Scaling Up, Scaling Out
There are multiple definitions for scale that center around the expansion, replication, and adaptation of programs. Generally when talking about scale, the term is used to mean one individual program expanding its own reach to serve additional populations or deepening its current efforts. This article examines the challenges of individual programs working together to scale. The goal of the collaboration described is for each service provider to reach additional families with unique services (horizontal scale) while also scaling across programs to ensure that a wider array of services are easily accessible for the family (vertical scale).
In this brief, we examine the lessons from a partnership between Goodwill of Central and Southern Indiana and the National Service Office of Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) — two individual organizations with a global presence. With support from the Aspen Institute, they are working together to scale both vertically and horizontally in order to deliver greater collective impact for families. The initial work has been done in Indianapolis and is a model for further national scale. Together, the organizations are working to achieve collective, effective population change and further two-generation outcomes – outcomes for both children and the adults in their lives.
The ability to scale is a significant issue in the human services field. Extensive efforts are underway and supported by funders and thought leaders (The Aspen Institute, Stanford Center on Innovation, Bridgespan, etc.), which begs the question of why the scaling of evidence-based programs with extensive proof of return on investment is not complete. Three of the many reasons include the following:
First, many organizations lack the capacity to scale (infrastructure, local presence, funding, etc) while ensuring model fidelity.
Second, perverse incentives to scale exist. Local communities tend to support local innovations even if the evidence of outcomes is less clear. While the funding community encourages and often provides incentives for partnerships, funders struggle to support multiple approaches simultaneously. Agencies will find dollars shrinking when collaborating or not increasing as additional families and communities grow. When scaling together, one grant or contract for fewer resources is frequently preferred to supporting the costs of service and data integration for both organizations. State and federal funds are also important funding streams for partnerships. However, many of those funding streams were designed to serve one part of the family or another. To serve the entire family, NFP and Goodwill® have to braid and blend health care, education, and workforce funding, addressing a steady stream of obstacles around funding guidelines and definitions.
Third, scaling together requires commitment from multiple levels within the collaborating agencies, from boards of directors to enrollment personnel.
This paper shares lessons learned, practical approaches to scale, and a vision for two-generation solutions to poverty. The end goal is for families to have access to a wider array of evidence-based and evidence-informed supports to exit poverty.