The weather has been bleak so we’ve been catching up on our reading!
Next on our list is InterAction’s new report on Innovative Finance for Development.The report includes a practitioner-oriented guide to 17 different IF4D instruments and a series of case studies. The instrument guide provides an in-depth review of each instrument, beginning with a summary snapshot table for that instrument, followed by a more extensive presentation of key factors NGOs should understand and consider. Hallelujah! We recently completed our own learning lab webinar on the topic and will post the lab here soon!
To grab the highlights – check out three key takeaways from this blog by InterAction staff Ben Bestor. You can also view past webinars and trainings from InterAction on the topic here.
“• Determine whether to “Build First” or “Build Together.” When determining whether to develop and prove a model alone or to build together with government, enterprises considered their partnership goal and need for ownership, and typically ended up customizing a solution between the two extremes.
• Determine type and level of evidence needed. Enterprises went beyond impact evidence and recognized that evidence needs may become more complex in later stages or in donor-dependent countries.
• Find and cultivate the right champions. Interviewees leveraged organizations already working in-country, sought contacts interested in iteration, institutionalized relationships through MOUs and contracts, and found ways to decrease the physical distance between champions and solutions.
• Demonstrate true partnership with listening, humility, and respect. It may seem obvious, but according to interviewees, it is worth repeating: approach government with respect and humility, communicate regularly, and show how you are responding to feedback with change.
• Proactively manage—or avoid—politics. Enterprises spread out risk by engaging across political ideologies, working with technical experts, managing multiple projects simultaneously, and being wary of promises made around elections.
• Help maintain quality of impact over time. To ensure continued quality of programs (especially when government takes over implementation), enterprises recommended the following: breaking solutions into small steps; creating roadmaps while still empowering partners to adapt; using test sites to iterate; creating monitoring tools; and seeking sustainable funding sources.”
We think this is great advice for all teams looking to scale innovation with governments! Understanding the type and level of evidence needed (especially when it comes to costs) and helping maintain quality as the government takes over are crucial areas that we see overlooked all the time.
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.
“Sometimes an innovation catches on, but we don’t actually know why or what is making it work,” said Whitney Pyles Adams, who runs the NGO CARE’s Scale X Design accelerator. “And if you don’t know what that secret sauce is, you really don’t have a chance of scaling it elsewhere.”
We’re excited to contribute to this series from Apolitical on designing for scale, our favorite topic! Check it out here:
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”
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.”
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)