Everybody is starting to wonder…why is scaling up so hard?

Fantastic new article on Vox on our favorite topic: “Scaling up good ideas is really, really hard — and we’re starting to figure out why”

The article hits on a few our favorite, and often repeated, maxims. For example, how difficult it is to go from piloting with NGO staff to scaling with government staff:

“When a program scales, it has to hire and train many new people — or in some cases transition to using government resources and civil servants. And that can change a program’s effectiveness. “You turn over a program from a highly motivated NGO…. to people who know less about it and are less driven to see it succeed — or informed about what it will take. A lot can be lost in transmission”[Mushfiq Mobarak – Yale’s Research Initiative on Innovation and Scale].

Another great point for practitioners to think about at the design phase (that isn’t often cited) is the equilibrium effect – for example, if you take a great worker training program to scale, you might actually drive down wages if there are now too many skilled workers available. While CARE is careful to consider the impact of our programs on markets, it can be difficult to accurately predict unintended consequences at scale. Being mindful of the equilibrium effect while designing for scale can help us set appropriate targets.

Check out the full article here: https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2018/12/10/18127987/global-health-poverty-development-scaling-economics-research-yrise-yale

Supporting women entrepreneurs with disabilities in Georgia. Cohort 3 SxD Team.

Beyond “gadgets and gizmos”: UNDP Innovation Facility emphasizes scale

It’s great to see UNDP’s Innovation Facility focus on scale!  We were particularly excited to read UNDP’s Administrator Achim Steiner emphasize scale in his list of critical points to ensure that innovation goes beyond “gadgets” and gizmos”

” Design for growth and scaleScaling entails growth strategies to reach millions; but we also need scale-down strategies to ensure no one is left behind and adaptation strategies to transfer solutions from one context to another. Most contexts require a financial sustainability vision and an initial vision for a pathway to scale. These elements need to be incorporated from the beginning of every intervention, project and policy design. This means also investing in understanding the political settlements and power dynamics and identifying the actors that can help change the status quo.

Prove the comparative advantage of innovation: The hype cycle of innovation has peaked in most industries. Initiatives that are designed for outputs, rather than outcomes are still dominating innovation news updates from a number of organizations. But overall the sector is maturing and with it,the ambition and metrics to measure the impact of innovation. In the context of human development and social change, innovation must not happen for innovation’s sake but rather to find more effective ways of working. Innovation means foremost testing hypothesis with solid monitoring frameworks and a focus on inclusivity.”

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

View story at Medium.com

Scaling checklists – do you have the right one?

Scaling checklists are a trendy tool…luckily, they’re also pretty useful! A number of organizations and programs have them, how do you find or develop right one for you? (Want to check out SxD’s? Click here)

In their blog series on scaling social impact, Apolitical calls out a few key elements you should always include:

  1. “Strive to understand the essential core of a program: not whether something works, but why it works, what conditions it requires, what can be trimmed and what cannot be compromised
  2. Imagine what it would look like at scale: to reach many more people, how big and complex would the organisation need to become; who would staff it, and who would pay for it
  3. Consider the minimum threshold of quality a program needs, and what level of control is necessary to ensure it”

Check out the full post below and join the Apolitical platform here: https://apolitical.co/ 

Scaling social impact – a checklist, and a warning

Why keep it simple in a complex world?

In order scale, your solution must be simple. But the world we live in is not simple, it’s complex. Development sector practitioners strive to design holistic interventions and models that address the real-world needs of program participants. How do we address this tension?

In their series on scaling social impact, Apolitical captured this fantastic analogy from Karen Levy, Director of Global Innovation at Evidence Action:

” There is a tendency in the development industry to try and approach problems from a holistic perspective. But when you talk that way, it becomes very hard to find an entry point. Yes, everything is connected; yes, everything is complicated — but if you let that be the framework through which you start, you won’t get anywhere.

That’s why the world is scattered with pilot projects. Lovely pilot projects that are trying to deal with holistic issues, but are never going to get beyond 50 schools or 50 villages. If you look at the things that have achieved massive scale, they are well-defined interventions — or at least started that way.

I always tell people: don’t try and paint the masterpiece — do one layer, and do it well, then do another on top of that. Just creating or strengthening a platform to deliver something simply but well gives you the opportunity to build other stuff on top of it.

Check out the rest of the interview here:

“The world is scattered with pilot projects trying to work holistically”

Key to scaling – Is your core obvious?

We’re big fans of Apolitical’s blog series on scaling social impact!  One of the hidden but crucial concepts the series surfaces is understanding what is core, or “fixed” and a non-negotiable element of your innovation:

“For one, it’s not always clear whether or how something is working. Impact evaluation is growing, but billions of dollars of policy expenditure remain inadequately unevaluated. And, even when impact is proven, it’s not always clear what exactly is responsible. Scaling up often requires paring down a program to its essentials — and for this you need to know what can and cannot be compromised.”

In Scale X Design, we emphasize learning and documenting “fixed” vs. “flexible” elements of your model. That’s the easy part. The tough part is testing, learning and iterating and managing this knowledge across loosely connected practitioners.

Read more here:

How to scale up social impact — the challenge of the 21st century

This Land is Not for Sale: Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure in Tanzania

In East Africa it is more common to see land marked as “not for sale,” rather than “for sale.” People put up these signs because it’s the main way for them to safeguard their property without formal land rights. If landowners don’t have proof of their property rights, they could fall victim to bad land transfers or even land grabbing.

The CARE team in Tanzania is working to make it easier for families to claim their land rights with our Mobile Applications to Secure Tenure (MAST) solution. MAST is an open source application used on smartphones to help individuals claim their land rights. The technology is inexpensive and 3 times faster than traditional GPS methods!

The CARE Scale by Design Accelerator and Challenge aims to showcase innovative programs like MAST. We spoke with team members Jane Mgone and Thabit Masoud about what it’s been like to participate in the Accelerator so far. How is it helping them tackle the biggest barriers to scaling the innovation?

“It’s really helping us to think through what it would look like to scale and how to design for scale,” Jane said.

While the Accelerator has pointed a spotlight on land issues in Tanzania, unfortunately, the funding for this small pilot in 3 villages has ended for CARE. Another organization is picking up the pilot but will only be reaching about 40 more villages, which remains just a scratch on the surface. How do we keep this promising innovation from the metaphorical graveyard of abandoned pilots?

Whitney Adams, Senior Advisor for Design and Innovation, reflects that this isn’t an uncommon story. “Unfortunately, organizations like CARE are constrained by available donor funding and sometimes promising innovations simply don’t have their next donor or path to scale lined up. The project has to end and staff move on to the next job. We hope the Accelerator will help teams think about the big picture from the beginning. How do we scale outside this one project? What would a realistic business model look like at scale?”

Instead of relying on donors or the public sector to pay for scale, the team is considering a business model to make MAST self-sustaining. Can the service be sold directly to landowners? Our current estimate puts the cost around $30 per plot. But what if we could get it down to $10 per plot? Would we have a customer and a sustainable innovation then?

Jane and Thabit have been sharing concepts and ideas learned throughout the Accelerator with their colleagues. What is the key thing they want you to know about what they’ve learned? “We really need to think outside the box, aside from doing traditional work.” Jane wants to know, “How can we have a greater impact? How can we do something that the people really want and need, something that can spread like wildfire throughout the world?”