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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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HFRP summarizes key observations in this issue of The Evaluation Exchange.

Scaling impact often refers to scaling programs or interventions, but ideas, technologies, skills, and policies can also be scaled. Thinking about scale more broadly can reveal additional opportunities to scale impact beyond the traditional business model of replication.

  • Scaling impact means more than just upping the numbers served. Scale is typically conceptualized as serving more people or populations. However, scaling can also mean deepening or sustaining impact. It is not just about increasing quantity; it can be about increasing quality.

  • Local context matters; adaptation may be necessary. Unlike scientific models of scale, social-sector scaling is subject to uncontrollable and unpredictable factors that can affect the final result. What works well in one setting might not work as well in another. For this reason, flexibility and adaptability may be necessary to achieve success when a program, intervention, or idea is translated to new settings.

  • Evaluation can play multiple roles in the scaling process. In the past, nonprofits usually employed evaluation at the front end of the scaling process—for example, to determine whether something was worthy of going to scale. But evaluation has other important roles to play. It can identify whether an organization is ready or has sufficient capacity to take something to scale or whether potential settings are good candidates for expansion. It can help identify the most appropriate method for going to scale. And it can assess how well the scaling process is working and provide feedback on how to improve it if necessary. Lastly, nonprofits can use evaluation to demonstrate the success of the scaling process when making the case to funders and other stakeholders that efforts should be scaled up even more. Evaluation that is integrated or embedded within the scaling process can make an important contribution to its success.

  • A slow and deliberate approach is likely to be more effective than rapid scaling. Although this point may seem obvious, it is easy to get caught up in the excitement of scaling quickly without thinking through all of the necessary steps to ensure success. Taking the time to make sure that the initial intervention, idea, or strategy works well, and testing to make sure it is likely to show similar results in new settings, can save considerable time and money in the long run. Evaluation can help ensure that all of the necessary ingredients for success are in place.

  • Scaling is a long-term process with long-term evaluation needs. Even with careful planning, unforeseen issues will come up during the scaling process. Flexibility and a commitment to continuous monitoring and evaluation are required. Scaling is a long-term process that requires vigilance to ensure that it is working as planned and a dedication to making adjustments when it is not. Evaluation can play a crucial role in helping to identify potential problems and suggest possible solutions.

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