Scaling Up, Out, Deep

The emerging practice in Canada centers on more diverse approaches to building, spreading and deepening the impact of social innovations.
Scaling Up, Out, Deep by Allyson Hewitt
Bringing about systems change is difficult. Social changemakers often struggle to scale their impact within systems. The traditional way of trying to scale impact has been to increase the impact of a single organization on its constituents. The emerging practice in Canada centers on more diverse approaches to building, spreading and deepening the impact of social innovations. This is described by Darcy Riddell and Michele-Lee Moore in Scaling Out, Scaling Up, Scaling Deep (2015). Here, Riddell and Moore outline three typologies of approaches for scaling for social innovations:
  • Scaling Up: This is the route to changing policy or impacting laws, to change the broader institutional ‘rules of the game’.
  • Scaling Out: This is the route most often thought of as ‘scaling’ in the social sector, when an organization can successfully replicate a particular social innovation in different communities, in order to reach greater numbers of people.
  • Scaling Deep: This refers to changing the deeper values, cultural beliefs, meanings and practices of people, and the qualities of their relationships, to bring about change.
Source: Riddell, Moore. Scaling Out, Scaling Up, Scaling Deep. 2015.
The following table provides a description of the types of strategies that encompass scaling up, out and deep, as well as cross-cutting strategies for scaling that incorporate elements of each type. These strategies were found to be employed by the participants of this study (people, organizations, partners) once they made a deliberate choice to scale, and once they focused on solving an issue at the root cause using systems thinking. Then, the strategy they chose depended on “the founding conditions of their organization, the context surrounding their issue, the resources and support they could access, choices they made about who to partner with and how to achieve impact, and the windows of opportunity – political, cultural and social – that emerged” (Riddell & Moore, 2015: p. 4).
Source: Riddell, Moore. Scaling Out, Scaling Up, Scaling Deep. 2015.

Deciding to Scale

The following section has been contributed by Roya Damabi, Alberta CoLab.
It is important to note that not all innovations are scalable. Some innovations – or parts of them – work extremely well for people in one context or under very specific conditions.
As well, not all innovators are interested in scaling, as it requires different tactics, resourcing, and capabilities than developing the initial innovation.
Where there is a possibility that spreading an innovation could benefit more people, it is worthwhile for innovators to explore the potential for scaling.
Innovations with the potential to scale most quickly and broadly typically demonstrate the following criteria, against which innovators can assess scaling potential:
  • Relative Advantage: Is the innovation demonstrably better than existing alternatives?
  • Evidence-based: Is the innovation testable and is its potential impact backed up by research?
  • Compatibility: Does the innovation easily fit with the current system and work in context?
  • Weak Competition: Is there demand for the change the innovation brings, or do similar solutions already exist?
  • Simplicity: Does the innovation easily integrate into existing structures and systems, or does it require significant investments in technology, training, or new facilities?
  • Value for Money: Low-cost innovations are more likely to have broad acceptance.