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Scaling Social Impact: Who, What, When, Where, Why & How?

What is scaling? Why does it matter? What’s the secret to pulling it off? Earlier this week, the Social Impact Exchange’s Knowledge Working Group dove headfirst into these and other related questions.  This inaugural meeting brought together thinkers and doers in the nonprofit sector to share and collaborate around scaling impact.

For those who aren’t familiar, the Social Impact Exchange is a project of an organization called Growth Philanthropy Network. The Exchange is dedicated to creating a forum to share knowledge and increase investment in scaling social impact.

A few key themes and observations:

  • Scaling means different things to different people. The topic of scaling is hot, yet we all mean different things when we talk about scaling. Some talk about scaling impact, while others talk about scaling organizations, programs, inventions, etc. For the purposes of this working group, we agreed that we are focused on scaling social impact, not just organizations.  There is a difference.
  • Scaling is an art not a science. There are few clear roadmaps for how to scale an organization. Thus, there is much work to be done to assess the activity that is going on around scaling and to develop generalizable strategies, if possible.
  • There is a lot to be learned about successfully scaling social impact. The top issues in scaling identified by the group included:  (1) developing scaling strategies;  (2) measuring and evaluating performance; (3) implementing scaling initiatives; (4) creating collective impact; (5) sharing lessons and case studies; and (6) fostering capital market development.
  • We have an opportunity to model collaboration with competitors. About 40 of us were invited to serve on this Knowledge Working Group. But, let’s be honest, many of us compete.  Our charge as a group is to work together to collaborate and coordinate around the aggregation and dissemination of knowledge on scaling social impact. It will be interesting and instructive to see how this all plays out as our work together unfolds. If we’re successful, we can serve as a model for the sector.

At Community Wealth Partners, we assist organizations in scaling social impact, yet we don’t proclaim to know everything there is to know. We are excited to continue to grow our knowledge, and we’d also love to hear from our clients, partners, and blog readers:

  • What does scaling mean to you? What is the purpose of scaling?
  • Do you know of any stories of success or failure in scaling that are particularly instructive?
  • What scaling-related issues did we miss?
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Amy Celep

About Amy Celep

As CEO of Community Wealth Partners, Amy Celep guides the organization’s strategic direction and oversees its more than 20 employees in their efforts to support partners in solving problems at the magnitude they exist. Amy was named to this role in April 2010, and since then has led the organization in developing and implementing a new strategy for greater impact, while achieving 50 percent revenue growth and securing a marquee list of partners. See Amy's full bio

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