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The Ecosystem of Scaling Social Impact: A New Theoretical Framework and Two Case Studies


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This article reviews existing literature on scaling social impact and proposes a new theoretical framework to understand the ecosystem of scaling social impact beyond organizational growth. By searching scale-related keywords extensively, we have identified 107 pieces of literature from 1992 to 2018. We analyze the literature and categorize multiple theoretical frameworks of scaling into five groups (supply-demand model, three-strategy model, spiral model, multi-factor model, and pathway model). We find that each model has overlooked one or several enabling factors of scaling. By synthesizing these factors, we propose a new theoretical framework, namely 'the ecosystem model of scaling social impact', which combines six key elements-financing, organizations , technology and data, strategies, institutional infrastructure, and government policy. We apply this framework to analyze two cases, the Rockefeller Foundation and B Lab, which initiated and scaled two global movements of Impact Investing and B Corps and map out key elements and players in the formation of the ecosystems of scaling impact.
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The Ecosystem of Scaling Social Impact: A New
Theoretical Framework and Two Case Studies
Jun Han & Sonal Shah
To cite this article: Jun Han & Sonal Shah (2020) The Ecosystem of Scaling Social Impact: A New
Theoretical Framework and Two Case Studies, Journal of Social Entrepreneurship, 11:2, 215-239,
DOI: 10.1080/19420676.2019.1624273
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The Ecosystem of Scaling Social Impact: A New
Theoretical Framework and Two Case Studies
Jun Han
and Sonal Shah
Business for Impact, McDonough School of Business, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., USA;
Beeck Center for Social Impact þInnovation, Georgetown University, Washington, D.C., USA
This article reviews existing literature on scaling social impact and
proposes a new theoretical framework to understand the ecosys-
tem of scaling social impact beyond organizational growth. By
searching scale-related keywords extensively, we have identified
107 pieces of literature from 1992 to 2018. We analyze the litera-
ture and categorize multiple theoretical frameworks of scaling
into five groups (supply-demand model, three-strategy model, spi-
ral model, multi-factor model, and pathway model). We find that
each model has overlooked one or several enabling factors of
scaling. By synthesizing these factors, we propose a new theoret-
ical framework, namely the ecosystem model of scaling social
impact, which combines six key elements financing, organiza-
tions, technology and data, strategies, institutional infrastructure,
and government policy. We apply this framework to analyze two
cases, the Rockefeller Foundation and B Lab, which initiated and
scaled two global movements of Impact Investing and B Corps
and map out key elements and players in the formation of the
ecosystems of scaling impact.
Scaling social impact;
ecosystem model;
Rockefeller Foundation;
B Lab
Scaling social impact has been viewed as one of the most challenging issues in both
research and practice (Cannatelli 2017; Bradach 2003; Scheuerle and Schmitz 2016).
Often scaling social impact is perceived as organizational growth (Dees, Anderson, and
Wei-Skillern 2004), for example, the increasing number of staffs, the growing revenues,
more branches or offices established, and more people served. Yet, organizational
growth does not directly lead to scaled social impact. The organizations are expanded,
but the social problems may not be solved proportionally or substantially. How, then,
to scale social impact without maximizing organizational growth? This is an interesting
and important question.
Existing literature has not distinguished scaling impact and scaling organizations
distinctively. Most research regards organizational growth as a part of the outcome of
This article has been republished with minor changes. These changes do not impact the academic content of
the article.
ß2019 Informa UK Limited, trading as Taylor & Francis Group
2020, VOL. 11, NO. 2, 215239
scaling. For example, Dees, Anderson, and Wei-Skillern (2004) claim that scaling social
impact has three forms: scaling an organization, replicating a program, and spreading
a principle. Bloom and Skloot (2010) and Bloom and Smith (2010) measure scaling
impact in four aspects: (1) progress in alleviating the problem, (2) scaled organizational
capacities, (3) increasing number of individuals served, and (4) increased geographic
area served. Frumkin (2006, 204) claims that scaling has five overlapping meanings:
financial strength, program expansion, comprehensiveness, multisite replication, and
accepted doctrine. Majority of the definitions of scaling are more about scaling organi-
zations (expansions in programs, income, beneficiaries, and geographic regions), rather
than scaling the impact.
Scaling social impact is not limited to scaling organizations or serving more people
(Bradach 2010; Shah 2017). It is more about the effectiveness of addressing a social issue,
transforming the way people perceive a problem, and changing the status quo. As Roger
Martin and Sally Osberg put in the book, Getting Beyond Better,scale is a question of an
organizations effectiveness at transforming a suboptimal status quo(Martin and Osberg
2015,166). Scaling social impact is thus, in our opinion, more about creating transforma-
tive social change or system change and less about scaling organizations.
This research suggests that organizational growth would be better considered as an
independent variable instead of the outcome of the scaling because scaling organiza-
tions or organizational growth is a means to achieve social impact. It is not the end. It
would be more interesting and more important to ask how to scale social impact
without maximizing organizational growth, or as Bradach (2010) put it, how to get
100X the results with 2X the organizations.
This research aims to build a new theoretical framework to understand how to
scale social impact beyond organizational growth and apply this framework to ana-
lyze specific cases to test its applicability. Reviewing existing literature, we find that
most of the research is primarily focusing on organizational level factors, including
funding, staff, strategies, and stages of scaling. Systemic level factors, such as institu-
tional infrastructure and government policy, are understudied or missing in
the literature.
By integrating organizational level and systemic level factors, this research proposes
a new theoretical framework, namely the ecosystem of scaling social impact.We
argue that scaling social impact without maximizing organizational growth relies on
the ecosystem that includes both organizational factors and systemic level factors.
Without the systemic level support, the efforts of scaling social impact may end up
with scaling organizations without bringing about substantial social change.
To establish such an integrated theoretical framework, this article is organized as
follows. We start with a systematic review of existing literature. To give an overview of
the landscape of the research on scaling social impact, we identify, collect, and ana-
lyze the literature, and categorize the literature into five groups of theoretical models
(supply-demand model, three-strategy model, spiral model, multi-factor model, and
pathway model). We then summarize the enabling factors and strategies of scaling
raised in the literature. By integrating existing factors and overlooked ones, this
research proposes a new theoretical framework, an ecosystem model of scalingto
analyze two specific cases the Rockefeller Foundation and B Lab and the movements
of Impact Investing and B Corps they initiated and promoted. Finally, we draw a con-
clusion and discuss the implications of this research.
Literature review
To establish an inclusive framework of scaling social impact, we conduct a systematic
review on existing research and literature, by taking the following four steps. First,
we set up the selection criteria, including keywords and search engines. Secondly, we
identify the literature based on the citations from the highest to the lowest. Then, we
categorize the literature into different groups in terms of their theoretical frameworks
or models and summarize the enabling factors raised in the literature. Finally, we syn-
thesize the key factors into an integrated framework.
The literature search starts by identifying several keywords for our interest, including
scaling social impact,scale of impact,going to scale,getting to scale,scale up,and
their derivatives (e.g. scaling impact,transformative scale,scalability,etc.).Wecon-
ducted the search of the literature extensively in two search engines, Google Scholar and
Google Book. The types of literature we chose are journal articles, books, book chapters,
research reports, and working papers or conference papers. Book reviews, journal articles
outside social science, unpublished dissertations and media articles are excluded from
consideration. The language of literature is limited to English.
We value the literature in terms of their citation frequencies from the highest to
zero citations. Citation is widely used as a measure of votes of academic contribution
towards human knowledge (Saha, Saint, and Christakis 2003). The weakness of cit-
ation-based ranking, however, is that it discriminates recent publications, as new publi-
cations do not have the time to accumulate a high level of citations (Crossan and
Apaydin 2010). To reduce this negative effect, we conducted an additional search in
April 2019 by setting the time frame from 2010 to 2018 to engage more recent publi-
cations which have no or low citations.
In terms of this criterion of literature search, we have identified 107 pieces of litera-
ture for analysis, ranging from 1992 to 2018. The number of literature in each year
and the growth trend are presented in Figure 1. Since 2010, the number of publica-
tions on scaling social impact increased significantly, compared with the period of
years before 2010.
In terms of the literature type, as shown in Figure 2, the largest share is journal
articles, taking 56% of the literature. Research reports produced by research institutes,
think-tanks, and foundations constitute 16% of the literature. Books and book chapters
are 10 and 11%, respectively, while conference papers or working papers take 7% of
the population.
Given the journal articles took the highest proportion of the literature, we break it
down to different journals. Although Stanford Social Innovation Review is a practice-ori-
ented magazine, it contains 13 articles focusing on this topic, which includes several
highly cited academic articles, such as Dees, Anderson, and Wei-Skillern (2004) and
Bloom and Dees (2008). Thus, we include it in our analysis. The leading peer-reviewed
journals that have publications on scaling social impact include Journal of Social
Entrepreneurship (4 articles), Journal of Business Ethics (3 articles), VOLUNTAS:
International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations (3 articles), Development
in Practice (3 articles), Entrepreneurship and Regional Development (2 articles), and
Social and Environmental Accountability Journal (2 articles).
In terms of the research type, as shown in Figure 3, most literature is qualitative
studies (45%), primarily anecdotal descriptions or case studies. Pure theoretical or
conceptual pieces of literature constitute 26%. Practice-oriented publications take
16%. Quantitative research and literature review constitute the smallest share, 10%
and 3%, respectively.
