Lessons in scaling for impact
From a report by Spring Impact
‘Impact at scale’ remains a buzzword; widely talked about but little understood, especially when it comes to practical implementation. Spring Impact have spent 10 years helping mission-driven organizations to scale their impact and have distilled the lessons learned into a report.
They know that scale is not about enforcing conformity or pretending there is certainty where none exists. It’s about:
identifying where the system and structure can be used, adjusted, or transformed for greatest impact;
ensuring the people the organisations serve actually need, value, and care about the solutions offered;
exploring operationally and financially sustainable ways to grow the organisation's impact;
tracking progress to ensure time, money, and most importantly, human ingenuity are best invested.
These factors make up the journey to impact because there is no simple answer, no single solution.
From this decade of practice they have distilled the five main lessons learned. These lessons are not only meant for organizations that would like to scale their impact, but also funders that would like to better understand scale and how they can support their grantees to more effectively achieve the impact they seek.
The five main lessons are:
1. Stay responsive, stay relevant, stay the course
This lesson is all about striking the right balance between being focused on the goal and remaining agile along the way. Every successful organization they have worked with has had to adapt their model over time - they’ve had to stay responsive. But organizations can’t adapt beyond recognition, without a sense of continuity to their origin or a clear plan or purpose. They need a clear-eyed view of their goals to keep them on the right path - they need to stay the course.
2. Imagine your ideal world, plan for the real world
This lesson is all about combining clarity of vision with nuanced on-the-ground understanding. Organizations need to understand the system they are working within in all its complexity - that’s the first step to changing it.
3. Organizations don’t scale things, people do
The world in which organizations work will shift and change in unexpected ways. In this lesson, they emphasize something that they do have direct control over: the people they bring in to help them respond to these changes and forge ahead on their journey. Recruiting the right people for scale planning and execution can be one of the most important and impactful choices an organization makes.
4. Processes are beautiful, not boring
This lesson relates to an important step they call, “Systemize”, during which organizations design and codify key systems and processes needed for scale. Systemization makes an appearance in all of their work to increase the rate of successful implementation. Systems and processes aren’t just about the documents that capture them. It’s also about a mindset shift - a new way of working that prioritizes creating and implementing these.
5. Fund the journey, not just the destination
It’s difficult for organisations to secure the funds required to invest in strategic planning, operational systems, and human resources, especially when funding is tied to direct impact targets and pre-prescribed activities. So this lesson is all about where they put their money. In short, it’s not just about the outcomes and deliverables - the destination. Funders should also invest in the entire journey to scale, including funding the development and piloting of scale plans.
The report itself contains deeper insights and case studies.
Download and read the full report here.
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From a report by Spring Impact, 29/12/2021