"Social entrepreneurs are not content with giving people fish or teaching people how to fish. They will not rest until they have revolutionized the fishing industry."
- Bill Drayton
Maximizing impact can be a difficult thing for even the most seasoned organizations to articulate and it doesn’t have to mean the same thing to everyone. Certain organizations may choose to measure their impact in terms of scale (How many people did you affect? How many dollars per person were invested in this particular intervention?). However other relevant impact questions can include: Have you made the problem go away temporarily, or forever? Have you created local empowerment or dependence on your model? Have you set in motion new behaviors, norms, values and incentives in the system that renders your model unnecessary over time? Are you shifting the fundamental paradigm determining a community's lifestyle choices (and options?).
While most scaling models focus on increasing their impact by increasing the size of the organization, very few have succeeded in helping a system change truly take off around the world.
Social innovations do not always enjoy the same advantages that businesses do; while businesses tend to increase revenues and economies of scale as they grow, social enterprises, often dependent on funders who are not direct beneficiaries of their services, encounter greater difficulties securing funding for such growth. Working to make their ideas “sticky” and pushing for others to adopt their models - also known as generating indirect impact - therefore becomes a key element for social innovations to spread their models and impact to where they are needed.
Systems Thinking Mindsets | Omidyar (video)
This video reinforces the motivation to flex your systems thinking muscles and lowers the risk of applying systems thinking with a misguided mindset.
Fresno's New Leadership Network | Jenny Johnston and the James Irvine Foundation
This case study gives detailed insights into the evolution of a strong network exhibiting how isolated nonprofit leaders can be brought together to bring about transformative social change by triggering collaboration based on peer-learning, trust, empathy, and relationship building. It is further filled with the inspirational voices and perspectives of the leaders who form part of this network.
System Change - Going Beyond Symptoms | Social Innovation Summit | 2018
The Inner Path to Become a Systems Entrepreneur | Skoll Foundation by Katherine Milligan and Nicole Schwab | March 2017
This article reveals the awareness of the importance of “inner work” when it comes to systems entrepreneurship.
Beyond Organizational Scale: How Social Entrepreneurs Create Systems Change | Skoll and Schwab Foundation | 2017
This report offers the reader a better understanding of the concept “systems entrepreneurship” and shares the knowledge of six case studies and five general lessons for achieving system change.
Benefit: Jane Wei-Skillern discusses her research of nonprofit networks, with practical insights on how leaders can achieve more impact with fewer resources by focusing less on building their own institutions and instead investing in networks. She provides some inspiring case examples she came across during her research. We recommend reading the article “Four Network Leadership Principles” first (see above).
Cultivating a Network Leader Mindset | SSIR Management Institute | 2016
In this podcast, Wei-Skillern talks more intensively about the context within which she and her collaborators identified the Four Network Leadership Principles. She provides a wide range of detailed case examples like Guide Dogs for the Blind
The Doer and the Payer: A simple approach to scale | Standford Social Innovation Review | Summer 2015
Kevin Starr (directing the Mulago Foundation and the Rainer Arnhold Fellows Program) paints a simple approach on how to identify a implementor (doer) and a payer (funder) early on in order to get to a strategy on how to scale up a working solution.
Rethinking the Impact Spectrum | Marina Kim | April 2015
Good explanation of the difference between basic system change and framework change. framework to differentiate different levels of social impact.
Local Systems | USAID
This report presents 10 Principles for using systems thinking for social change, offering the reader practical pointers on how to use systems thinking effectively as a social entrepreneur.
SSIR x Bridgespan: Achieving Transformative Scale | Standford Social Innovation Review | Summer 2014
Stanford Social Innovation Review, in collaboration with The Bridgespan Group, has created this nine-week blog series to explore pathways that social sector leaders around the world are pursuing to take solutions that work to a scale that truly transforms society.
SSIR x Omidyar Network/Accion Venture Lab: On Innovators and Pinballs | Standford Social Innovation Review | Winter 2014
Michael Kubzansky (VP for Intellectual Capital at the Omidyar Network) and Paul Breloff (Director of the Accion Venture Lab) challenge the common thinking around scaling in impact investing. According to them most investors focus too much on the growth of the social enterprise only disregarding the even more powerful indirect pathways to scale impact.
SSIR x Global Development Incubator: What is your endgame? | Standford Social Innovation Review | Winter 2014
The leaders of the Global Development Incubator ask in their article if "How do you scale up?" is the the right question for social sector leaders. They argue that most nonprofits, after all, face barriers to organizational growth that remain too high and that by asking "What is your endgame?" and by focusing on a different kind of goal, leaders can maximize their ability to achieve significant social impact.