Among the 11 pieces of the quantitative studies, five of
them are descriptive analyses and six use statistical modelling (e.g. regression anal-
yses). Therefore, literature review and quantitative research on scaling social impact
is rare.
19921995 2000 200220032004 2005 200620072008 2009 2010 20112012 2013 2014 20152016 2017 2018
Figure 1. The growth of the literature on scaling social impact (19922018).
or working
Figure 2. Breakdown of the literature by literature type.
Scanning the literature, we find that existing research provides multiple models or
approaches to conceptualize drivers, stages, strategies, and pathways of scaling. After
analyzing the extant literature, we categorize them into five groups of theoretical
frameworks: supply-demand model, three-strategy model, spiral model, multi-factor
model, and pathway model. This section overviews the five models, summarizes the
factors driving the scaling, and discusses what is missing in each model.
Supply-demand model
In the report, In and out of Sync, Mulgan, Ali, et al. (2007) provides a general economic
theory of scaling: effective supply and effective demand. Organizations can use effect-
ive strategies to connect the demand and the supply and find the right organizational
forms to learn and adapt in achieving social impact. They outlined a spectrum of
organizational forms for scaling up, from a lower level of control to a high level of
control: (1) Uncontrolled diffusion, (2) more directed diffusion by a parentorganiza-
tion (promotion through formal networks, multiplication including federations, licens-
ing, and franchising), (3) takeover or emulation by more powerful organization, and (4)
organizational growth (Mulgan, Ali, et al. 2007,1718).
In a seminal paper, Mulgan, Tucker, et al. (2007, 24) argue that scaling impact
depends on two clusters of factors: (1) An environment that provides effective
demand: public agencies willing to provide commissions or contracts; members of the
public willing to pay for services; charitable funders willing to provide subsidies. (2)
Capacities of organizations: managerial, financial and personnel skills, leadership and
governance, being able to straddle different sectors, communicating, and story-telling.
Taylor, Dees, and Emerson (2002, 236) offer a similar supply-demand model of scal-
ing. They argue that social entrepreneurs face some pressures to scale up. Some are
from the supply side, for example, organizational needs of career development and
personal ambition of success. Some are from the demand side, for instance, requests
from communities, expectations from funders, and moral imperative.
Figure 3. Breakdown of the literature by research type.
The strengths of the supply-demand model of scaling are that it highlights the
environmental factors, capacities of organizations, and incentives of entrepreneurs.
What is missing or less discussed is supporting government policies, institutional infra-
structure, and the increasingly significant role of technology and data in scaling
social impact.
Three-strategy model
Some literature sheds light on the strategies used to scale social impact. For example,
Dees, Anderson, and Wei-Skillern (2004) summarize a three-strategy model consisting
of three strategies of scaling social impact: dissemination, affiliation, and branching.
Dissemination is providing information, and sometimes technical assistance, to others
looking to bring innovation to their community(Dees, Anderson and Wei-Skillern
2004, 28). Affiliation is a formal relationship defined by an ongoing agreement
between two or more parties to be part of an identifiable network,ranging from a
loose coalition of organizations to tighter systems like franchises (Dees, Anderson and
Wei-Skillern 2004, 28). Branching is the creation of local sites through one large
organization, much like company-owned stores in the business world(Dees, Anderson
and Wei-Skillern 2004, 28). Dees, Anderson, and Wei-Skillern (2004) argue that the
three strategies for scaling should be viewed as a continuum, which requires an
increasing degree of central coordination and increasing resources.
Similarly, Lyon and Fernandez (2012) depict three strategies of scaling used by
social enterprises: (1) growth within the organization (new activities and more sites);
(2) formalized relationships with other providers (social franchise, use of kite marks,
training, and networks); and (3) open access sharing and disseminating good practice
(an organization relinquishing control and allowing others to take ideas and adapt
them). Bradach (2003) identifies three stages as defining the growth strategy, design-
ing the network, and establishing the role of the centerin ensuring quality, facilitat-
ing learning, and providing centralized services.
The three-strategy model focuses merely on strategies used by organizations in
scaling their impact, but other factors, especially institutional factors, are not consid-
ered or included.
Spiral model
Murray, Caulier-Grice, and Mulgan (2010) and Gabriel (2014) offer a spiral model of
social innovation, which identifies seven stages. The seven stages are (1) exploring
opportunities and challenges, (2) generating ideas, (3) developing and testing, (4) mak-
ing the case, (5) delivering and implementing, (6) growing, scaling and spreading, and
(7) changing systems. These stages are not linear or sequential, as feedback loops and
iterations exist among them (Murray, Caulier-Grice, and Mulgan 2010, 12).
Based on the spiral model, Gabriel (2014, 13) further breaks the scaling process
down into four stages: clarifying aims and goals for scaling, establishing what to scale
up, choosing a route to scale, and gearing up to deliver a scaling strategy . Clark et al.
(2012) provide a four-stage evolution of scaling: assessment (evidence of efficacy
and readiness to scale), business model development (strategies for scaling and
growth business plan), implementation and roll-out, and evaluation and ongoing
Spiral model offers conceptualizations of the developmental stages of scaling, but it
does not explore the enabling factors behind the scaling process. Furthermore, the
spiral model is more about scaling organizations or innovations, rather than focusing
on the drivers of scaling impact.
Multi-factor model
Bloom and Chatterji (2009) proposed a well-known multifactor model of scaling,
namely, the SCALERS Model. SCALERSstandards for seven drivers for scaling: staffing,
communications, alliance building, lobbying, earnings generation, replication, and
stimulating market forces (Bloom and Chatterji 2009, 115).
According to Bloom and Chatterji (2009), staffingrefers to the effectiveness of the
organization at filling its labor needs, including its managerial posts, with people who
have the requisite skills for the needed positions(117). Communicatingrefers to the
effectiveness with which the organization is able to persuade key stakeholders that its
change strategy is worth adopting and/or supporting(118). Alliance buildingmeans
the effectiveness with which the organization has forged partnerships, coalitions, joint
ventures, and other linkages to bring about desired social changes(119). Lobbying
means the effectiveness with which the organization is able to advocate for govern-
ment actions that may work in its favor.’‘Earnings generationis the effectiveness
with which the organization generates a stream of revenue that exceeds its expenses
(121). Replicationrefers to the effectiveness with which the organization can repro-
duce the programs and initiatives that it has originated(122). Stimulating market
forcesmeans the effectiveness with which the organization can create incentives that
encourage people or institutions to pursue private interests while also serving the
public good(123). Bloom and Chatterji (2009) argue that to what extent each
SCALERS factor will influence scaling depends on situational contingencies (labor
needs, public support, potential allies, etc.). They combine each of the SCALERS and
situational contingencies in the model.
In a subsequent paper, Bloom and Smith (2010) enhanced theoretical foundations
upon which the SCALERS model is developed, operationalize the variables, and test
the model empirically. The results show that two of the seven drivers in the SCALERS
are not statistically significant, that are alliance building and lobbying (Bloom and
Smith 2010).
Further, Cannatelli (2017) uses the data of 179 social ventures in Italy to test the
SCALERS model. He finds a positive relationship between each of the SCALERS varia-
bles and scaling, except replicating, and provides initial evidence of five contingencies
moderating the relationship between the SCALERS and the scaling of social impact.
The SCALERS model is the first multiple-factor model to understand the scaling of
social impact. It combines both internal factors (organization capabilities) and external
factors (situational contingencies). Yet, the relations between different factors are not
clear and some of the factors, for example, communicating and alliance-building, may
have overlaps or associations. How situational contingencies influence the enabling
factors of scaling is not clear in the model.
Pathway model
Ratliff et al. (2004) provide a pathway model, which has three critical steps: standard-
ization of the best practice, building supporting infrastructure, and deliberate roll-out.
Gabriel (2014) suggests that scaling social innovation involves four stages: (1)
Clarifying social, organizational and personal goals for scaling; (2) establishing what to
scale up; (3) choosing a route to scale; (4) gearing up to deliver a scaling strategy.
Waitzer and Paul (2011) offer a model of scaling with two pathways: open-source
change making and smart networks. Open-source change making taps into underlying
motivation of innovation, by ensuring trust and transparency, fostering a culture of
meritocracy, opening up to possibility, seeking rapid diffusion, and encouraging mut-
ability (Waitzer and Paul 2011, 150). Smart networks mean leveraging or collaborating
across networks in ways that are greater than the sum of their parts(Waitzer and
Paul 2011, 151152). Five principles apply to smart networks: ensuring diversity at the
core, expanding virally, being global, giving to get, and fostering network leadership
(Waitzer and Paul 2011, 152). Waitzer and Paul (2011) use stories and insights from
Ashokas Globalizer initiative to support the two pathways of the scaling.
Desa and Koch (2014) develop a punctuated-equilibrium process model for scaling
social impact, which can be viewed as a two-path model of scaling. In this model,
social impact is divided into depth-scaled social impact and breath-scaled social
impact. One is to address social welfare failures(by developing more social services
or replicating entire social modules), and the other is to address commercial market
failure. The two paths of scaling in this model rely on the resource mobilizing and
entrepreneurial adjustments to client social needs and capital needs (Desa and Koch
2014, 168).
