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Interpretation and Translation in Policy Implementation

EasyChair Preprint no. 1082

24 pagesDate: June 4, 2019


Interpretation has long been recognized as an important aspect of implementation. Yet, interpretation remains understudied and undertheorized in the implementation literature. In this paper, I argue that implementation will always involve several processes of interpretation, as the abstract model or intention that constitutes a public service intervention is recreated as concrete actions in specific locations. Drawing on recent developments in implementation and organization theory, I theorize these processes as translation and suggest that socially skilled actors act as translators by interpreting public service interventions in ways that foster collective action. To do so successfully, they must exercise four distinct translation skills: knowledge, creativity, patience and strength. I further argue that processes of translation unfold along three dimensions in the implementation system–within the hierarchy (vertical), across fields (horizontal) and over time (longitudinal). To illustrate this argument, I present a multi-sited case study of the implementation and translation of evidence-based practice in Danish child protective services as it has unfolded over two decades. By calling attention to the crucial role of interpretation on all levels of the implementation system and theorizing this as translation, the paper contributes to our understanding of implementation as a complex social process, which is both highly context-specific and at the same time characterized by generalizable patterns of action. Implications for research and practice are discussed.

Keyphrases: ambiguity, implementation, interpretation, Socially skilled actors, translation

BibTeX entry
BibTeX does not have the right entry for preprints. This is a hack for producing the correct reference:
  author = {Anne Mette Moller},
  title = {Interpretation and Translation in Policy Implementation},
  howpublished = {EasyChair Preprint no. 1082},

  year = {EasyChair, 2019}}
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