Four Network Leadership Principles | The Foundation Review | 2013
Jane Wei-Skillern and Nora Silver give a clear and structured overview of four (counter-intuitive) principles that are critical to collaboration success and illustrate their practical application with the Energy Foundation US as a case example. They furthermore challenge the reader to examine the characteristics of their own collaborations, and offer insights on how nonprofit leaders can ensure that their collaborations have an impact that is dramatically greater than the sum of the individual parts.
Scale = Partnership | Standford Social Innovation Review | Summer 2013
Roshan Paul lays out five findings of a study that Globalizer did with its Fellows on scaling impact, not organizations.
Ashoka Globalizer Basics on Increasing Impact by Opening up your Social Innovation | The Ashoka Globalizer | June 2012
This presentation shares some initial considerations on scaling social impact by engaging more and more changemakers into the process to help create long-lasting and wide-reaching change.
When Good Is Not Good Enough| Bill Shore, Darell Hammond, & Amy Celep | Stanford Social Innovation Review | Fall 2013
In this paper leaders of two of the most successful nonprofit organizations argue that the sector needs to shift its attention from modest goals that provide short-term relief to bold goals that, while harder to achieve, provide long-term solutions by tackling the root of social problems.
Scaling Social Impact: When Everybody Contributes, Everybody Wins | Jon McPhedran Waitzer and Roshan Paul | Innovations | June 2011
This article provides an overview of the existing challenges of scaling social innovations and on possible strategies to overcome the core obstacles. The authors describe emerging mechanisms for scaling impact beyond organizational growth; they identify “open-source changemaking” (or open innovation) and “smart networks” as key pathways for spreading social innovations. They also discuss lessons learnt from practice by introducing the Ashoka Globalizer and scaling strategies of the social entrepreneurs involved.
What Do We Mean by Scale?: Reframing the Conversation | Grantmakers for Effective Organizations | February 2011
This briefing paper is the first topic in a series from GEO’s Scaling What Works initiative, which was released in 2011. Authored by Dara Major, the collection pulls together the best thinking, research and actionable approaches to scaling impact, as well as provides additional resources for grantmakers that would like to dive deeper into paper concepts and questions. To effectively grow impact the article suggests the following steps as crucial: Clarify purpose, Define an approach, Target activities that facilitate scaling, Adopt practices that support grantee results.
Scaling Impact: How to Get 100x the Results With 2x the Organization | Jeffrey Bradach | Stanford Social Innovation Review | Summer 2010
The article introduces new tools and strategies for ways to scale impact beyond adding program replication sites. Because this way of thinking about growth is quite new, social entrepreneurs are still figuring out the best approaches. But some pioneers have identified tools and strategies that expand the impact of organizations well beyond what their size would seem capable of generating.
Creating Large-Scale Change: Not “Can” but “How | Gregory Dees | What Matters: McKinsey Publishing | April 2010
In terms of creating scale and change, the article raises three essential questions: “How can more social entrepreneurs achieve greater, that is, more widespread and lasting impact, sooner and more cost effectively? How can social entrepreneurs magnify and accelerate the scale of their impact by looking beyond simply growing their organizations or replicating their service models? And how can we create an ecosystem that optimizes the benefits of social entrepreneurship to society?” Furthermore the author proposes three reframing steps: shift from “can” to “how can”, explore all methods for scaling impact and accept scale as a shared responsibility.
The Definitive Guide to Scaling Social Enterprise | Rizwan Tayabali | March 2010
“The Definitive Guide to Scaling Social Enterprises” outlines 12 new models for scaling social outcomes that are more effective than the traditional commercial mechanisms of organic growth, franchising, acquisition and mergers.
Cultivate Your Ecosystem | Gregory Dees | Stanford Social Innovation Review | Winter 2008
This article argues that Social entrepreneurs not only must understand the broad environment in which they work, but also must shape those environments to support their goals, when feasible. Borrowing insights from the field of ecology, the authors offer an ecosystems framework to help social entrepreneurs create long-lasting and significant social change.
Habitat for Humanity- Egypt | Harvard Business Review | 2006
This case study by Jane Wei-Skillern and Kerry Herman describes how an extensive relationship approach is developed (organically) and used to maximize impact. The ultimate goal of this partnership approach is to train partners and make them entirely independent from Habitat. It is a successful example of how a network approach can effectively transform communities on a large scale.