Weber, Kr
oger, and Lambrich (2012,2014) offer a scaling path modelor scalability
framework with four pathways. This model aims to explain complex causalities and
interdependencies of the factors affecting the scalability of social impact. It has nine
conceptual categories: (1) commitment of the individuals driving the scaling process,
(2) management competence, (3) entire or partial replicability of the operational
model, (4) ability to meet social demands, (5) ability to obtain necessary resources, (6)
potential effectiveness of scaling social impact with others, (7) adaptability (adaptation
necessary, and adaption possible), (8) types of scaling strategies (capacity-building,
relationship defined by an ongoing agreement, diffusion of knowledge, and one adja-
cency move), and (9) critical decision-making path.
After defining the components of the model, Weber, Kr
oger, and Lambrich (2012,
8) identify four different scaling pathways, which are based on the decision-making
process and lead to four types of scaling strategies. Organizations can scale social
impact by choosing more than one pathway (Weber, Kr
oger, and Lambrich 2012, 9).
Elkington, Hartigan, and Litovsky (2010) and Elkington, Litovsky, and Love (2009)
contribute a five-stage pathways to scalemodel of change. The five stages are as fol-
lows: (1) Eureka!, the creative moment where new opportunities for innovative
solutions become apparent, (2) the Experiment,where entrepreneurs test, prototype,
fail, learn, and adapt new solutions, (3) the Enterprise,where experiments become
organizations and initiatives with more developed business models, invested by a
broad range of investors, (4) the creation of an Ecosystemof change agents, which is
about creating new markets, incentives, and frameworks for solutions to diffuse and
mainstream, and (5) system change, typified by broad-based market and societal adap-
tation of new mindsets, models, and technologies (Elkington, Hartigan, and Litovsky
2010,9293). They emphasize the transition from Enterpriseto Ecosystemsas the
main focus of scaling, which requires collaborative leadership and involves mapping
and engaging all key actors (Elkington, Hartigan and Litovsky 2010, 93).
Seelos and Mair (2017, 23) adapted Druckers theory of business to depict an
impact creation logic. The impact creation logic refers to enacting three dimensions of
knowledge: (1) mission and strategy, (2) resources and capabilities, and (3) problem
spaces . Seelos and Mair (2017) define the link between scaling and impact creation as
agreen zonein which a reinforcing fit between the three dimensions (problem
spaces, resources/capabilities, and mission/strategy) take place (31). In the green zone,
problems and solutions are well understood, resources are available, strategies create
a predictable positive impact, and successful scaling is expected and likely (35).
The impact creation logic frames scaling mainly as a management issue, by aligning
the three dimensions of knowledge.
In total, pathway models figure out the evolution of innovations or organizations
from birth to system change. They are focusing on resources, capacities, strategies,
pathway choices, and decision makings at different stages of scaling, but paid little
attention to the role of institutional factors, particular government policy, in fostering
the scaling of social impact.
Brief summary
The Table A1 summarizes the enabling factors and strategies of scaling social impact
and what is missing in the existing models. Based on the literature review, we find
that organizational level factors, including funding, organizational capacities, and strat-
egies of scaling are commonly recognized in the extant research on scaling. Factors
that are not directly related to organizational growth but may have an effect on scal-
ing the impact are under-explored, for example, the usage of technology and data in
amplifying social impact. Systemic level factors, such as institutional infrastructure and
government policy are less discussed in the literature.
This research, therefore, aims to build a new theoretical framework the ecosystem
model of scaling impact to engage all the factors at both organizational and system
level and then apply this framework to study two typical cases.
Framework, method, and data
Building on the literature review and the prior work of Georgetown Universitys Beeck
Center for Social Impact þInnovation (Beeck Center for Social Impact þInnovation
2015; Beeck Center and McCourt School 2016; Shah 2017), we propose a new theoret-
ical framework, namely the ecosystem of scaling social impact, by integrating both
organizational level and systemic level factors.
Figure 4 outlines this framework and demonstrates the relations among the key ele-
ments. The key elements are financing, process of scaling, government policy, and
institutional infrastructure. In the process of scaling, organizations use different strat-
egies to scale social impact, by employing technology and data. Institutional infra-
structure and government policy create an institutional environment for the
scaling process.
This model provides a useful framework to understand how to scale social impact
beyond organizational growth, which is understudied in the literature. It highlights the
role of institutional infrastructure and government policy in the process of scaling
impact beyond organizations and combines the two with other factors raised in the
literature into a coherent framework.
Financing is to fuel the scaling of social impact. Although different research uses dif-
ferent terms (e.g. resource, capital, funding, grants, earnings generation, social finance,
etc.), it is the most commonly recognized drivers of scaling impact in the literature
(Bloom and Chatterji 2009; Bloom and Skloot 2010; Grant and Crutchfield 2007; Taylor,
Dees, and Emerson 2002; Bloom and Dees 2008; Bloom and Smith 2010; Ratliff et al.
2004; Moore, Westley, and Nicholls 2012; Geobey, Westley, and Weber 2012; Bacq and
Eddleston 2018). Financing provides funding to scale social impact and the difficulty
in acquiring funding limits the magnitude of the impact achieved by organizations
(Bacq and Eddleston 2016; Bloom and Skloot 2010).
Financing is a spectrum of resource provision, from government funding, charitable
giving, to earned income and impact investing. Research has shown that, for example,
third sector organizations in the United Kingdom which achieved government con-
tracts and funding have a higher level of impact on government policies (Han 2017).
Yet, little research is conducted on which mechanisms of financing and under
what conditions they are effective in scaling impact without maximizing
Figure 4. The ecosystem of scaling social impact.
organizational growth. Researchers can also analyze and compare different financing
mechanisms in scaling social impact.
Organizations are the engine of scaling social impact. Organizations need internal people
(team members, staffs, volunteers, etc.) to achieve social impact and external people to
support the scaling. The people in organizations require the leadership and the commit-
ment to scale impact, the capacity of designing and implementing people-centered solu-
tions, and the capability of engaging multiple stakeholders (Shah 2017).
As many studies point out, the leadership and the commitment of scaling play a
significant role in achieving scale of impact (Weber, Kr
oger, and Lambrich 2014;
Bradach 2003; DeJong 2003; Grant and Crutchfield 2007; Mulgan, Ali, et al. 2007). The
leaders who are in charge of scaling can make the organization committed to scale,
though not all organizations have such a commitment. The capacity of designing,
developing, and implementing viable solutions to address social problems or meet
social demands is of great importance. A viable solution or proved operating model is
the precondition of scaling impact (Weber, Kr
oger, and Lambrich 2014; CASE 2006;
Ratliff et al. 2004).
The capability of organizations to communicate and engage with stakeholders (e.g.
funders, beneficiaries, customers, government officials, and the local community) is
positively related to the scale of social impact (Bacq and Eddleston 2016; Bloom and
Chatterji 2009). Research shows that, for example, organizations which are able to
communicate their environmental goals to stakeholders have a greater environmental
impact (Hart 1995). Organizations which are not able to engage multiple stakeholders
often face difficulties in achieving a large-scale impact (Bacq and Eddleston 2016;
Montgomery, Dacin, and Dacin 2012).
Technology and data
Access to and capacity of using technology and data plays a significant role in scaling
impact beyond organizational growth. In particular, information and communication
technologies (ICTs), from radio and television to the Internet and smartphones, are
attracting growing attention in the process of scaling impact. Organizations also have
to learn how to collect and utilize data to develop effective solutions and create feed-
back loops to improve their solutions and scaling strategies.
Existing literature highlights the role of technology and data. For example, Fisac-
Garcia et al. (2013) argue that on the one hand, ICTs increase the depth scaling, by
providing accurate and fast needs recognition, adapting products and services, creat-
ing opportunities, building fairer markets, mobilizing actions on environmental and
social issues, and creating social capital.On the other hand, ICTs enhance breath scal-
ing by accessing new resources, creating synergies and networks, improving organiza-
tional efficiency, increasing its visibility, and designing new access channels to
beneficiaries(Fisac-Garcia et al. 2013, 84). Although the role of technology and data is
recognized, the methods and forms of using technology and data in scaling social
impact without maximizing organizations needs further research.
Strategies are the tactics used by organizations to scale social impact. Westley et al.
(2014, 237) offers two main scaling strategies: scaling outand scaling up. Scaling out
means an organization attempts to affect more people and cover a larger geographic
area, while scaling up refers to identifying opportunities and barriers at broad institu-
tional scales with the goal of changing the system that created the social problem in the
first place. Based on scaling outand scaling up, Moore, Riddell, and Vocisano (2015,
74) added scaling deep, which refers to the change achieved when peoples hearts and
minds, their values and cultural practices, and the quality of relationships they have, are
transformed. In a word, scaling upis to affect policies, regulations, and laws, scaling
outor scaling wide/broadis to affect greater number of people and communities, and
scaling deepis to affect cultural roots, e.g. values, beliefs, and hearts and minds
(Moore, Riddell, and Vocisano 2015; Zhao and Han 2019).
By classifying various strategies and combining the overlapping ones, particularly
by consulting the Scaling Social Impact Survey (CASE 2006), and Leslie Crutchfields
scaling impact framework in Forces for Good (Crutchfield and Grant 2012; Grant and
Crutchfield 2007) we can summarize the following six categories of scaling strategies
in a more detailed way.
Capacity building: improving capabilities in governance, management, administra-
tion, and/or programmatic performance.
