A recent Working Paper for the Scaling Community of Practice (CoP) identified a number of cross-cutting issues whose further exploration would benefit the entire CoP membership.  One of these was the relationship between Scaling and Systems.  There has been a vigorous debate in the scaling community on the extent to which systems need to be taken into account in scaling efforts, or even if the starting point for change efforts should be systems change rather than scaling innovations. Accordingly, the CoP decided to organize a Webinar to explore the relationship between systems and scaling.  This note serves to provide background for that Webinar, to frame the issues and identify questions for discussion.  It draws on a cursory review of some of the literature on scaling and systems as well as discussions with CoP members on these topics.

It is important to note that the scaling and systems discussion is not being conducted in terms of well-defined and commonly agreed upon parameters or dimensions, i.e., the terms of the debate are not clear.  One of the goals of this note is to try to provide some common terms to facilitate a productive conversation.  However, this is complicated by the fact that participants in this conversation are coming from different disciplines, sit in different types of organizations including funders, innovators, and implementing organizations, and play different roles in scaling.  Perhaps most importantly, they likely represent a range of systems “takers” vs. “makers” in terms of their capacity to take systems into account, let alone effect systems change. Indeed, one of the findings of this paper is that a more thorough attempt to frame the parameters of systems and scaling is needed.

The full paper can be found here.

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