Newly-developed and piloted innovations in the humanitarian sector often fail to gain the traction necessary for sustained use and wider uptake. This means that work and resources are wasted, and great ideas don’t reach their full potential.
Innovators face a range of barriers to scale, from lack of hands-on experience and knowledge, to inadequate funding and challenges meeting evidence needs. There are also systemic barriers that require a coordinated response from actors across the sector.
Having worked with more than 150 innovations, at different stages of their progress, we want to tackle these problems and make it easier for innovations to scale. In 2016 we made this a key focus of our work.
We introduced our ‘Journey to Scale’ work to support promising innovations to become scale-ready through a bespoke package of advice, tools and guidance.
This work started with an open funding call for scale-ready innovation projects. The most promising organisations and partnerships were invited to develop their scale strategy.
From there we chose three projects to support over the three years, providing each with £400,000 funding, along with additional mentoring and technical assistance.
Learning from this work informed our ‘Too tough to scale?’ report, released in 2018, where we explore some of the key challenges and barriers to scale in more detail.
Our practical learning has also informed the development and curation of tools and guidance to help innovators to scale, made available online in our Humanitarian Innovation Guide.
The video below summarises the first phase of our Journey to Scale work, where you can hear from the three innovations we supported.
Our ‘Too tough to scale?’ report explores the challenges to scaling innovation in the humanitarian sector. We explore why more innovations aren’t successfully scaling and identify key barriers. Drawing from our own experience and on research from the social and development sectors, ‘Too tough to scale?’ identifies 13 key barriers across five different challenge areas. The report goes on to provide clear calls to action for different humanitarian actors and encourages those groups to contribute to sector-wide transformative change.
Our series of blogs delves deeper and unpacks some of the most pressing barriers to scale highlighted in our 'Too tough to scale' report. In these blogs we explore the key challenges and how we can all work together to change them.
Innovation is essential to ensure that humanitarian action can be ever more effective and more efficient – saving lives and reducing human suffering in the face of unprecedented global need. However, the promise of innovation can only be realised if more innovations are adopted by the sector at scale. Scaling innovation is extremely difficult, and is more complex than the development of new solutions. An ambition to scale requires innovators to consider how they might integrate into wider systems: the systems of adopting NGOs, the different operating contexts working with different affected communities, and forces that operate within the wider humanitarian sector. Innovation teams must evolve. They must develop business models to sustain the solution beyond innovation grants. They must build support and inspire change – often beyond their own organisations, often battling inertia, vested interests and always within time-poor and resource-poor environments. It is vital that we understand more about why it is so hard to scale innovations, and how we can support innovators and other humanitarian actors to overcome these challenges. It is a great privilege to work alongside such talented humanitarians, committed to solving problems and changing the status quo to improve the lives of people affected by crises around the world.
Our Journey to Scale work is growing! We’re pleased to announce that we have launched the next round of Journey to Scale, with an increased amount of funding available for a larger number of projects.
We are also stepping up our work to address some of the systemic challenges that prevent innovations from achieving the most impact. Through convening donors and other innovation actors, we aim to tackle these system-wide issues through system-wide collaboration.
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