Knowledge dissemination: Sharing knowledge and information with others through
publications, the Internet, or presentations.
Organizational affiliation, branching, franchising, or licensing: Affiliating with other
organizations, creating branches, franchising, or licensing other organizations in dif-
ferent locations, connected by shared principles, goals, brands, activities, or licenses.
Establishing partnerships, alliances, networks, or federation: Collaborating with
other organizations to deliver services or address needs in new locations, organiz-
ing organizations or individuals into a network, alliance, or federation.
Influencing the media: Using various means of communication to inform, educate,
or influence mass media and public opinion on the social issue.
Advocacy and lobbying: Researching and generating knowledge about a social
issue and proposing public or social policy, engaging public policy makers, legisla-
tors, and other government officials to promote policy change on a specific
social issue.
Institutional infrastructure and government policy
Institutional infrastructure is the networks, associations, or intermediaries in the social
sector that can amplify the impact of social sector organizations without maximizing
organizations. It is similar to networked social entrepreneurship(Leadbeater 2006,
240), which achieve greater impact through a network of collaborators and partners,
instead of growing one single organization. Institutional infrastructure can create the
standard and criteria for one sector. For example, the B Lab is an institutional infra-
structure for B Corps. It solidified the collective identity of certified B Corps, by creat-
ing the certification criteria of B Corps.
Government policy creates an environment, which either facilitates or hinder the
scaling of social impact. Existing research has acknowledged the importance of
government support to the effectiveness of organizations and stressed the need for
organizations to garner political support to pursue their goals (Bacq and Eddleston
2016; Bloom and Smith 2010; Di Domenico, Haugh, and Tracey 2010; Santos 2012).
The complexity of the relations between social sector organizations and the gov-
ernment is a lasting debate (Han 2016,2017; Han, Ma, and Wang 2018). Yet, how
government policies support the scaling of social impact is little known and the
effect of government policies on scaling social impact is understudied.
Method and data
This research applies the framework of the ecosystem of scaling social impactto con-
duct two case studies on the Rockefeller Foundation and Benefit Lab or B Lab. The rea-
son of choosing the two organizations is that they have successfully promoted a
transformative social change, by initiating and scaling two movements impact investing
and B Corps, emerging from the United States and then spreading around the world.
In 2007, the Rockefeller Foundation coined the term impact investingat its
Bellagio Center, in Italy.
Impact investing refers to the investments made into compa-
nies, organizations, and funds with the intention to generate social and environmental
impact alongside a financial return(Global Impact Investing Network 2017, 58). Since
2007, the Rockefeller Foundation has worked to build an ecosystem to incubate and
scale this movement for social good. Before 2007, nobody heard about impact inves-
tingor social impact investment. Now, it becomes a buzzword and a global social
movement. This is the system change that the Rockefeller Foundation has promoted.
B Lab, a nonprofit organization, is established to certify B Corps. B Corps are for-
profit companies that want to consider additional stakeholders, morals, or missions in
addition to making a profit for their shareholders.
Certified B Corps use the methods
of business to address social and environmental problems. Before 2007, no one knows
what B Corpand Benefit Corporationare.
In 2007, B Lab certified the 1st B Corp in
history. By far, B Lab has certified more than 2700 B Corps in more than 60 countries.
B Corps gradually becomes a global movement.
The data comes from the archives of the Rockefeller Foundation and B Lab, includ-
ing their annual reports, official websites, books and articles written by their staffs,
and media coverages of their work. Although the Rockefeller Foundation and B Lab
are hero success narratives, as pointed out in the Alex Nichollspaper on pre-paradig-
matic field of social entrepreneurship (Nicholls 2010), the enabling ecosystem of scal-
ing behind the two successful cases are what we are interested in and the framework
of the ecosystem can be applied to analyze different cases in different contexts.
Rockefeller Foundation and B Lab
Rockefeller Foundation and impact investing
The Rockefeller Foundation is a prominent case that has successfully promoted the
system change the emergence and scaling up of impact investing. It helped advance
the impact investingfrom a concept to a global movement. Although the 2008 finan-
cial crisis and the initiative of Big Society Capital played a critical background for the
global movement of social investment, the Rockefeller Foundation has helped launch
or sponsor a number of components necessary for the evolving of the ecosystem of
impact investing.
In terms of financing, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Skoll Foundation, the Kellogg
Foundation, the Case Foundation are pioneers and early adopters of impact investing.
They invested a great amount of funding at the early stage of impact investing move-
ment. Some mainstream financial institutions, for example, J.P. Morgan, UBS, and
Prudential are also key players in the field of impact investing.
Besides the institutional impact investors, social impact bond (SIB) emerges as an
innovative financing mechanism of impact investing. In 2010, the first SIB was
launched in Peterborough of the United Kingdom, which aims at reducing prisoner
recidivism. The Rockefeller Foundation and other 16 foundations invested £5 million in
piloting the seven-year experiment, which offers comprehensive and bespoke support
to prisoners in order to help them stay out of prison and build a new life (Social
Finance 2014). In 2017, the Peterborough SIB claimed to have achieved success in
reducing reoffending of short-sentenced offenders by 9%, against the Ministry of
Justice target of 7.5% and the investors thus got repaid in full (Ainsworth 2017).
The financing mechanism of social impact bond has spread from Peterborough
across the world. According to the Social Finance Impact Bond Global Database, by
February 8, 2018, there are 108 impact bonds implementing in 24 countries, raising
392 million US dollars, and served 738,671 individuals. Among the 108 SIBs, 40 are in
the United Kingdom, 20 are in the United States, and 33 were launched in 2017.
Behind the SIB is an organization, namely Social Finance, which was funded in part by
the Rockefeller Foundation. Since its inception in 2007, Social Finance has attracted
over £100 million of impact investment to address social problems.
In addition to Social Finance, the Rockefeller Foundation sponsored a large number
of organizations, including Acumen and B Lab. Acumen was established in 2001, with
seed funding from the Rockefeller Foundation, Cisco Systems Foundation, and three
individual philanthropists, to reduce poverty by drawing on patient capitaland
impact investing.
The B Lab received a grant of $500,000 in 2008 from the
Rockefeller Foundation to develop social capital markets infrastructure.
The three
organizations, Social Finance, Acumen, and B Lab, are typical examples of the invested
organizations in the ecosystem of scaling impact investing.
In addition to investing in impact organizations, strategies used by the Rockefeller
Foundation to scale impact investing include knowledge dissemination, capacity build-
ing, and establishing network or alliance.
In November 2010, J.P. Morgan, the Rockefeller Foundation, and Global Impact
Investment Network released a report, Impact Investments: An Emerging Asset Class.
This report defines impact investing as a new asset class, which is different from trad-
itional investment classes, for example, debt, equity, and venture capital. Furthermore,
this report estimates that the potential investment market for impact investment
would be between $400 billion and $1 trillion over the next 10 years.
Another report
issued by the Rockefeller Foundation in 2012, Impact Investing Thematic Briefs, also
aims to raise awareness and assessment requirements of impact investing. By publish-
ing such industry reports, the Rockefeller Foundation raised attention and dissemi-
nated the knowledge of impact investing.
The second strategy of scaling is capacity building. In 2011, for example, the
Rockefeller Foundation granted the Aspen Institute $400,000 to build its capacity to
aggregate, create, and distribute information of entrepreneurial development of busi-
nesses on poverty alleviation in emerging market countries. In the same year, it
funded the Calvert Foundation $515,000 in support of its strategic planning, rebrand-
ing, and scaling, and sponsored the New Venture Fund and Toniic Institute $150,000
to disseminate the best practices of global impact investments (The Rockefeller
Foundation 2012, 51).
The third strategy of scaling impact investing is to establishing networks or alliance.
The Rockefeller Foundation initiated and sponsored the Global Impact Investing
Network (GIIN). In 2016 and 2017, the Rockefeller Foundation made two grants of
$500,000 and $681,500, respectively, to the GIIN to host convenings of industry leaders
and leverage more capital into impact investments.
These strategies raised aware-
ness, strengthened the capacities, and established networks for impact investing
Technology and data
Technology and data are essential in scaling the impact investing movement. As Jean
Case at Case Foundation put it, as impact investing matures, data on the size of mar-
ket, risks, benefits, and return on investment by asset class is critical for the market to
scale and move forward(Rodin and Brandenburg 2014, 56).
The Rockefeller Foundation has funded the GIIN to create Impact Reporting and
Investment Standards (IRIS) (Rodin and Brandenburg 2014, 60). IRIS provides a uniform
language, reporting framework, and comprehensive metrics for measuring, monitoring,
and reporting the social performance of impact investments across different issue
areas and thus increase the scale and effectiveness of impact investing.
Rockefeller Foundation also sponsored B Lab to develop the Global Impact Investing
Rating System (GIIRS) to create a social and environmental rating system for impact
investors (Rodin and Brandenburg 2014, 58; The Rockefeller Foundation 2012).
In terms of the data on impact investing, the Rockefeller Foundation conducted
Annual Impact Investor Survey since 2010 and published the state of the market
report every year. The seventh edition, the 2017 Annual Impact Investor Survey report,
for example, reveals the state of the sector, based on responses from 209 impact
investing organizations, which collectively manage 114 billion USD.
Institutional infrastructure and government policy
In September 2009, the Rockefeller Foundation helped the launch of the Global
Impact Investing Network (GIIN), together with Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network,
Prudential, USAID, and UKDIF.
