Four Keys to Success (Theory, Implementation, Evaluation, and Resource/System Support): High Hopes and Challenges in Participation

  • Abraham WandersmanEmail author
Original Paper


In this article, I attempt to merge two themes. First, there is often a large gap between high hopes about impacts of policies or programs and the demonstrated results. I describe four keys/threats to success in any social problem area: theory, implementation, evaluation, and resource/system support. Second, I present theory and research from over 30 years of work on participation, conducted by my colleagues and myself that can illuminate and be illuminated by theory, implementation, evaluation, and resource/system support. I offer ideas for solutions that increase the probability of success. I conclude with the need to have high hopes tempered by theory and research to develop realistically ambitious solutions to social problems.


Participation Theory Implementation Evaluation Resource/systems support 



This article describes a personal and professional journey of over 35 years. At the 2007 Society for Community Research and Action (SCRA) biennial, I gave an address in recognition of receiving the SCRA award for Distinguished Contributions to Theory and Research. The address was called “Optimism about participation: High hopes and challenges in neighborhood organizations, community coalitions, and empowerment evaluation systems”, and it was a major basis for this article. The article is an attempt to highlight some messages and underlying themes in over 35 years of work, described within a chronological history. At the biennial, I was very pleased to be introduced by Jean Ann Linney, whose remarks are also published in this volume.

I would like to gratefully acknowledge the enrichment of the work described in this article by the colleagues I have collaborated with over the years (many of whom are cited in this article). I am thankful for the thoughtful comments of many who have helped me think about many previous drafts of the article including: Victoria Chien, Steven Goldstein, Jason Katz, Jim Kelly, Cathy Lesesne, Jean Ann Linney, Emily Novick, Lois Pall Wandersman, and members of my graduate classes in community psychology.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of South CarolinaColumbiaUSA

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