Scaling is the process of expanding beneficial practices over geographies and across organizations to impact larger numbers of people. The term ‘scaling’ is increasingly popular in international development efforts, especially in light of the ambitions of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Scaling suggests providing a real solution for large numbers of people. However, the popularity of the term is so far not necessarily matched with a clear understanding on how scaling works in practice. In a masterclass held as part of the ‘PPPLab Day’, we guided our audience to get to grips with the basics of developing a sound scaling strategy for their PPP.
For the last two years, PPPLab has been unpacking the concept of scaling to make it more understandable and actionable. For this study, we simply asked PPPs: what do you do, when you scale? What we found, is that successful scaling is not only about scaling a specific technical solution, but that most PPPs scale many other arrangements, such as awareness raising, financial arrangements to make the technical solution affordable, public sector engagement, etc. In our publications, we summarized these dimensions in the ten ‘scaling ingredients’ as shown below.
To show that successful scaling is not an easy exercise, Wouter van Vliet of Larive International presented his PPP on fish farming in Kenya. This PPP (FoodTechAfrica), consisting of 14 partners, aims to improve food security in the region by establishing a fully integrated aquaculture value chain. As this value chain is being built from scratch, every step in the value chain is carefully addressed by the PPP. For example, a fish feed facility is being built to reduce the production costs for fish farmers; breeding programs are set up to breed the best quality fingerlings for aquaculture; the AquaKit was developed as an easy and affordable ‘starter’s package’ for small-scale fish farmers; an aquaculture training center has been established to ensure the transfer of knowledge to relevant local stakeholders, etc. Although not all PPPs for food security aim to build value chains from scratch, Wouter’s story still made clear that scaling for transformational change is not just a linear process of scaling a technology, but that it is about building and connecting multiple arrangements to actually make it work.
The session ended with a do-it-yourself scaling exercise. In PPPLab’s attempt to unpack the scaling concept and make it more actionable, we have been looking for ways to help PPPs in the most practical way with their scaling efforts. Therefore, we recently developed the Scaling Scan, a tool that helps to analyze, reflect on, and sharpen your scaling ambition and approach. The Scaling Scan consists of a self-assessment that helps to identify the key bottlenecks for your scaling strategy. The assessment is based on the ten scaling ingredients as a central focus to open up a rich understanding of what scaling may require.
As all participants in the room were part of, or are in one way or another working with PPPs that aim to scale impact, we asked them to fill in a quick version of the assessment for their own project. This resulted in a valuable discussion after. The first impression of the participants was that it is a useful tool, supporting PPPs in using a comprehensive view on what it takes to scale; already after this short exercise, some participants managed to identify a number of bottlenecks for their scaling strategies. As the tool is still under development, the session also led to valuable feedback for PPPLab on how the tool could be further improved. But overall, one message clearly came out: scaling is not an easy task!
We will keep working on the tool in the coming months, with a new version expected in June.
Interested in doing the Scaling Scan for your own project, or do you have ideas on how we can improve the current version? Please do not hesitate to contact us!