GIIN is a non-profit organization, dedicated to increase
the scale and effectiveness of impact investing. It gradually becomes the institutional
infrastructure for the impact investing sector, by convening impact investors to facili-
tate knowledge exchange, highlighting innovative investment approaches, building
the evidence base for the industry, and producing valuable tools and resources.
In 2011, the GIIN released the ImpactBase, an online directory of impact investors.
It has more than 3000 accredited impact investors and lists more than 425 impact
investment funds and vehicles.
This online infrastructure can make the landscape of
impact investing more transparent and visible. Similarly, the Case Foundation devel-
oped the Impact Investing Network Map, which visualizes the transactions between
impact investors and investees.
The Social Stock Exchange (SSE) is a more formal institutional infrastructure for impact
investing. In 2008, the Rockefeller Foundation invested £252,000 to fund the feasibility
study of the SSE. In 2013, the SSE was launched in London. It offers access to impact
investors to make seed investment, initial public offering (IPO), and secondary listings for
social sector organizations through network building and standard making. It admits
qualifying investors to trade, validating the process, and reporting the impact.
In addition to institutional infrastructure, government policy has its role in catalyz-
ing impact investing. Governments can create tax incentives, provide financial resour-
ces, and build an advisory council to facilitate the development of impact investing. In
terms of tax incentives, for example, the New Market Tax Credit Program (NMTC
Program) in the United States was established in 2000 under the Department of the
Treasurys Community Development Financial Institutions Fund. It attracts private
investments to qualified businesses located in low-income communities and permits
investors to receive a tax credit for their federal income tax.
From 2000 to 2014,
about $36.5 million was invested in specialized financial intermediaries called
Community Development Entities (CDEs) through a competitive application process
(Rodin and Brandenburg 2014, 28). Similarly, Social Investment Tax Relief (SITR) in the
United Kingdom is introduced by the British government to encourage individuals to
support social enterprises and impact investments. According to this policy, individuals
can receive a 30% tax break of the cost of their eligible investments.
In terms of providing financial resources, Social Incubator Fund managed by the Big
Lottery Fund on behalf of the Office for Civil Society (OCS) of the United Kingdom, for
example, provides impact investment for incubator organizations and start-up social ven-
Big Society Capital (BSC), an initiative of the former Prime Minister David
Camerons Big Society Scheme, was subsequently established with unclaimed assets in
dormant bank accounts to promote the development of social investment in the United
In February 2018, the Big Society Capital launched a £30 million fund, or the
Community Investment Enterprise Facility, to meet the capital demands of Community
Development Finance Institutions (CDFIs) in the United Kingdom.
In America, the National Advisory Board on Impact Investing (NAB) was established
following the recommendation of the G8 Task Force on Impact Investing Forum in
London in 2013. It was led by Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, and Social Finance
US to catalyze the policy agenda around impact investing in the US. In 2014, the NAB
released the report, Private Capital, Public Good: How Smart Federal Policy Can Galvanize
Impact Investing and Why ItsUrgent, emphasizes the vital role of the policy for impact
investing to reach massive scale.
B Lab and B Corp certification
B Lab is the certification body for B Corps. It has established an ecosystem for scaling
the impact of certified B Corps, started from the United States and then spread around
the world.
B Lab has successfully attracted funding from diverse sources, including the
Rockefeller Foundation, Deloitte, Hallran Philanthropies, the Prudential Foundation,
United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Clara Fund, and so
on. A full list of B Labs funding partners are provided in the 2012 B Corporation
Annual Reports (B Lab 2011, 56).
Furthermore, the Skoll Foundation awarded the B Lab the Skoll Award for Social
Entrepreneurship in 2014.
It is a $1.25 million, three-year investment to help scale
the impact of B Lab and B Corp movement.
The organizations in the ecosystem are certified B Corps. In June 2007, B Lab certified
the 1st B Corp. In May 2012, B Corp certification spread to Africa, India, and Brazil.
By May 14, 2019, there were 2788 Certified B Corporations in 64 countries across 150
The strategies B Lab used to scale the impact of B Corps include knowledge dissemin-
ation, influencing the media, organizational licensing, and advocacy.
B Lab shared the knowledge and information of B Corps through the Internet,
publications, trainings, and conferences. It used diverse media to inform and educate
the public on the importance and the work of B Corps. For example, in 2011, the sto-
ries of different B Corps have appeared in more than 70 articles by various media
outlets, including CNN, Forbes, the New York Times, the Washington Post, the
Economist, Bloomberg Businessweek, and so on (B Lab 2011, 6). In 2012, the number
of media coverage increased to 265 articles featuring 161 different B Corps (B Lab
The B Corp certification is organizational licensing. B Lab created the standard to
license B Corps in different regions and countries, where they share a uniform prin-
ciple, goal, and logo. B Lab further engaged with lawyers, legislators, and policymakers
to advocate the interests of members in the B Corp Community, by promoting tax
break and legal registration.
Technology and data
The technology B Lab developed to measure, assess, and scale the impact of B Corps
include the B Impact Assessment, the B Analytics, and the Global Impact Investing
Rating System (GIIRS), based on the extensive usage of the Internet.
The B Impact Assessment measures and assesses an organizations impact on its
stakeholders (workers, consumers, community, and environment). To be a certified B
Corp, companies have to earn a minimum score of 80 on the B Impact Assessment
(B Lab 2012, 3). According to the B Impact Assessment, more than 50,000 businesses
have used the tool to measure its impact on workers, community, and environment,
and customers.
B Lab and GIIN developed the B Analytics in 2013, which is a customizable data
platform that helps investors collect, benchmark, and report impact data.
B Lab fur-
ther launched the Global Impact Investing Rating System (GIIRS) in 2011, which can
rate the social and environmental impacts of B Corps.
The data collected through the B Impact Assessment is built in the B Corp
Benchmarks, which are large-scale and comparable datasets on the impact of B Corps.
These benchmarks provide data of about 3500 small businesses on their 350 social
and environmental best practices. B Corps can use the benchmarks to compare the
impact and performances with different B Corps.
Institutional infrastructure and government policy
B Lab is the institutional infrastructure for B Corps. It created the collective identity of
certified B Corps, by developing unified standards and comprehensive metrics. It scales
the impact of B Corps, by creating an ecosystem consisting of diverse factors, includ-
ing financing, technology and data, and government policies.
Supportive government policy for B Corps includes tax break and corporate legisla-
tion. Philadelphia was the first city in the U.S. to create a tax break for certified Benefit
Corporations in 2009. It is a pilot program of $500,000 which has become effective in
2012 and lasts for five years. Each year, benefit corporations can apply for a $4,000
credit (B Lab 2011, 20). In April 2010, Maryland became the first state in the United
States to pass the Benefit Corporation Legislation into law (Reiser and Dean 2017, 60).
By April 2019, 34 states in the United States of America passed the Benefit
Corporation legislation, and an additional six states are considering the pass of the
The tax break and Benefit Corporation legislation contributes to scaling
the impact of Benefit Corporations.
In total, Table 1 lists the key players, examples, or mechanisms in the ecosystem ini-
tiated by the Rockefeller Foundation and the B Lab to scale the impact of impact
investing and Certified B Corps, respectively. These components interact or interwoven
with each other to achieve the same goal the growth and maturity of the impact
investing or the B Corp sector.
Conclusion and discussion
Scholarly interest in scaling social impact is growing. Yet, existing literature has not
made a clear distinction between scaling impact and scaling organizations.
Most research regards organizational growth as a part of the outcome of the scaling.
This research, however, argues that it is more interesting and important to explore
how to scale social impact beyond organizational growth since organizational growth
is a means to achieve the impact. It is not the end.
Building on the literature review, we propose a new theoretical framework, namely
the ecosystem model of scaling impact, to understand scaling social impact beyond
organizational growth. This model combines both the organizational level factors, includ-
ing financing, organizations, and strategies, and the systemic level factors such as institu-
tional infrastructure and government policy, which are less explored. It also maps out the
relations among these factors, as demonstrated in Figure 4. Scaling social impact beyond
organizational growth relies on the existence and prosperity of the ecosystem.
This research applies this ecosystem framework to analyze two typical cases, the
Rockefeller Foundation, and B Lab. The Rockefeller Foundation has succeeded in pro-
moting the system change making impact investingfrom a concept to a global
movement. B Lab successfully promoted the B Corps from the emergence to spread-
ing around the world. By analyzing the archives of the two cases, we identify key play-
ers and examples in the process of scaling social impact by the two cases.
The novelty of the framework is that it is neither based on the perspective of play-
ers in the ecosystem (Bloom and Dees 2008), nor based on the scale levels from niche,
regime to landscape (Moore, Westley, and Brodhead 2012; Geels and Schot 2007), but
in terms of the elements of the ecosystem of scaling social impact. Some elements
have appeared in existing literature, but this paper, for the first time, integrated them
together into a new coherent framework. One or several elements or factors are miss-
ing in existing models, as presented in the Table A1. This framework also highlights
the role of institutional infrastructure and government policy in scaling social impact.
Institutional infrastructure is missing in the existing literature, while government poli-
cies are less studied in the former research on scaling.
Table 1. Summary of the ecosystem established around Rockefeller Foundation and B Lab.
