‘EIE helps build implementation capacity in Europe – in research, practice and policy’

In 2018, during a round table discussion at the Nordic Implementation Conference, it was decided it was time to organize a truly European implementation conference. That event will become reality this year: the European Implementation Event (EIE) will take place on 27 and 28 May. An interview with EIE organizers Bianca Albers, Associate Director at the Center for Evidence and Implementation, and Pauline Goense, Implementation staff member at ZonMw. 

By Barbara van der Linden and Peter van Splunteren, KiZ editors

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As members of the European Implementation Event (EIE) 2021 management committee, Pauline and Bianca have helped to prepare the event since 2018.

Bianca Albers: “We decided to call it an event because from the start the ambition was to provide a truly interactive, problem-solving and “working together” type of gathering. With the Covid-19 pandemic, that goal became an extra challenge because we needed to convert the event activities, originally planned to occur face-to-face in Rotterdam to an online format. Pauline: “We have hired an Event Manager who is specialized in online events to make the EIE2021 as interactive and professional as possible. We will broadcast it live, encourage all speakers and participants to be active and be in dialogue with each other – and use their l“avatar”. That is a little icon of oneself that participants can use to come into contact with each other, meet in the lounge for a chat. Also, all sessions will be recorded so that attendees have access to all sessions and activities even after the event is over. That is a clear advantage over a physical meeting, where one just can’t attend all sessions.”

Bianca Albers

Albers: “I am also glad to see that what began with a decision made during a roundtable at the Nordic Implementation Conference in 2018 now finally becomes real. Back then the different European implementation networks agreed it was time to organize a truly European implementation conference. The then quite informal NIC (Netherlands Implementation Collaborative) flagged immediately their interest in being at the forefront of organizing the Event. Some of its members now form the EIE2021 program committee.”

Why was the title “Crossing Borders-Overcoming Boundaries” chosen?

Albers: “We chose this theme because many different borders influence the current state of knowledge of implementation. There is the boundary between knowing and doing of course, the boundary between research and practice. Then there are boundaries between sectors covered in implementation – health, social welfare, education, or international development – and those between disciplines. Implementation is truly multidisciplinary using and connecting organizational theory, behavioral science, political science, or sociology. And of course, there are the borders between countries in Europe, representing different cultures, social welfare systems or different labour market structures. In that way, Europe is an interesting region for researching and learning about implementation – because contexts vary and may lead to different implementation knowledge and learning. There may also be different research traditions at play – with social sciences – anthropology, political science, sociology – having greater influence on implementation debates than elsewhere. All of that is extremely interesting to explore.”

Goense: “I think the EIE2021 also provides an opportunity to think about how to promote implementation science and practice further. The Netherlands, UK and some of the Scandinavian countries already have a clear presence at these events. It will be important in the coming years to also gain deeper insight into what is happening in other European countries, such as France, Portugal, Slovakia or Poland, for example. Another important moment during the EIE2021 will be a session hosted collaboratively by different European implementation networks. It will focus on implementation education and training opportunities in different European countries for different professionals. The aim is to think more about building these capacities in Europe, create a better understanding of the implementation knowledge and skill needs among healthcare professionals and how to integrate that into their basic training. This is linked to another session, a symposium, planned for day one, focusing on the required competencies when providing implementation support, which is another way of building implementation capacity. We would very much like to contribute to exactly that: Building implementation capacity in Europe – in research, in practice and in policy.”

What do you think is another important challenge in the field of implementation?

Pauline Goense

Albers: “Let me begin with achievements. Since we held the first Global Implementation Conference in Washington in 2011 a lot has happened. Back then, the conference content could still very much focus on interventions = “the what”, with implementation being “the extra ingredient”. That has totally changed. Now, ten years later, we hold a true implementation event, where implementation = “the how” is the focus and interventions less important.  Implementation has developed, it is a distinct discipline with its own body of knowledge, its own set of outcomes etc. The challenge now is to continue this work and become more sophisticated while also being relevant. I think a good session for people interested in these questions is the one about “Current Frontiers in Implementation Science”. That’s where presenters will be digging deeper into implementation strategy design, de-implementation, the role of context and  measurement.”

Goense: “I would add here: We have to be careful not to create our own implementation problem. That is also a challenge. To develop effective strategies to stimulate the use of implementation knowledge and to reconcile the more fast paced dynamics that characterize practice with the more reflective pace of science.”

Can you name some other EIE highlights that you are looking forward to?

Albers: “I am very happy about our activities for ‘early career’ participants – young implementation professionals active in either science or practice. We want them to meet each other and have invited them to apply for a special early career keynote spot. We are reviewing applications at the moment, and it is terrific to see that there are many more implementation PhDs in Europe than in the past. And of course, also more implementation science post-docs and professors.”

Goense: “I also think we have chosen terrific keynote speakers: Jet Bussemaker is of course an asset! Her combination of experience – from a political career and now a scientific career is unique, and we look forward to her contribution. Erik Gerritsen, the Secretary General of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport , is also interesting, especially for Dutch attendees, because he really wants to “implement implementation” in our country. Then there is Paul Iske and his quite innovative message to learn from failure, which is extremely important for all implementation professionals.”

Albers: “I would add David Chambers to this. He is definitely a “beacon of light” in implementation science, and has taught us many things – among others a more dynamic understanding of how to deal with constant change in implementation – so his keynote I am looking very much forward to.”

Bianca Albers and Pauline Goense invite anyone with an interest in implementation theory, research and practice to participate in the EIE2021 on 27 and 28 May. The full program can be viewed at https://implementation.eu/european-implementation-event-2020.


Bianca Albers works as Associate Director at the Center for Evidence and Implementation, an international intermediary organization with offices in the UK, Australia and Singapore. CEI works with researchers, policymakers, and leaders of organizations and foundations worldwide to enhance the implementation of evidence in practice and policy and improve programs and services in social welfare to achieve positive outcomes for children, families and communities. Bianca is a co-founder and past Chair of the European Implementation Collaborative (EIC).

Pauline Goense is staff member Implementation at the Netherlands Organization for Health Research and Development (ZonMw), the Dutch health research funder, with a longstanding tradition for promoting implementation of research findings into policy and practice. She  was an EIC board member from 2015-2020.

As members of the European Implementation Event (EIE) 2021 management committee, Pauline and Bianca have helped to prepare the event since 2018.

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