Launching the Scaling Scan: a tool to determine the potential to scale

PPPLab’s Floortje Jacobs (SNV) shares experiences in developing and launching the Scaling Scan – a tool collaboratively developed and tested with CIMMYT – to life

In discussions on how to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), ‘scaling’ seems to be an unavoidable concept. Impact at scale is needed to address critical global issues such as water availability, sanitation, food security and environmental concerns. The solutions to these global challenges require new ways of working to be applied across people, communities and countries – hence the need to develop a stronger ability to tackle scale. The ambitious SDG agenda emphasizes the need for systemic change, with innovative solutions, new ways of working, and improved models of governance.

But while scaling seems to be the new buzz, at the same time we all seem to wonder what it actually means in practice: how can our policy or project activities contribute to reach impact at scale?

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 also pay attention to scaling of complementary non-technical requirements, such as awareness raising, financial arrangements to make the technical solution affordable, public sector engagement, etc. In earlier publications, we summarized these dimensions in the ten ‘scaling ingredients’ as shown below.

With this insight, we wanted to develop a tool that helps PPPs in a practical way in adopting this broad view on scaling. We therefore used the ingredients framework as a basis for the Scaling Scan: a tool that helps to determine the potential to scale. The Scaling Scan is basically a self-assessment that helps PPPs reflect on the extent to which all the ingredients are sufficiently addressed in their scaling strategies. Because after all, in order to make a good curry, we need to find the right mix and balance of ingredients to come to the best taste.

Practically, the tool helps to fill the niche between having (at least) a general idea of what should scale where (for example, when a donor requests a proposal for adoption of a technology) and having a detailed scaling strategy ready for implementation. The Scaling Scan is designed for anyone involved in pro-poor and sustainable development programs looking to scale impact.

A first version of the tool was tested in workshop settings in the Netherlands, Mexico, Kenya, India and Nepal with project managers, scientists, agricultural extension agents and other development practitioners working in the agrifood and water supply sectors. These test sessions provided valuable input which allowed us to make considerable improvements in the applicability, user-friendliness and usefulness of this final version of June 2018.

Most participants of these workshops indicated that they value the tool mostly because it made them realize what it actually takes to scale in practice. In most cases, the outcome of the workshops served as starting points for further discussions on how to improve scaling strategies. An example is SNV’s HortIMPACT in Kenya, where the Scaling Scan helped the project team to 1) identify key bottlenecks to scale, and 2) regain focus on the project’s contribution to wider sector change, rather than working with individual business cases in silo.

For more explanation on how and when to use the tool, we invite you to download the PDF version which contains detailed practical information. For workshop settings, there is the Excel version which allows the tool to be used by multiple team members at the same time.

We also invite you to provide feedback as we are curious if the Scaling Scan indeed provides meaningful insight in which ingredients need more attention to really reach scale; after all, creating a good curry requires practicing and learning.