Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Public Policy & Administration

First Advisor

Kevin W. Allison


Research indicates that many youth-serving agencies do not adopt evidence-based innovations in the field of youth violence prevention. This qualitative study was designed to explore a sample of community-based decision makers’ perceptions of why innovative, evidence-based programs and practices for the prevention of violence by youth are, or are not, adopted at the local level. The rationale for this study was that knowledge of evidence-based innovations in youth violence prevention originates primarily from research scientists who are external to the organizations that are the intended recipients of the innovations. Prior research has not viewed the failure to adopt evidence-based innovations from the perspective of the impediments and facilitators of recipient organizations’ capabilities of understanding the value of and acquiring the new external knowledge. This research study used interviews from a purposefully selected sample of 28 decision makers in public and nonprofit organizations with youth-serving missions located in three urban cities. These interviews constituted a secondary data set for this study and were drawn from a larger set of 38 interviews after a review for suitability. The learning process model of absorptive capacity was used as an a priori framework for the analysis of the interviews. This model recognizes the influences of environmental conditions, knowledge characteristics, learning relationships, mental models, structures and processes, and strategies on the organizational capability to absorb new external knowledge. This study revealed that environmental conditions were a key impediment to the acquisition of new evidence-based knowledge for use in the adoption of YVP programs. Key findings were a lack of issue leadership and strategy at the local level and unstable funding for agencies’ core and non-core programs, such as YVP efforts. A second set of key findings demonstrated that mental models were facilitators and impediments. A high value was placed on YVP as an issue area, but the expectation was that YVP programs require external funding. Decision makers also defined program success differently than prevention scientists. Recommendations are offered for prevention science researchers to increase the likelihood that innovations in YVP will be discovered and utilized by practitioners.


© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

December 2011