Scaling Social Impact

By J. Gregory Dees, Beth Battle Anderson and Jane Wei-Skillern

Arguing that social entrepreneurs have commonly sought to spread or “scale out” their innovations by replicating or “scaling up” their organizations, this article offers a framework for a larger set of pathways from which to choose. The authors encourage social entrepreneurs to consider different ways of both defining and spreading their innovations before determining whether and how to proceed. Presents a framework for evaluating what type of innovation to scale (program, organization, or principle) as well as the mechanisms for how to scale (along a spectrum from dissemination to affiliation to branching). Also provides a useful checklist of “Five R’s” – factors to consider when choosing a strategy for scaling out: readiness, resources, receptivity, risks, and returns.

Stanford Social Innovation Review 1(4): 24-32, 2004