Rockefeller Foundation B Lab
Scaling the impact Impact investing B Corps
Financing Rockefeller Foundation, impact investors,
Social Impact Bonds
Funding from diverse sources, including
the Rockefeller Foundation, Deloitte,
Hallran, the Prudential, USAID, Skoll
Foundation, etc.
Organizations Invested organizations (e.g. Social
Finance, Acumen, B Lab, etc.)
Certified B Corps
Strategies Knowledge dissemination, capacity
building, establishing network
or alliance
Knowledge dissemination, influencing the
media, organizational licensing,
and advocacy
Technology and data Impact Reporting and Investment
Standards (IRIS), Global Impact
Investing Rating System (GIIRS), Annual
Impact Investing Survey
B Impact Assessment, B Analytics, and
Global Impact Investing Rating System
(GIIRS), B Corp Benchmarks
Institutional infrastructure Global Impact Investing Network (GIIN),
ImpactBase, Impact Investing Network
Map, Social Stock Exchange
B Lab
Government policy New Markets Tax Credit, Social
Investment Tax Relief, Social Incubator
Fund, Big Society Capital, Community
Investment Enterprise Facility, National
Advisory Board on Impact Investing
Benefit Corporation Tax Break, Benefit
Corporation Legislation
The ecosystem model of scaling social impact has its practical implications. It can
help social impact practitioners to improve their strategies with a better understand-
ing of the elements of the ecosystem they need to be aware, foster, or build. It can
help policymakers consider which kind of policies creates favorable conditions for a
larger scale of social change. It can promote philanthropy leaders and impact investors
pay more attention to the role of institutional infrastructure in facilitating and amplify-
ing the scaling of social impact, rather than merely focusing on organizational growth.
1. If the literature has both theoretical and empirical components, we counted it as an
empirical. If the publication (e.g. book) has components (or chapters) of theoretical,
qualitative and quantitative research, it is counted as empirical (quantitative).
2. See the source: Innovative Finance: Shaping the next generation of financing solutions to
unlock private capital for social good.The Rockefeller Foundation, https://www.
3. Source: FAQ of B Corps,
4. B Corp is the corporation certified by the B Lab, while Benefit Corporation is a
government recognized legal form of corporation. The differences between B Corp and
Benefit Corporation see the article: Whats the difference between a B Corp and a Benefit
Corporation?, by Jonathan Storper, on April 4, 2015, https://consciouscompanymedia.
corporation. Thank Ms. Sheila Herrling for reminding this.
5. More details see the website: Accessed on February
8, 2018.
6. Source:
7. Source:
8. Source:
9. Find the report here:
10. Source:
11. See the source:
12. Source:
13. Source:
14. Source:
15. Source:
16. Source:
17. See the official website of the program:
18. Source:
19. Source:
20. More information:
21. Source: "New £30 million fund for community investment", February 7, 2018, Big Society
22. Source:
23. Source:
24. Source:
25. Source:
26. Source:
27. Source:
28. Source:
29. Source:
30. Source:
31. See the website:
Disclosure statement
No potential conflict of interest was reported by the authors.
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Table A1. Summary of factors and strategies of scaling in the literature.
Existing model Representative literature Enabling factors of scaling Strategies of scaling What is missing
Mulgan, Ali, et al. (2007);
Mulgan, Tucker, et al.
(2007); Taylor, Dees, and
Emerson (2002)
(1) An environment that provides effective
demand, and (2) capacities of organizations.
(1) Uncontrolled diffusion, (2) more
directed diffusion by parent
organization, (3) takeover or emulation
by more powerful organization, and
(4) organizational growth.
The use of technology and
data, the role of
government policy and
institutional infrastructure.
Dees, Anderson, and Wei-
Skillern (2004); Lyon and
Fernandez (2012)
N/A (1) Dissemination, (2) affiliation, and (3)
branching; (1) growth within the
organization, (2) formalized
relationships with other providers, and
(3) open access sharing and
disseminating good practice.
Only strategies of scaling, no
other enabling factors.
Spiral model Murray, Caulier-Grice, and
Mulgan (2010); Gabriel
(2014); Bradach (2003);
Clark et al. (2012)
Seven stages: exploring opportunities and
challenges, generating ideas, developing and
testing, making the case, delivering and
implementing, growing, scaling and spreading
(clarifying aims and goals, establishing what to
scale up, choosing a route, and gearing up to
deliver a scaling strategy), and
changing systems.
(1) Assessment, (2) business model
development, (3) implementation and
roll-out, and (4) evaluation and
ongoing improvements.
More about scaling
organizations, not
focusing on the factors
driving the scale of
social impact.
Bloom and Chatterji (2009);
Bloom and Smith (2010);
Bradach (2003); Clark
et al. (2012); Cannatelli
(2017); Bradach (2010)
SCALERS model, 7key drivers: staffing,
communication, alliance-building, lobbying,
earnings generation, replication, and stimulating
market forces. Seven situational contingencies
determine specific impact. The subsequent test
shows that the two of the seven drivers are
insignificant: alliance building and lobbying.
Eight strategies: (1) Using internet, (2)
building networks; (3) using
intermediaries; (4) developing talent;
(5) blending service with advocacy; (6)
altering attitudes and behaviors; (7)
changing perceptions of what is
possible; and (8) strengthening
the sector.
How situational
contingencies influence
the enabling factors of
scaling is not clear.
Pathway model Ratliff et al. (2004); Waitzer
and Paul (2011); Desa
and Koch (2014); Weber,
oger and Lambrich
(2012,2014); Elkington,
Litovsky, and Love
(2009); Elkington,
Hartigan, and Litovsky
(2010); Seelos and
Mair (2017)
(1) Commitment of the individuals driving the
scaling process; (2) management competence;
(3) entire or partial replicability of the
operational model; (4) ability to meet social
demands; (5) ability to obtain necessary
resources; (6) potential effectiveness of scaling
social impact with others; (7) adaptability
(adaptation necessary, and adaption possible);
(8) types of scaling strategies (capacity-building,
relationship defined by an ongoing agreement,
diffusion of knowledge, and one adjacency
move); and (9) critical decision-making path.
(1) Standardization of the best practice,
(2) building supporting infrastructure,
and (3) deliberate roll-out; open-source
change making and smart networks.
Focusing on resources,
capacities, strategies,
pathway choices, and
decision makings at
different stages of scaling,
but paid little attention to
the role of institutional
factors, particular
government policy in
supporting the scaling
of impact.
... SEs may choose from various scaling strategies, such as enhancing organizational capabilities, establishing new organizations, affiliating with other organizations, and disseminating information and knowledge tools to other organizations (Dees et al., 2004;Lyon & Fernandez, 2012;Han & Shah, 2020;Mulgan et al., 2007;Scheuerle & Schmitz, 2016;Weber et al., 2015). However, there are relatively few existing empirical studies on scaling strategies, with most being qualitative case studies (Bauwens et al., 2020;Bocken et al., 2016;Bretos et al., 2020;Dahles et al., 2020;Heinze et al., 2016;Lyon & Fernandez, 2012;Tandon & Nair, 2020;Vickers & Lyon, 2014;Zhao & Han, 2020). ...
... Although the existing body of research has generated a wealth of insights about the scaling strategies of SEs, four major research gaps remain. First, recent years have witnessed a rise in empirical works on scaling strategies (Bauwens et al., 2020;Bocken et al., 2016;Bretos et al., 2020;Dahles et al., 2020;Gramescu, 2016;Lyon & Fernandez, 2012;Vickers & Lyon, 2014;Weber et al., 2015;Zhao & Han, 2020) and on drivers or barriers affecting scaling performance (Bacq & Eddleston, 2018;Bloom & Smith, 2010;Cannatelli, 2017;Corner & Kearins, 2021;Cwiklicki, 2019;Davies et al., 2019;Desa & Koch, 2014;Gauthier et al., 2019;Han & Shah, 2020;Scheuerle & Schmitz, 2016). However, the majority of existing works are qualitative case studies, while the limited quantitative studies on scaling strategies are descriptive in nature, and hypothesis-testing explanatory studies are lacking. ...
... Third, most previous studies on scaling strategies and scaling determinants focus on SEs from industrialized countries in Western Europe and North America (Bacq & Eddleston, 2018;Bauwens et al., 2020;Bloom & Smith, 2010;Cannatelli, 2017;Davies et al., 2019;Gauthier et al., 2019;Gramescu, 2016;Han & Shah, 2020;Lyon & Fernandez, 2012;Scheuerle & Schmitz, 2016;Vickers & Lyon, 2014;Weber et al., 2015). However, a few have been based on data gathered from developing countries, such as Bangladesh and India (Bocken et al., 2016;Desa & Koch, 2014). ...
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Conventional nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and social enterprises (SEs) face constant challenges when scaling their social impacts, especially in societies undergoing transformation, such as China, where NPO and SE ecosystems are still nascent. Whereas previous studies have identified various scaling approaches for SEs, empirical investigations of the linkages between scaling strategies and scaling performance are lacking. To address this gap, we conducted a quantitative study of 293 Chinese SEs to examine how the four types of scaling strategies brought about different scaling performances and how the results varied upon organizational form. Our results revealed that three of these scaling strategies, namely knowledge dissemination, organizational growth, and contractual partnerships, contributed positively and significantly to scaling performance , whereas capacity building had a positive but not statistically significant effect. Our results also indicated that the positive contributions of organizational growth and knowledge dissemination to scaling performance were reinforced in SEs organized as nonprofits. Moreover, the results indicated that SEs that deployed combined and diversified scaling strategies demonstrated better scaling performance than those that deployed just one strategy. Our findings have important managerial implications for practitioners within the SE community, and especially providing a scientific
... These works have generated important insights into how SBMs can facilitate successful scaling. Yet they all take a predominant organization-centric perspective, which is seen as a major limitation (Han and Shah, 2020). Recent conceptual work of Han and Shah (2020) and Siebold (2021) attempt to overcome this limitation by suggesting the importance of including the wider ecosystem as an integral crucial part during scaling strategy development. ...
