with one of two models of professional development: (1) a customized model that included substantial individual consulting and group learning for organizations’ leaders, or (2) a model that provided primarily group learning opportunities. This report discusses lessons learned from the initiative about strengthening the financial management of nonprofit organizations but also, more generally, about how to improve organizational capabilities.

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