Scholarly interest in implementation theory has waxed and waned despite enduring concerns with practitioner competences and the causes of policy failure or policy success. Attention to understanding and improving policy implementation needs to build on previous attempts to identify and absorb the lessons already known. Implementation processes often encounter governance challenges that were unforeseen, arising from difficulties in coordination of partnerships or from rapid changes in external events. This chapter reconsiders the role of implementation analysis in the era of governance, which sees implementation as joined-up networked practices discounts the significance of state capacity and centrality. The chapter recounts the manner in which implementation theory has evolved, from early instrumental accounts, to top-down, bottom-up and synthesised analysis, to current interest in the utility of implementation theory in addressing complexity of policy problems. It argues that, despite the shift in emphasis to governance-based and interpretive accounts, implementation as a structural and process challenge in government policy practice remains a vital concern. So do the problems of failure and success, learning and capacity, monitoring and evaluation that implementation theory has highlighted. Policy change agendas are foreshadowed, for further analysis in the following chapter.
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