I’ve noted before both my interest in scaling social enterprises, and my concern regarding how and why organizations scale. I’m interested in social enterprises achieving their maximum potential impact sustainably, without a negative impact on organizational management, resources, and program relevance. I’m concerned with organizations scaling too quickly, and the dangers that come with an overemphasis on scale.
The FSG blog has a great article on this topic, “Scaling Impact: Beyond Replication.”
“Scale” is often used to describe an organization replicating or expanding its business model to a new population or location. Organizations capable of achieving this type of scale are currently the most attractive to investors. But scale through replication is not necessarily the best or only way to achieve measurable and meaningful positive social impact.
FSG highlights two other options for scaling organizations. The first is advocacy for policy changes that foster better environments for social change, in addition to the organization’s services. The other option is “going deeper with a population that an organization or initiative is already engaging.” Going deeper as a form of scale could mean:
“that an organization shifts its approach to addressing a social problem from a narrow focus that meets a specific need (e.g., delivering substance abuse treatment services to urban youth) to a broader, wrap-around approach that helps these same youth cope with issues related to poverty, mental health, and education that also affect substance use behaviors.”
My hope is that as the social enterprise ecosystem continues to evolve, organizations and investors will also consider scale through advocacy and scale through going deeper as attractive as scale through replication.