For the past two years, I have been involved in a study on scaling for PPPLab, for which we tried to unpack the concept of scaling and make it more understandable and actionable. Next to the publications Explorations 4 and Insight Series 6, we recently developed a tool called the Scaling Scan as a practical tool to help projects to scale.
The Scaling Scan consists of a self-assessment that helps projects to identify key bottlenecks for their scaling strategy. The essential value of the tool is to show that real scaling is not just about scaling a specific technology or solution, but about looking at many other dimensions. The assessment is based on ten scaling ingredients shown below:
While we did our best to translate relevant scaling literature into a practical tool, in the end it is the user who judges its usefulness. As it turned out, our experts from the HortIMPACT project indicated that they could use our support in scaling their impact. As a result, I travelled to Nairobi for a two-day workshop in Nairobi on scaling.
HortIMPACT aims to build and scale 15 inclusive business cases that address systemic challenges in the horticulture sector in Kenya and impact smallholder farmers. The project for example supports Meru Greens, a company which buys rejected second grade beans, and uses them in different vegetable products they offer and sell on the local market. By building and expanding a market for rejected produce, the company reduces losses for farmers and exporters. Together with the project team, we decided to apply the Scaling Scan to this business case.
During a two workshop we identified access to finance, weak value chain linkages, insufficient public sector engagement and lack of strategic collaboration between key stakeholders as a few of the weaknesses that and that need to be addressed in order to really reach scale. At the end of each day, short brainstorm sessions on potential solutions led to clear follow-up actions for the team, such as setting-up strategic collaboration with financial institutions to address finance gaps.
HortIMPACT supported Meru Greens to buy rejected beans.
Analysing the challenges to scale the Meru Green business case
It is one thing to test a smart innovation in a small scale setting; it is quite something else to bring the proof that it actually works at sector level. More dimensions need to be taken into account, such as engaging the public sector, working with sector platforms and building evidence to draw other stakeholders in. While HortIMPACT has done good work to foster strong business cases, its focus to address more systemic challenges for smallholder farmers in the Kenyan horticulture sector had moved to the background. The task for the project in its remaining two years, is to take the lessons from this scaling workshop, build on the successful business cases to address these challenges, and create changes that last beyond the project period.
My key take away from developing and testing the Scaling tool is that development projects, pressured by their donors to reach large numbers within short project periods, often lose their focus to create systemic changes. We need to discuss this trend with key development stakeholders. PPPLab will also build more emphasis on system change in the tool. In this sense, the workshop has provided us with valuable ideas to improve the Scaling Scan.
HortIMPACT will systematise its experience in the practical application of the Scaling Scan on more business cases and use it for monitoring and evaluation purposes. PPPLab will keep working on improving the tool; a new version is expected in June. Interested to learn more about the Scaling Scan or other work of PPPLab? Please do not hesitate to contact us or visit the website.