Factors associated with successful implementation for projects addressing alcohol and other licit drug-associated harm in Australia

First published: 10 May 2019 | Last updated: 20 May 2019

Sarah MacLean 1&2

Lynda Berends 1&3

Barbara Hunter 1&4


1 Turning Point Alcohol and Drug Centre, 54-62 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, 3065, Victoria, Australia

2 Centre for Health and Society, School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Australia.

3 Department of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Australia

4 Eastern Health Clinical School, Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Sciences, Monash University, Australia



While substantial research effort is devoted to identifying the outcomes of alcohol and other drug (AOD) interventions, few studies systematically explore elements of successful project implementation. The study’s aim was to develop an evidence-base to inform project implementation in the AOD and related fields.


An adapted realist synthesis methodology enabled us to identify categories of enablers and barriers to successful project implementation from a sample of 127 completed projects designed to address AOD misuse and associated harms.


All projects in the study sample were funded by the Alcohol, Education and Rehabilitation Foundation in Australia between 2002-2008. Projects were based in different settings; some were in rural or remote areas, others in urban centres. Projects targeted a range of participants including Indigenous and young people.


We analysed paper and electronic records for 127 completed projects. Eight case study projects were selected to explore identified barriers and enablers, involving 22 interviews with participants.


Analyses were primarily descriptive and thematic however measures of association between successful project implementation and other factors are also reported.

Findings and Conclusions

Nine enabler categories and ten barrier categories were identified within the study sample. The study emphasises the importance of planning for constructive partnerships with external agencies and communities, attracting and supporting staff, and appropriate project design for all projects: elements of each of which emerged as significantly associated with successful project implementation. We conclude by outlining future utility of the study, for instance in development of evidence-based project performance measures.

The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare.


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Dr Sarah MacLean