Using implementation research to solve implementation problems: The case of energy emergency assistance

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Abstract

Generalizations drawn from implementation research can offer useful guidance in formulating new implementation plans, as the development of a revenue-recycling program illustrates. According to the conventional wisdom drawn from implementation research, the program design should be simple and all the steps necessary to produce the desired results should be identified at the outset. The program that was developed in this case was an extensive one, intended to provide financial relief to all U.S. citizens in an energy emergency. The program would be under the control of one existing agency where equipment, personnel, space, and standard operating procedures were most suitable to the goals of the plan. Although the admonitions derived from past research are straightforward, it turns out that adhering to them in the practical process of resolving specific implementation problems requires imagination and tenacity. Because implementation takes place in settings that are extraordinarily diverse, new generalizations regarding implementation will not be easy. Besides, those that engage in implementation research must reconcile themselves to the fact that their generalizations face a demanding test, far more demanding then that encountered in most policy analysis research—“Does it really work?”

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