Announcing Scale x Design Accelerator’s Cohort 2!

It’s been a crazy month here at SxD! Cohort 2 is fully in the swing of things. We have just finished up our first Core Lab – Mindsets & Methods for Innovation (previously Human Centered Design) and are on to our second Core Lab – Designing for Scale.

We will be picking up on the frequency of our posts here on the blog to keep everyone up to date on all of the new teams, events, plus updates on all of your Cohort 1 favorites!

Without further ado, Scale x Design presents Cohort 2:

Fee-based SMS of Weather Forecast and Agricultural Advisory – Vietnam

Making Treasure from Trash – Ghana

Financial Product for Digital Purchase of Agri-input by Poor Farmers – Bangladesh

Farmer Field & Business School – Mali

Community-led Safe Water Supply System for Urban Resilience – Bangladesh

Vijana Juu/Up with Youth – Democratic Republic of the Congo

Circles of Change – Egypt

Security Unit Global Training Initiative – USA/Global

Teaching Resource Laboratories – India

The Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab – West Bank/Gaza

The Cooperative Fund – Georgia

VSLA for Community Resilience – Democratic Republic of the Congo

Additionally, we are ecstatic to welcome Habitat for Humanity International, World Wildlife Fund, and Population Services International (PSI) to SxD! They have dedicated teams to participate side-by-side with our internal CARE teams. Look for a separate post on these partnerships in the coming weeks.


The Power of Social Franchising

The Krishi Utsho model got a shout out this week from SEEP and a reblog from Next Billion!

“An innovative microfranchise model called Krishi Utsho (agro source in Bengali) launched by CARE Bangladesh has developed a network over 110 franchisee agro-dealers who serve over 30,000 farmers providing a wide variety of products (medicine, feed, vitamins, machinery, seeds, etc.) coupled with information and agricultural extension services mean a one-stop solution for farmers input supplies. Since the microfranchise network was launched, average milk production has increase by more than 50 percent and is expected to rise as new strains of more productive cattle begin to produce milk. KU conducted an in house survey on four hundred randomly selected farmers to measure its impact. The survey found that farmers’ income increased by 30%, food spending increased by 10%, distance travelled and cost to access input reduced by 50%.”

Check out the original post here for more on the power of social franchising.

One of the most successful franchisees, Saiful Islam Sumon. Mr. Sumon got the team’s attention when he started with one store and then opened two more! The Krishi Utsho team is studying his success to see what they can replicate and scale with other franchisees


What We’re Learning: What do legos have to do with scaling solutions?

In our Design for Scale lab, design question #3 asks us: “What’s our optimal fidelity for scale?”

What is fidelity? Very simply, it’s the degree of exactness with which something is copied and reproduced.

Why is it important?

Well, in some fields it’s both easy and critical that that the fidelity of an intervention is high. For example, when you’re sick and you take a pill you’re taking the same pill that others who share your diagnosis will take. The dose, timing and other instructions that you receive must be followed in order to get positive results.

Designing an intervention that should be replicated with high fidelity is both necessary and relatively straightforward for many fields. What about development? As we scale, we know that we can’t simply take our exact model and apply it to new geographies, new demographics and new sectors. We know that it won’t work if we don’t adapt.

Conversely, adapt too much or let the model be watered down and we may not be able to get them same positive impact we did in our pilot or the early stages of our programs.

David Butler, VP for Innovation at Coca-Cola, helps one of the world’s largest companies design for scale using a simple framework of determining what elements are “fixed” and which are “flexible.”

Design to Grow: How Coca-Cola Learned to Combine Scale and Agility (and How You Can Too)


To break it down for us, he uses the analogy of lego bricks. The whole video is great, but for the part on legos start at the 8 minute, 30 second mark and end at 13 minutes, 50 seconds.

What We’re Reading: “The Doer and the Payer”

Development projects often have an end goal of perhaps being picked up by the local government. Or, perhaps the goal is for activities to be sustained by the local community. Historically, much of our focus was placed on sustaining the results of a particular project, but not necessarily the scalability of our work.

