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Top 5: Approaches to scaling

April 1, 2016


This week we decided to delay having a look at impact-measurement methodologies, in favour of exploring the different scaling trajectories available for social enterprises. There’s a lot more to be said about how to choose a scaling trajectory, since social entrepreneurs often seem to be dead-set on either a fully-owned approach – or the opposite, giving the model away regardless of the business case. The issue of control is central, but between these two poles there is a wide range of options: having the full list to choose from is important in supporting them to make this decision.

  • This guide from UnLtd UK describes 4 overarching approaches (replication, wholly-owned replication, affiliate-based, dissemination), and goes into detail on ‘affiliate-based models’ (franchising, joint venture and partnership). In each case it discusses pros and cons, and describes when it can be most profitably used.
  • Endeva’s report, Multiplying Impact, takes this further: condensing UnLtd’s 4 approaches into 2 (expand vs disseminate), they unpack 6 sub-models, and add detailed advice about how support organisations can facilitate these approaches.
  • Nesta takes a different approach in Making it Big, differentiating between ‘influence and advise’, build a delivery network’, ‘form strategic partnerships’, and ‘grow an organisation to deliver’. Within each approach they list models and core enabling activities, before discussing a range of case studies.
  • Finally, Intellecap and IFC highlight the importance of understanding business objectives in determining the choice of scaling approach, and offer an excellent and detailed decision matrix incorporating decision-triggers, firm preferences, firm capacities, business dependencies, and strengths.

Of course, all this assumes that the SE in question is ready to scale. That’s a whole other question though, and many of you probably have your own resources to address this. Share them with us and we’ll put together a list of top tools!

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