Strategies for Multiplying Impact: Moving Beyond Replication

Two weeks ago, CASE co-hosted (along with the Growth Philanthropy Network and Duke’s Center for Strategic Philanthropy & Civil Society) our annual Social Impact Exchange conference in New York. Over 375 funders, entrepreneurs and thought leaders came together for two days of exploring innovative methods to support scaling or replication of social impact.

Note we said scaling OR replication. They are not always the same thing. Growing your organization by building new branches from scratch in other communities can be expensive, time-intensive and slow. In fact, the impact of an innovation can sometimes be much greater if the entrepreneur re-strategizes about the role of their organization in the larger ecosystem in which they work and finds ways to leverage the work of others.

In Greg Dees’ work on methods for scaling out, he describes three strategies: branching, affiliation and dissemination. Ashoka’s Globalizer program has been exploring barriers and solutions to global scale and has defined hybrid value chains, smart networking and open source strategies as a means to scale innovations.

There are a lot of new terms popping up, we’d love to know whether they have covered the range of options:

  • How do you think about scaling beyond growth in your own organization? How can you keep your organization small but still multiply your impact?
  • What other ways have you found to create bang for the buck by finding mutually beneficial solutions with peers, competitors, or others?
  • When and how do you compete or partner with the system providers whose failure may have motivated you to begin with?

We want to highlight this last challenge through an example of a very successful social entrepreneurial organization, which is working to fix a massive system failure at the point of service delivery. Gene Falk and Mitch Besser founded mothers2mothers in South Africa to prevent mother-to-child transmission of AIDS. They do this through an innovative application of human capital to a government-based health system: they supplement the health offerings in clinics and hospitals with paid peer counselors who have recently successfully prevented transmission to their own children. These peer mothers help pregnant mothers with AIDS navigate through seven intervention steps beginning in pregnancy and ending shortly after birth. Most of them are not medical interventions; they are behavioral and the peer mentor mothers are able to create relationships and trust that the health system has not.

mothers2mothers has reached an important inflection point – the program is effective, they have successfully replicated the model through branches in eight other countries (they are good at replication!) – but recently they faced a new challenge. The government of Kenya invited them to implement their peer counselor mothers model across the entire country, and they had some hard choices to make about how to take advantage of existing networks of similar providers, how to balance cost and quality, and how to work within the mandates of a state government demanding total country coverage.

Read our short business model profile for mothers2mothers and leave a comment: how do you think m2m should approach its scaling challenge? We have a follow-up profile that explains what they are doing now and why. We’ll post it in two weeks and explain more about the lessons we see from this example of scaling impact, rather than scaling just an organization.

Join Cathy in the conversation at the Social Edge now!