Taking it to Scale: If? When? How?

Some organizations just want to keep going at the same level after Aligning Forces funding sunsets; others want to and can take their efforts to the next level—to different customers, by offering different products and services to the same customers, or perhaps to different geographic regions. Taz Hussein of The Bridgespan Group; Susan Dawson of E3 Alliance: Education Equals Economics; Sarah Di Troia of Health Leads; and Ginger Zielinskie of Benefits Data Trust shared their own perspectives and lessons they learned when scaling up their own organizations. 
Dawson framed the discussion by posing the question all groups facing this decision should ask themselves: “How do we scale impact?” Backbone organization E3 Alliance uses objective data and focused community collaboration to change systems and outcomes and ultimately build economic improvement. Dawson recommended using objective, data-driven decision making to bring the correct stakeholders together to identify the drivers behind the change you want to make. “Establish the common agenda, then forge new collaborations,” she said. “Then change practices and build capacities, which is critical because there will never be enough time and resources to do what you want to do.”
At Benefits Data Trust, and organization focused on transforming how people in need access public benefits, they took a similar data-driven approach in their search to find potential beneficiaries. They started small with a carefully targeted group of people and met with great success. “Results were so good people didn’t believe us,” said Zielinskie. Along the way, she added, they learned some important lessons—that turf matters and relationships count. 
Sarah Di Troia of Health Leads touched on some of the administrative aspects of scaling up an operation that should be taken into account, such as the impact on an organization’s culture. “If you are interested in growing your organization, it will feel chaotic. If you thrive on that atmosphere, you’re going to love it,” she said. “You might have to change your staff many times as your organization evolves and develops.”