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

What’s in it for your scalers?

It’s great to see cohort 2 alumni,  #A-CARD, has just published a blog in FinDev gateway: https://findevgateway.org/blog/2018/dec/agriculture

In their lessons learned, the team cites how we had to learn the hard way about incentivizing our scalers – loan officers!

“The introduction of the A-Card has not been without its challenges. We have found that microfinance institutes (MFIs) sometimes experience a conflict of interest between offering A-Card and microfinance loans. Since MFIs earn only a 1 percent profit on A-Card and a 25 percent profit on standard loans, they have more incentive to push standard products on customers instead of offering the A-Card. To avoid this, the team is experimenting with individual local market actors like input retailers or Local Service Providers as a banking agent for this pilot.

Another lesson learned from the A-Card is that local bank staff didn’t have incentives to sell this product because it was not tied to their performance goals. We are currently working with banks to develop new incentive structures to overcome this.”

The motivations and “what’s in it for me?” perspective of our scalers – the people that we rely on to implement, promote and expand our innovation solution – are often the most overlooked!  A-CARD’s incredible impact on farmers won’t matter if loan officers don’t promote the solution.

Photo credit: Akram Ali, CARE Bangladesh

What We’re Learning: Human Centered Design Course

Here at the Scale x Design Accelerator, we are big believers in human centered design and design thinking. In fact, one of our core Labs (formerly called simply Human Centered Design and now re-born as Mindsets and Methods for Innovation) is centered around the subjects. However, you don’t have to be an Accelerator finalist to unlock these critical skills and mindsets!

IDEO.org is currently offering two free courses through +Acumen: A 7-week Introduction to Human Centered Design and a 4-week Prototyping course. Click on the links for more information and act quickly! Registration closes soon – “In partnership with Plus Acumen, IDEO.org offers this course for individuals looking to learn more about the human-centered design process. Both courses opened on May 9, 2017, but they are still open for registration so don’t miss out on this opportunity. ”