There is a new strategy sweeping the development community and changing NGO’s practices. ‘Scaling up’ is the term used for a new approach that translates success made in local developing communities to much larger development platforms.

According to a report by the Brookings Institution on the practice, “Scaling up means taking successful projects, programs, or policies and expanding, adapting, and sustaining them in different ways over time for greater development impact.”

Scaling up development practices involves taking solutions that work in small communities and expanding them to larger platforms. For example, if an NGO is trying to help an African entrepreneur start a business, there might be several legal or social barriers in the way. The NGO would naturally help that African businessman circumvent these barriers to start his business. Once the NGO has done its job with regards to that specific endeavor, the process of scaling up would be removing those barriers for all members of the community which they affect, e. g. removing the laws or policies which hinder business in the country.

The practice of scaling up does not have to involve legal means. The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) stated in their 2012 report Scaling Up In Agriculture, Rural Development, and Nutrition that “Scaling up is especially important for agriculture, rural development, and nutrition because of the global challenges of food security and rural poverty.” The report continues to outline how agricultural innovations that are implemented in a small local context can be scaled up to apply on a larger scale to whole regions of the developing world.

That same report by the IFPRI highlighted many different initiatives that could be applied to other scenarios. One good example is the ARI’s application of successful large-scale regreening of the densely populated parts of the Maradi and Zinder regions in Niger to regreening efforts in Burkina Faso and Mali. The IFPRI report details many of the scaling up practices used by ARI, such as getting Malian officials to visit Niger’s regreening projects, and using rural and regional radio to spread messages about regreening.

The practice of scaling up is being used so much for one reason in particular: it works. Obviously not all practices that work for one community will work for other parts of the developing world, but when good practices are identified, the development community is becoming more and more proficient at spreading them to where they’re applicable.

Martin Drake

Sources: Brookings, IFPRI