Scaling Capacities: Supports for Growing Impact

Lessons in building organizational capacity to support scaling among social entrepreneurs

This paper presents findings from original case study research that identified seven organizational capacities critical to the scaling process of social entrepreneurs. The purpose of scaling is to increase impact; by identifying capacities that support scaling, the paper seeks to support efforts to bring innovative models closer to the scale of the problem they aim to address.

The paper identifies seven critical scaling capacities:

  1. MISSION: Defining and Adhering to Core Mission. Clearly defining and adhering to the mission provides focus for decision-making and resource deployment during the scaling process.
  2. STRUCTURE: Balancing Control and Flexibility. Scaling, particularly when it entails organizational expansion, places great challenges on organizational and management structures. The challenge is to balance control with flexibility for innovation and impact.
  3. MODEL: Codifying What Works. Impact can be scaled more effectively by clearly articulating essential components of the model so that it can be more easily and faithfully replicated.
  4. CULTURE: Cultivating and Perpetuating the Culture. For scaling to succeed, organizations must cultivate and perpetuate during the scaling process those aspects of the culture—shared values, behaviors and norms—that are critical for mission achievement.
  5. DATA: Collecting and Using Data. The ability to gather and use data can be critical for informing important scaling-related decisions such as establishing needs in new issue or geographic areas, demonstrating the effectiveness of a model, setting priorities, and choosing strategies.
  6. RESOURCES: Connecting Fundraising to the Mission. Successfully-scaled social entrepreneurships are able to expand their resource base by viewing fundraising as a way to achieve mission and by fi nding ways to connect supporters to programmatic work.
  7. LEADERSHIP AND GOVERNANCE: Making the Right Decisions for Scaling. Leaders and boards are the agents that initiate and manage the scaling process. Strong leadership and governance means making sure the right decisions are made to foster greater mission achievement during what is often a period of rapid organizational change.

The paper also includes examples of effective practice and lessons from social entrepreneurship organizations to illustrate how these organizational capacities have been successfully cultivated and applied.

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