Barriers and facilitators to implementing evidence-based interventions among third sector organisations: a systematic review

Anders Bach-Mortensen, Brittany C L Lange, Paul Montgomery

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The third sector is becoming a growing provider of public, social, and health services. However, there is little evidence on the effectiveness of third sector organisations (TSOs), and their capacity to implement evidence-based interventions (EBIs). Understanding implementation aspects of service delivery remains an important issue in clinical practice, but is poorly understood in the context of TSOs. This is problematic, since implementation issues are known to be critical for effective intervention outcomes.

To identify and synthesise existing research on what barriers and facilitators influence the implementation process of TSOs delivering EBIs.

This review is reported according to PRISMA guidelines and was pre-registered in PROSPERO. Key databases were searched using relevant terms, experts in the field were contacted, and websites were reviewed. All identified studies were double-screened, and data were extracted independently by two authors. Included studies were synthesised using thematic analysis and were quality appraised.

Thirty-one studies were included, most of which were conducted in North America. The thematic synthesis identified resource limitations, in particular staff and finance, to be the most reported barrier to TSOs implementing EBIs. Organisational culture, including factors such as alignment between the mission of the TSO and EBI, and support/prioritisation of the implementation process were the most reported facilitators. These findings generalise across the included studies and are robust to study quality assessment.

While it is often assumed that good outcomes follow when implementing interventions that have been developed and tested according to best practice, little attention has been paid to how EBIs are best transported, contextualised, and implemented by third sector providers. This systematic review found that TSOs faced considerable challenges in implementing EBIs, which were primarily a lack of support and expertise, and unclear/insufficient guidelines on how to adapt EBIs to different populations. To address these challenges, it is important to engage with central stakeholders, such as funders, researchers, policymakers, and practitioners, to discuss how these needs can be met.
Original languageEnglish
Article number103
Number of pages19
JournalImplementation Science
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2018


  • Evidence-based intervention
  • EBI, evidence-based practice
  • EBP, third-sector organisation
  • TSO
  • Implementation
  • Barriers
  • Facilitators
  • Enablers
  • Obstructers
  • Charities
  • Non-profits
  • CBO
  • NGO


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