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.
If you have evidence that a new solution is addressing a widespread need, scaling its use and increasing its impact could significantly reduce human suffering in humanitarian crises. But scaling is a more complex challenge than the development of new solutions. Whereas innovations can often be developed and piloted by small teams with relatively little pressure or need to engage with their wider organisations or with the wider humanitarian sector, an ambition to scale requires innovators to consider how they might integrate fully into these larger systems. This requires understanding how to harness wider demand and turn it into a sustainable business model. It requires advocacy and coalition building. It requires capacity building and managing processes of organisational change. It is often said that there are too many innovation pilots in the sector, with too few able to navigate this complex journey successfully. In order to improve humanitarian outcomes, it’s vital that we better understand the reasons why this is the case, and work with innovators to unblock pathways to scale. It’s a challenge that I am very excited to be working on.
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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