So two simple but often unasked questions, then, are: if this model goes to scale (nationally or globally), who will replicate it and who will pay for that replication?

In our lab on Designing for Scale, we’re thinking about five key design questions. Question #2 is “Who is the doer and who is the payer at scale?” – a question inspired by the Mulago Foundation and a fantastically simple article published in the Stanford Social Innovation Review.

The question is particularly powerful, because there are actually very few options.  Who might be the “doer?”  You have three options:


And while it might seem that there’s a dizzying array of confusing funding sources for our “payers,” which are NGOs, government or business, at the end of the day, there are really only three sources of funding:

  • Private philanthropy: From large foundations to individual donors
  • Taxes: Whether that’s funding huge bilateral donors or direct government service delivery
  • The Market: Which could encompass customers and investors, but ultimately it will be revenue generation through customers that will support the scaling of market based approaches


Why is this design question helpful?  Sometimes we have an idea of the doer and the payer from the beginning, but often we’re very narrowly focused on “proving” the efficacy of the innovation first and worrying about scale later.

Why do we need to determine this from the beginning?

Knowing who we think is eventually going to adapt and replicate our model will help us design for the user.  When we think about going to scale, our user actually becomes the organization or individual who will actually be doing the scaling. Will it be an NGO worker, a government staff person or an entrepreneur who will be replicating our model? We need to know that information so we design with them in mind.

Depending on who we expect to replicate, we can consider from the beginning what type of evidence we’d like to generate. Historically, we’ve been more focused on proving impact. However, if we identify that we want to be scaling through government or the private sector, evidence around cost-effectiveness or profitability may be more critical to understand how feasible it is to scale the innovation.

Finally, we need to have the relevant stakeholders for scale with us from the beginning. If we aren’t clear up front on our goal for scale, how do we know if we’ve identified and are working with the right stakeholders?

Getting to know our “users” and our “scalers”

This month, our accelerator teams are diving into a lab on human-centered design with GRID Impact. At the core of most accelerators, incubators or innovation “hubs” is the practice of getting to know your end user or your customer. Human-centered design has famously brought co-creation and empathy to the heart of innovation in the private sector.

As development workers, though, we often pride ourselves on being deeply empathetic, on both an organizational and individual level.  Our programmatic frameworks are built on human rights and empowerment, after all. But how well do we really know the participants in our programs (our “end users”)? Lots of data from formative research and long-term local presence can sometimes lull us into a false sense of knowing more than we really do, especially when it comes to designing programs.

It’s only fair to illustrate the point by picking on myself. Years ago, I worked on CARE’s avian influenza portfolio.  When avian flu first emerged, U.N. agencies and NGOs knew we had to act fast to provide advice to millions of backyard farmers across Asia.  During those early days, CARE was one of the first organizations to raise issues from the perspective of local communities, such as the disproportionate impact that culling flocks was having on women since they were more likely to raise backyard poultry.

Because we were closer to the community, I was pretty confident CARE could develop useful guidance for farmers. We spent time on our formative research and got out to project sites to interview farmers.  But when I got home, I did something that totally changed my perspective.  I built a chicken coop, got a few chickens and put them in my backyard. I became a backyard farmer.

new addition

These were my chickens.  You are looking at a picture of Lucile, Cordelia, Buffy and Rogue.  In just a few weeks, these ladies taught me that many of those key messages that the humanitarian community collectively developed were actually pretty terrible and not at all practical.   It wasn’t until I dove into an immersive experience to understand our “users” that the proverbial light bulb went off.

So our first question in the accelerator is, how can we push ourselves further in understanding our end user?   Do we really understand the value of our innovation from our users’ perspective?  Can we articulate it from the users’ perspective? What evidence do we have that our users see their problem and our solution the same way we do?

Also, as we scale, we have to shift our mindset to thinking about the people and institutions that will replicate or scale our innovation as users as well.  How often do we miss the opportunity to design for their needs and constraints?  If we don’t design our innovations with these implementers or “scalers” in mind, we will definitely fail to achieve uptake.