Submitted on Wed, July 9, 2014
by Rizwan Tayabali
A step by step guide leading Social Entrepreneurs and their consultants through the journey of scaling: From making the initial decision through to implementation. Download the Framework>>>
Scaling vs. Growth
Scaling essentially refers to a form of growth. However, there is an important distinction.
Growing typically involves adding resources at around the same rate as adding impact or revenue. The implications are primarily operational. If a Social Entrepreneur has already increased reach to more people, more cities or even more countries, but her operating costs have gone up in a generally correlated way, then what she has really done is grown rather than scaled.
Scaling differs in that it involves adding impact at an exponential rate while adding resources at only an incremental rate. Although scaling is also commonly approached from an operational perspective, it typically has significant implications for design, not only in terms of the solution being scaled, but also for the way it is delivered.
In a sector where resources are scarce and very large numbers of people are affected by social issues, it is rarely practical to increase resources at the same rate as reach of impact. Hence why the sector focuses on scaling rather than growth, and why this framework does the same.
Growth is typically the first stage on the path to scaling. Once the Social Entrepreneur has developed and proven a solution, then the next stage is to grow her reach in a direct and controlled manner in order to understand the process as well as the transferability of the solution.
Only when the Social Venture has grown to a stable operational size and has understood what does and doesn't work in terms of both impact and operation, should the Social Entrepreneur really start to think about scaling. This isn't necessarily what all organizations do, and many have scaled without taking this position, but the result is typically messier, less impactful and harder work than expected.
Scaling is a critical shift in a Social Entrepreneur’s ability to make a difference, and one that has significant implications for her organization. There is a current trend towards rushing into scale, with a focus on quick wins, but this is a misleading and high risk approach in terms of both impact and organizational stability. Planning to scale should not be taken lightly, and it is important to put the right foundations in place if a Social Entrepreneur wants to ensure her ability to generate impact on a large scale without putting her organization or the outcome at risk of failure.
The general assumption is that the main barrier to scaling lies with access to funding, when in fact financing challenges are often just a symptomatic outcome of underlying readiness and scalability issues.
There are actually five key reasons why organizations struggle to address the real scale of need around the world.
- Lack of outcome oriented purpose with poor problem definition, which leads to failures in design and decision making
- Inapplicable/Non-scalable impact methodology (solution), which limits the flexibility needed to address the varying needs of new environments and demographics
- Non-systematic approaches to set-up and implementation, which limits replicability and decreases both efficiency and effectiveness
- Inflexible organizational design and lack of operational readiness, which limits ability to deliver at scale
- Poor implementation planning, and hence inadequate cost modelling, leading to challenges with raising funds or finance.
The goal of the PATRI framework is to help Social Entrepreneurs scale their impact more effectively while avoiding these pitfalls.
The PATRI Framework for Scaling Social Impact
At its highest level, the Framework consists of a corresponding set of five key questions that will help Social Entrepreneurs scale successfully.
1. Is your goal valid and well defined? (Purpose)
2. Is your design applicable at scale? (Applicability)
3. Is your model systematised and transferable? (Transferability)
4. Is your organisation ready to scale? (Applicability)
5. Is your implementation planning robust? (Implementation)
The above components can be applied to any scaling context, and the Framework breaks down into detailed step by step decision-tree infographics. Even if the Social Entrepreneur chooses not to explore the detail, simply ensuring that she has these five pieces reasonably well considered should be enough to improve her likelihood of scaling successfully.