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Scaling Out, Scaling Up, Scaling Deep: Advancing Systemic Social Innovation and the Learning Processes to Support it

To effect large system change, niche or local-level innovations must span spatial and institutional scales to achieve broader systemic impact. Leaders of social innovation, in particular those who work in non-profit organizations and funders of nonprofit and civil society organizations, are increasingly concerned with scaling the positive impact of their investments.This study examines the case of the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and the implementation of a deliberate strategy, named the Applied Dissemination initiative, to build grantee capacity and to accelerate their initiatives to achieve systemic change. One part of the strategy involved an educational intervention, where leaders of more than a dozen national-level initiatives in Canada convened regularly over a period of several years to learn from each other's efforts to achieve scale. The group was successful not only in their efforts to scale for positive impact on their respective issue areas, but also in catalyzing a field of practice in Canada with a growing expertise in scaling innovation for systemic change. The findings show the success of six different strategies that may be adopted to scale innovation on the pathway to large scale or systemic impact, which cut across three different types of scaling: scaling out, scaling up, and scaling deep.

Credit: Prepared for the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation and Tamarack Institute by Darcy Riddell and Michele-Lee Moore

Date: 2015