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Scaling up programs for impact

Scaling up programs for impact

Moving the needle on society’s big challenges requires “scale up” programs that have been tried, tested, and found successful. This scaling toolkit can help.

Maybe you have found yourself reading something about an inspiring program - a mentoring scheme at the local primary school that helps kids remain engaged in their studies; an employment program that supports people with disabilities in your community to find meaningful work - and you find yourself thinking: wouldn't it be great if that program was available to more people?

What you find yourself wishing for is scaling: spreading something good to more people. Scaling allows us to extend the reach and impact of successful programs, ensuring they can benefit a larger population and address systemic issues at a broader scale.

What is Scale-Up?

Scale-up refers to the deliberate effort to increase the reach of a successful innovation to benefit more people.

This effort should be:

  • Planned and intentional
  • Built on the original idea that has evidence of success (e.g. in a pilot or other context)
  • Aimed to spread the positive impact to more people

Put simply, scaling is about making good things grow: taking good ideas, practices, programs or products and spreading them to more people or contexts.

Why Does Scale-Up Matter?

The time, effort and resources that are poured into developing programs that work is expensive and uncertain: in fact, most innovations fail, and most ideas will never be taken up or put into action. This makes it even more imperative to scale those ideas that do work.

Source: https://www.unicef.org/innovation/media/4551/file

But scaling is hard. Expanding a program comes with a number of challenges. It can be difficult to identify which aspects of a program were key to its success and need to be maintained during the scaling process.

Key scaling challenges include:

  • How do you take a successful program and scale it up?
  • How can we learn from what has worked elsewhere and apply it to our own programs?
  • What external factors do you need to consider for scaling to be successful?

These questions (and more) are why we sought to develop a tool to help people scale programs more successfully.

Drawing upon academic evidence and practitioner expertise, we identified success and risk factors for scaling. We then used these to co-design a toolkit with program managers for scaling social programs. The toolkit was developed and tested with practitioners from government and employment sectors, and is available on a website showcasing the project's impact.

When it comes to scaling, process is critical: asking the right questions, learning, and iterating. The toolkit supports innovators in that process, and comprises seven tools, each equipped with thought-provoking questions to guide the scaling journey. While presented in a sequence, these tools can be used in any order or combination, and users are encouraged to revisit tools at various stages in their process of designing and implementing scale-up. The toolkit covers:

  • Developing a business case
  • Planning for successful scale-up
    • Setting a vision for scaling
    • Evaluating routes for scaling
  • Designing for scale-up of your program
    • What worked in other programs?
    • Who will you work with?
  • Implementing scale-up
    • Monitoring program expansion and delivery
    • Data to support continued delivery

Wherever you are in your scaling journey – whether you are starting a pilot program, or rolling out a program expansion – this toolkit can help you overcome the challenges involved in reaching more people with your program.

Get in touch with us if you would like to learn more about using this toolkit to scale-up your own programs.

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