Strategies to Scale Up Social Programs

Sam Larson, James W. Dearing and Thomas E. Backer of the Wallace Foundation recently worked with 45 diverse nonprofits to discover successful strategies for scaling successful programs.  

“Strategies to Scale Up Social Programs: Pathways, Partnerships and Fidelity,” examines how successful organizations address how to scale up, whom to involve in the process and the trade-offs and decisions leaders make about scaling up that could impact fidelity.

The programs featured in the study-in the fields of health, education and youth development-are tackling some of society’s most serious problems, ranging from teen pregnancy to hunger to climate change.

The authors identify three main pathways to program expansion used by the efforts studied: “branching,” in which a lead organization developed a program, distributed and implemented it; “affiliates,” in which a lead organization trained other organizations to offer a program, using their own resources; and “distribution networks,” in which the lead organization worked with a distribution partner that then spread the program to an existing network of organizations or individuals for implementation.

The report also examines the types of partners working together to scale up social programs and the ways in which partners found each other. It further explores how these programs were changed to enable them to scale-up while addressing questions of fidelity.

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