For the past 20+ years I have worked with nonprofits, NGOs, associations and others that have had “good ideas” that have spread around the world, sometimes strategically, more often in a somewhat ad hoc fashion.  Some of these initiatives have been more successful than others, but as a sector we have not yet mastered the art (and it is an art) of “scaling up”.

What does it mean to ‘scale up’ a program?  One definition notes: “Scaling up is generally used to describe an increase in…interventions that have been tested in pilot and experimental projects in order to benefit more people…” [1] My colleague Roxanna Samii of IFAD puts it succinctly: “Scalability is taking something good and adapting it to context and circumstance.”

In doing an online “literature search” awhile back I found that the available information was spotty.  When I wrote about ‘scaling up’ the Helping Babies Program I am working with a couple of months ago (A Really Big Dream blog post ), commenters suggested some additional resources. There’s certainly some good learning that’s going on around the world re: effective scale-up, but we tend as a sector to learn in a ‘compartmentalized’ fashion.  In the electronic information age, we now have the ability to learn together in a much larger community.

I am thus thrilled to have the opportunity to collaborate cross-generations with millennial[2] Amy Sample Ward on an open learning space to gather lessons learned around scale-up.  With this blog and Amy’s we are introducing a GlobalScale wiki.  When you visit the site you will see sections for sharing Best Practices, Case Studies, and Resources, and to discuss Lessons Learned.  We invite you and your network of colleagues to participate with us as we learn together.

[1] Scaling up in International Health: What are the Key Issues? L. Mangham and K.Hanson, Health Policy and Planning, January 2010

[2] I just note this as there has been a lot of talk recently about the dearth of effective cross-generational activity to which I say:  Bring on the millennials! – their energy, enthusiasm and skills is a breath of fresh air.