Scaling up after small trials

Pilot programs test the validity of an organisation's approaches, but far too often they end with no follow-up and no descendants. It is vitally important to have in hand a reliable way to expand a small-scale trial into something large enough to make a difference.

What is scaling up?

Scaling up means expanding the impact of a successful effort to the regional, national or even multinational level. The expansion may be

  • quantative (spreading to new audiences/areas/organisations)
  • functional (expanding from one technical area to another)
  • political (moving from community level to district/regional/national level via policy changes)
  • organisational (involving diversification or partnerships and alliances)

- or it may involve a combination of these dimensions.

What are the options for scaling a program?

  • Planned expansion - a steady process of expanding the number of sites for a program model once it has been pilot-tested and refined.
  • Explosion - the sudden implementation of a large-scale program or intervention.
  • Association - an expansion of program size or coverage through common efforts by and alliances among a network of organisations.
  • Grafting - the addition of a new program/programs to an already existing, related program.
  • Diffusion - sharing materials so that other organisations can learn from or replicate approaches.

Key factors for success

  • Having a vision for scaling up from the beginning.
  • Choosing pilot sites carefully.
  • Aiming for high impact. Results that are easy to measure or see get attention.
  • Developing solid partnerships with existing organisations.
  • Involving partners from other sectors.
  • Fostering the emergence and growth of dynamic community and political leaders.
  • Strengthening systems and organisational capacity, thus ensuring that scaling up can be supported.
  • Promoting horizontal networking.
  • Testing the approach. Proving effectiveness is essential to scaling.
  • Consolidating, defining and refining. Planners should know which aspects of the original program to hold on to, and which to let go.
  • Simplifying program design as much as possible. A how-to manual will help others follow an approach more easily.
  • Continuously monitoring and evaluating. It can take several iterations to get the basics right.
  • Recognising achievement and publicising program results.
  • Diversifying the funding base and encouraging community ownership.