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 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?
” 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.”
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.
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.
“The most urgent challenge in the social sector is not innovation, but replication. No idea will drive big impact at scale unless organizations—a lot of them—replicate it. And there are plenty of high-impact ideas awaiting high-quality replication. More than a few of them are backed by randomized controlled trial (RCT) results and all that stuff. It turns out that replication matters even more than innovation when it comes to impact at scale.”
Great argument! As a well as a very well articulated comment in response:
“USAID spends <5% on traditional R+D (i.e. new vaccines, etc) and <1% on grand challenges (i.e. Saving Lives at Birth, etc). I believe USAID and other donors need to be working with more non-traditional partners, not fewer, and encouraging new ways of doing business, not the same. It’s anecdotal, cynical and overly simplistic articles like this about “innovation” (whee!) vs. “scale” (the people who really “get it”) that exacerbate this mis-perception. The fact that “innovation” gets outsized attention relative to its actual spend and focus in global health and development certainly doesn’t mean we should do less of it. If done right, innovation should always be a healthy part of a strategic investment portfolio (likely more than the current 1-5%) if we want any hope of meeting the SDGs. The status quo isn’t gonna get us there.”
The spring edition of CARE’s Impact Magazine is out and all about Scale x Design!
Take a look at this special issue, which features an in-depth look at the Scale x Design Accelerator & Challenge, Cohort 1 spotlights, Chrysalis – the parent of both our Different Cup of Tea and Broadening gender teams, as well as other stories of Innovation at CARE.
Click the cover to read the new issue: