This article reviews 44 operations research projects aiming to improve reproductive health services in Guatemala, conducted by the Population Council from 1988 to 2001. It documents the experience of the research program, traces the extent to which research results are identifiable in existing programs, and analyzes factors influencing utilization.
Utilization of research results occurs as a gradual process of information sharing, where researchers influence decisionmakers through a continual stream of information rather than a single set of findings. Utilization depends on leadership, collaborative planning and implementation, close monitoring, and feasible research designs, among other factors. To influence policy formulation, organizations should form enduring links among institutions and develop critical research skills among personnel who collaborate with or manage service programs. To understand how operations research affects policy and program change, one must consider not just individual projects, but rather the synergistic impact of multiple projects on a broad range of themes over time.