... Yet they all take a predominant organization-centric perspective, which is seen as a major limitation (Han and Shah, 2020). Recent conceptual work of Han and Shah (2020) and Siebold (2021) attempt to overcome this limitation by suggesting the importance of including the wider ecosystem as an integral crucial part during scaling strategy development. They argue that the various ways in which value can be created for, delivered with, and captured from key stakeholders may have the greatest potential for scaling the impact of IBs. ...
... While the application of an ecosystem perspective in business strategy is not new (e.g. Adner, 2016), the work by Han and Shah (2020), and Siebold (2021) opens up an important new field of application by integrating the ecosystem perspective conceptually into scaling theories and approaches. Until then there existed only some anecdotal real-life examples that hint towards the potential usefulness of an ecosystem perspective during scaling (Gradl and Jenkins, 2011), such as Aravind Eye Care. ...
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Scaling the social impact of inclusive business models that provide solutions to basic needs of Bottom of the Pyramid (BoP) communities through firm-centric approaches has proven challenging. Researchers have proposed that scaling strategies at the BoP should go beyond firm-centric approaches by inclusive businesses and involve coordinated synergistic action of their entire ecosystem to overcome systemic challenges and create value for all ecosystem actors. However, current research on this topic remains abstract and difficult to implement. This paper presents an empirically validated scaling framework designed to overcome this weakness and documents its design process. The framework takes account of the fact that inclusive businesses must work out scaling strategies together with key ecosystem actors, and that implementing a scaling strategy will almost always require mutual adaptation of business models. The framework design process entailed an extensive literature review and practitioner interviews as a first step, followed by testing, evaluation and iterative improvement through a series of validation workshops with actors of four inclusive business initiatives in Africa and Asia. The results indicate that the framework helps workshop participants to expand their mental frame, encouraging them to adopt a broader ecosystems perspective on scaling. This leads to identification and exploration of valuable business model adaptations for scaling that can be achieved through collaboration and assessment of the practical feasibility of different scaling strategies.
... Before proceeding further, we elaborate on a recent, growing literature strand focused on social impact (Barki et al., 2020;Gamble & Muñoz, 2021;Han & Shah, 2020;Roundy & Lyons, 2021;Thompson et al., 2018). These "social impact entrepreneurial ecosystems (SIEEs) are a subtype of entrepreneurial ecosystem" (Roundy & Lyons, 2021, p. 1). ...
... Thompson et al.'s (2018) Seattle, Washington region study of a social impact business 1 ecosystem shows bottom-up micro-level everyday activities and interactions of individuals rather than exogenous top-down action of government and powerful actors are instrumental to their formation and durability (Roundy & Lyons, 2022). Aligned to the emerging SEE literature, the social impact ecosystems literature includes in its ambit components generic to the development of SEEs (e.g., funding), namely, the development of the market for impact investment (Thompson et al., 2018), but additionally integrates organizational factors such as organization strategies and technology as an integral part of the ecosystem (Han & Shah, 2020). Our discussion that follows centers more on the systemic level of ecosystems. ...
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We investigate what distinguishes social entrepreneurial ecosystems (SEEs) from entrepreneurial ecosystems (EEs), through appreciation of the importance of context-the multiplex of intertwined social, spatial, temporal, historical, cultural, and political influences. Community is incorporated as a key variable and hitherto overlooked dimension of the structure and influence of SEEs. We draw on extant literature and examples of a variety of SEEs to support our propositions and demonstrate why considerations of both context and community are critical to advance understanding of SEEs. We contribute to the study of SEEs by presenting a new conceptual framework and theorizing SEE as an evolving composite of interdependent actors who interact and collaborate across multiple levels to collectively generate positive externalities and drive sustainable solutions to social problems.
... Consequently, social entrepreneurs operating in Malaysia were still unable to register their entities as social enterprises, unlike in the United States, which offers social enterprises to register themselves under benefit corporations (Han & Shah, 2019). ...
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In the emerging field of academic research on social entrepreneurship, studies on social entrepreneurial motivation and sustainability are largely underexplored due to the complexity of understanding the connection between these two constructs. This study aimed to provide theoretical, practical, and empirical evidence of how social entrepreneurs are motivated to operate their social ventures structured in an entrepreneurial and business-like manner to achieve sustainability. This study employed an exploratory qualitative approach based on case studies of social enterprises operating in Malaysia and the United States. This study explored the motivational factors related to critical dimensions such as social, economic, behaviour, and governance that influenced the CEOs and founders of social enterprises operating their unique entities to attain sustainability for their ventures. The theory of change and the logic model are business processes that were investigated and extended into the social impact measurement using the social return on investment or the balanced scorecard approach. The empirical findings indicate motivational factors that drove the studied social entrepreneurs to pivot, forge new partnerships, and create social and technical innovation to ensure continued sustainability for their social enterprises. The cross-comparison study revealed similarities and differences between these two countries. The development of a new concept termed ‘mission agility’ is another pivotal contribution that will benefit academicians worldwide. Hence, this study provided pioneering work in the theoretical development of linking motivation to sustainability in social entrepreneurship. Practitioners and policymakers will be able to utilise the conceptual framework established by this study to navigate through the current economic landscape that will enable social enterprises to be sustainable in facing the post-pandemic era. This study delivered invaluable theoretical, practical, and empirical contributions to social entrepreneurship and sustainability.
... Embarking on this front, a number of researchers has attempted developing scales to measure the sustainability outcomes that social enterprise produce at their operations (e.g., performance measurement system, and ecosystem growth strategy). Most widely accepted and applied measurements are performance measurement system (Arena et al., 2015), social impact assessment (Grieco et al., 2015) and ecosystem growth strategy (Han & Shah, 2020;Islam, 2020a). The salient feature of these measures is that they lack the uniformity on different fronts. ...
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Given the noteworthy contribution to the global socio-economic development, research on social enterprises (SE) has gained prominence over past two decades. Making a clear departure from for-profit counterparts, the core purpose of SEs is to deliver a social mission while at the same time staying financially viable and as a consequence, “sustainability” is strongly embedded in their core drive of existence. Rapidly sprouting body of literature on SE posits that “sustainability” is intensely coincided with “social enterprises.” Although “sustainability” has been a buzz word in the context of SE, lacking of systematization and categorization of knowledge hinders the advancement of SE specific research. Consequently, the primary objective of this paper is systematization and categorization of the extant knowledge on sustainability in SE research context. The study carried-out a systematic literature survey from reputed databases; Scopus, Social Science Citation Index and Science Direct. Removing the repetitions, 136 papers on sustainability was compiled for analysis. The analytical approach was two-fold: First, a citation analysis was performed in order to evaluate the prominent, emerging and popular sustainability-based research areas in the extant body of knowledge in the field. Second, a thematic analysis was performed to analyze and interpret explicit themes on which sustainability concept has been investigated. Paper discovered six themes that the sustainability concept has been researched through significant research popularity disparities can be witnessed among the discovered themes. Since this paper identifies several research gaps and inconsistencies, it noticeably sets path for future research on the concept of sustainability in SE.
... A significant statement to be made, before presenting several definitions of the notion of "scaling up", is that the focus must be placed on replicating and expanding the "social impact" of innovation, (acknowledged to be more abstract and harder to assess) rather than on quantitative results. As many scholars have pointed out, scaling social impact is one of the most difficult goals to attain in both practice and research (Capgemini Research Institute, 2020; Davies & Simon, 2013;Han & Shah, 2020;McPhedran et al., 2011). Whereas literature on scaling up innovations is older, research on scaling the social impact of innovation is a 'promising new paradigm ' (McPhedran et al., 2011, p. 145). ...
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Article on social innovation applied to the development of public and social services.
... The improvement of economic performance is connected closely to the concept of "organizational growth" [4], which is defined as "achieving the necessary financial return to sustain and/or expand the venture" [54]. However, it is widely acknowledged that the scaling-up of SEs is primarily about magnifying organizations' social impacts and contributing to social change rather than gaining competitive economic advantages [55] or achieving organizational growth [56,57]. According to Dees [33], scaling social impact is the process of increasing the impact a social-purpose organization produces to better match the magnitude of the social need or problem it seeks to address. ...
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The impact of organizational capabilities on the performance of social enterprises (SEs) has not been examined in the context of China. This study addresses the research gap by conducting a hypothesis-testing quantitative study. The questionnaire survey data of 206 Chinese SEs were analyzed by performing Pearson correlation and hierarchical linear regression analyses. The research findings show that four types of organizational capabilities have divergent effects on the social and economic performance of Chinese SEs. Specifically, stakeholder engagement capabilities and business planning capabilities make positive contributions to SE performance in economic and social domains, while human resource management capabilities have positive effects on social performance but not economic performance, and there is no statistically positive relationship between marketing capabilities and SE performance in economic and social domains. Our study provides important practical implications to managers of SEs in China or in another similar context, who should give priority to enhancing stakeholder engagement capabilities and business planning capabilities rather than human resource management capabilities and marketing capabilities as a booster of economic and social performance of SEs.
