Scaling-up and replication – seen through “learning lenses”

February 16, 2011 | Manuel Flury | SDC Experiences |


Rating: none

Manuel picture for sdclan

  By Manuel Flury







I     A Peer Assist Workshop in Sarajevo – Learning with partners

In a three days workshop in Sarajevo in April 2009, the programme staff of the SDC Country Office met with colleagues of three partner organisations. The Cooperation Strategy 2009-2012 for Bosnia and Herzegovina focuses on capitalizing on acquired expertise and to profit from past investments made and strategic assets accumulated. Capitalising and documenting experiences has been the rational of the workshop. It looked at “disseminating” project achievements in a “new way”: to promote and to facilitate learning and change on larger levels of the society (scaling-up) and/or in comparable contexts (replication). The peer assist allowed the participants to learn from others: how can they facilitate societal change in their fields of primary health care, water resources management and municipal governance and administration. 

There was consensus:
Facilitating societal change – learning from project experiences – requires time and patience and a high degree of professionalism in facilitating process and harmonisation among actors.

  • Facilitating societal change needs to consider often highly dynamic social and political dynamics and constellations, requires creating awareness and building capacities and includes harmonisation with other comparable initiatives. Rapid adoption of project achievements by higher levels or in other contexts are not to be expected in most cases, facilitation and corresponding funding strategies need to be as flexible as possible in order to allow reacting to the often complex dynamics.
  • There is need for a harmonised approach by all (external) agencies intervening in a particular field or sector and the corresponding driving role of the national actor in this process.

 Some of the take-home-lessons from participants were:

  • “Learning change processes never end”
  • “Local Development is process oriented and needs many sustained efforts and time in order to produce tangible results.”
  • “Replication and scaling up are tackled simultaneously: It is necessary to have simultaneous replication processes at the same level and to make known the activities’ results to higher levels.”
  • “The only way to make sure the change happens is to share the knowledge and experience with adequate partners and colleagues: we should simply dare to share. “

 What became clear to me:

  • Risks of successful scaling-up or replication relate to dynamic political constellations of concurring and diverging interest and mind-sets, weak enforcement of laws and regulations, dysfunctional administrative institutions, strategic and operational set-ups, inadequate capacities for strategic and operational planning, steering and management, loss of political momentum due to slow(ed) processes (of consultation and participation), operational over ambitions, inadequate expectations of “evidence” / effectiveness, inadequate funding strategies.
  • Factors that support learning in the context of scaling-up and replication include: sound, well tested and documented, feasible technical and/or managerial “models”; a societal momentum, i.e. an issue (or entry point) of high priority for citizens; a political momentum i.e. creating win-win situations joining different political interests; high-level sponsoring and ownership for change (change owner taking the lead); appropriate entities and fora for policy debate; alliance and coalition building among like-minded actors; space for, concertation (and coordination) among key stakeholders; combining policy formulation with strategic action; creating and leveraging synergies of various “local” initiatives; explicit advocacy for change; institutionalising exchange of experiences.


II     A Scoping Workshop in Berne – Challenges for SDC

On a Monday morning in March 2010, fifteen SDC collaborators met for a one and a half hour workshop. The guiding question was: “What aspects should a proposed working tool about scaling-up and replication include?”. The gathering turned out to be a capitalisation and pooling of the experience around the table. At the end, everybody agreed that starting the working week with such an exchange is both enriching and motivating. The insights gathered per se constitute important principles and messages on how to go about with scaling-up and replication: 

A pragmatic understanding:

Scaling-up and replication are key strategic elements of international cooperation. The main intention is to ensure sustainability of (financial, technical, managerial, etc.) investment (“keep efforts going, continuously”) through working on different societal levels and/or in different, comparable contexts.

  • Scaling-up looks at influencing the policy environment (developing and changing policies, laws and regulations). Scaling-up “asks”: what changes in the larger (politico-administrative) system will be based on the “local” experience?
  • Replication (“horizontal integration”, scaling-out) refers to applying experiences in similar or comparable contexts. Replication “asks”: what changes in comparable “local systems” will be based on the particular experience?

Some principles:

The “pilot” needs to be scalable and convincing The pilot project (the technical intervention, the methodology, the approach or any other “development effect”) is of good quality, well tested in the particular context and of highly accepted by the civil society and relevant public bodies. Most crucial: “Pilots” tend to be perfect, highly particular to the local context. They need continuously to be tested in comparable situations.

Scaling-up needs to be a joint, negotiated and well coordinated effort of many partners This includes lobbying at the (national) policy level and at the level of international organisations, making use of maximum leverage; placing the initiative within the policy agenda of the country, concluding agreements with respective public authorities; placing the initiative in the context of harmonisation and alignment efforts; conceiving the initiative as a multi-stakeholder partnership (with NGOs, civil society organisations, public institutions, other donors etc.)

Scaling-up requires a systemic analysis in order to place the initiative “in the larger societal system”

Scaling-up represents learning not public relations. It closely links to participating in the policy dialogue and wanting to influence (national) policies. The larger (politico-administrative) system learns from a “local” pilot experience and changes (or develops) its norms, policies, regulations Comparable “local systems” learn from a particular pilot experience and apply experiences in their own context. This requires the individual competencies and institutional capacities to do so.

Scaling-up includes capacity development. In particular: skills in systemic analysis; ability to (conceptually and practically) link societal dynamics and solving development problems at micro and macro levels; understanding policy (development) cycle.


III     Further reading

 In October 2010 IFAD published an institutional review of its own approach to scaling up. The study elaborated by the Wolfensohn Center for Development includes an analytical framework for scaling up. They authors conceive scaling-up as a part of three interlinked, iterative and interactive processes of “Innovation”, “Learning” and “Scaling up”. It is important to explore potential pathways – sequence of steps in the innovation-learning-scaling up cycle – early on and take proactive steps to plan and prepare for scaling up in terms of dimensions, desired ultimate scale, drivers and political spaces.

The IFAD review is based on a a framework of  scaling-up in development endeavours published in 2008 by the same Wolfensohn Center for Development. Addressing in particular aid donors, the authors conclude that “despite the occasional stress being put by individual institutions on scaling up, there is in fact little systematic focus on scaling-up among the donors. Many aid agencies pursue development interventions as a one time intervention, as scaling up is not an issue for deliberate reflection by donors in their country strategies or at the start of a specific project.” And they continue: “Gradual build-up of programs with systematically laying out scaling up paths remains the exception rather than the rule.” The authors perceive the need

  • To create the political space in which scaling up needs to take place as an important component of programmes.
  • To build the institutional capacity for scaling up, assuring that local expertise is actually created and sustained, through long-term support for learning by doing.

In the framework of the SEED initiative, the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) published a report on “Scale-up and replication for social and environmental enterprises”. In an SEED information leaflet for policy makers they formulated eight steps for scaling up that can be applied to any scaling-up initiative.

No Comments

Leave a Reply