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This study aims to analyze the effect of entrepreneurial orientation, absorptive capability, and networking capability on innovation capability; examine the effect of entrepreneurial orientation on innovation capability mediated by absorptive capability and networking capability. The sample in this study was 89 owners of SME owners of tempeh chips in the Sanan Industrial Center of Malang. Data analysis using Partial Least Squares (PLS). The results show that entrepreneurial orientation has a direct positive effect on innovation capability; entrepreneurial orientation does not affect absorptive capability; entrepreneurial orientation has a direct positive effect on networking capability; absorptive capability has a direct positive relationship to innovation capability; networking capability has a direct positive impact on innovation capability; entrepreneurial orientation does not affect innovation capability through absorptive capability; entrepreneurial orientation has a positive effect on innovation capability through networking capability.
The B Corp certification has emerged as a means to measure the social, environmental and economic impact of companies. The number of certified companies has been growing steadily for the last years, with almost 4000 B Corps at present. Despite this fact, this is an incipient field of research and there are very few studies focused on the B Corp certification process itself. In fact, there are no studies focused on the barriers companies found when pursuing the certification. Thus, in order to cover this gap, it seems necessary to develop new studies based on companies’ own experiences. As there is not a commonly accepted and validated measurement tool (questionnaire) to gather primary data, the objective of this article is to design and propose a questionnaire that collects the motivations, barriers and effects companies experienced during the certification process through a Delphi study. Nine stages are followed from the definition of the research questions and the literature review, to the creation of a final questionnaire. In this study, the panel of experts was integrated by 20 experts and two rounds were conducted. The final questionnaire, named B Corp Certification Process Survey (BCCPS), is made up of 10 motivations, 12 barriers, and 20 effects. Having a common questionnaire allows comparisons and fosters the development of the research field.
While scaling of social impact is a key element in social entrepreneurship (SE), many social enterprises fail to scale-up their impact meaningfully. This is an opportunity to investigate earnings generation (EG) and strategic alliance-building (SAB) as potential predictors of scalability of social enterprises. The study context is South Africa where SE has much relevance due to the many social ills, which plague the country. Initially, the study instrument is tested for validity and reliability, whereupon hypotheses are tested using multiple regression analyses. Results show that EG is a significant and positive predictor of social enterprise scaling. This finding is important considering that many social enterprises in South Africa are challenged by financial resource constraints. This study, conducted in an African emerging market context, allows social entrepreneurs to more deeply understand the relevance of EG and SAB in their scaling efforts. Indeed, developing a strong body of evidence that validates the effectiveness of policy in supporting social enterprise scaling is pivotal for both theory and practice.
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The scale-up of social enterprises is usually assumed to bring positive social change. Yet, the negative side, particularly the tensions and risks, in the scaling process is largely ignored. This research aims to explore the tensions and risks related to different scaling strategies. Based on a comparative case study on two leading Chinese microfinance institutions-Grameen China and CFPA Microfinance-that both adopt the Grameen Bank model, this research draws on the lens of institutional logics to understand the microfoundations of five types of tensions and three kinds of risks in the scaling process of the two microfinance institutions. This research provides an integrative framework that captures the nuanced sources, forms and challenges in the scaling of social enterprises.
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Innovation and Scaling for Impact forces us to reassess how social sector organizations create value. Drawing on a decade of research, Christian Seelos and Johanna Mair transcend widely held misconceptions, getting to the core of what a sound impact strategy entails in the nonprofit world. They reveal an overlooked nexus between investments that might not pan out (innovation) and expansion based on existing strengths (scaling). In the process, it becomes clear that managing this tension is a difficult balancing act that fundamentally defines an organization and its impact. The authors examine innovation pathologies that can derail organizations by thwarting their efforts to juggle these imperatives. Then, through four rich case studies, they detail innovation archetypes that effectively sidestep these pathologies and blend innovation with scaling. Readers will come away with conceptual models to drive progress in the social sector and tools for defining the future of their organizations.
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In the past three decades, a large number of studies has emerged to conceptualize the changing state-society relations in China. Yet, little attention has been paid to what kinds of social sector organizations these competing and conflicting studies were empirically examining or based upon. No synergy of the organizational foundations of these studies results in deep fragmentation and weak generalization of the arguments on state-society relations in China. To address this issue, this article systematically reviews organizational bases of extant literature on Chinese state-society relations, and then constructs an inclusive organizational framework, namely “social value chains”, by combining two mainstream organizational forms in existing research along with two understudied organizational types, as a new framework to guide future research on state-society relations in China. Social value chains include four types of social sector organizations: infrastructure organizations, financial organizations, support organizations, and operating organizations. In the end, this paper points out the potential applications of this new framework in future research.
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The marketisation of social sector organisations or social marketisation emerged and spread around the world in the past three decades. In contrast with existing literature which claims that social marketisation makes social sector organisations reduce their efforts on advocacy and thus harms a civil society, this research argues that social marketisation is positively contributed to the influence of third sector organisations on government policies, and thus it strengthens civil society, rather than erodes it. Based on the National Survey of Charities and Social Enterprises in the UK, the results of regression analyses indicate clearly that, when other factors are equal, the two indicators of social marketisation, social entrepreneurship and achieving government contracts for purchasing services, are both statistically significant in estimating the level of policy influence of third sector organisations. The contribution of this research is that it finds a positive, instead of a negative, relationship between social marketisation and the perceived policy influence of third sector organisations.
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During the past two decades, one of the most significant phenomena in the Chinese social sector has been the proliferation of nonprofit organizations (NPOs) and private foundations. The two dominant approaches to interpret state-society relations (state corporatism and liberal civil society) are insufficient to explain their relations with the Chinese state. This article revives and tests an understudied model, social corporatism, by presenting two detailed case studies on Non-Profit Incubator (NPI) and China Foundation Center (CFC). The two agencies serve as new intermediary organizations in interest representation and intermediation between the state and NPOs and private foundations. In line with the three indicators of social corporatism, NPI and CFC were initiated in a bottom-up or spontaneous manner, enhanced the social integration in NPOs and private foundations, and facilitated the enactment of five new government policies. The two cases support the applicability of social corporatism in explaining NPO-government and private foundation- government relations in China.
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Despite efforts to address societal ills, social enterprises face challenges in increasing their impact. Drawing from the RBV, we argue that a social enterprise’s scale of social impact depends on its capabilities to engage stakeholders, attract government support, and generate earned-income. We test our hypotheses on a sample of 171 US-based social enterprises and find support for the hypothesized relationships between these organizational capabilities and scale of social impact. Further, we find that these relationships are contingent upon stewardship culture. Specifically, we show that an entrepreneur-centered stewardship culture increases the effects of the capabilities to attract government support and to generate earned-income, while an employee-centered stewardship culture compensates for low abilities to attract government support and to generate earned-income.
Social Enterprise Law presents a series of audacious legal technologies designed to unleash the potential of social enterprise. Until now, the law has been viewed as an obstacle to social entrepreneurship, too inflexible to embrace for-profit businesses with a social mission at their core. Legislators have poured resources into creating hybrid corporate forms such as the benefit corporation to eliminate barriers to the creation of social enterprises. That first generation of social enterprise law has not done enough. The authors provide a framework for future legislation to do what benefit corporations have not: create durable commitments by social entrepreneurs and investors to balance financial gains and social mission by putting a speed limit on profits. They show how sophisticated investors need not wait for the advent of these legislative changes, outlining a contingent convertible debt instrument that relies instead on financial engineering to build trust between those with capital and those ready to use it to nurture a double bottom line. To allow social enterprises to harness the vast power of the crowd, they develop a tax regime that would provide crowdfunding platforms the means to screen the commitment of for-profit startups. Armed with these tools of social enterprise law 2.0 and the burgeoning metrics of measuring public benefit, entrepreneurs and investors can navigate even the turbulent waters of exit without sacrificing mission, so that a sale need not mean selling out.
While the scaling of impact remains to be one of the most important issues in the field of social entrepreneurship, limited empirical research has been focused on the topic. One of the first scholarly attempts to build a research agenda to better understand the scaling of social impact was the SCALERS model. Building on initial theoretical and empirical work, this study is based on a sample of 179 nonprofit organizations in Italy. It also extends prior work by providing theoretical grounding through contingency theory and conducting the first empirical test of the situational contingencies of the SCALERS model. A positive relationship between each of the SCALERS variables and scaling—except replicating—has been found. Initial evidence of five contingencies that moderate the relationship between the SCALERS and scaling of social impact has also been found.
It is basic human nature to want less of bad things—and more of good ones. In relation to the latter challenge, the New Economy era taught us to think in terms of replication and scaling of solutions (Kelly, 1998). For even the perfect solution to a great global—or local—problem will create little or no value unless it can be scaled effectively in good time and at reasonable cost. Meanwhile, achieving systemic social change is a growing concern for governments and for social investors, although to date—with few exceptions—efforts to scale solutions to global social, environmental, and governance challenges have not had the desired impact. It is time to take a closer look at scaling and—though there will never be instant, black box recipes—to begin to build the “Scaling 101” tools needed by social and environmental entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs.