Lessons on scaling up

Opportunities and challenges for the future

Agriculture and rural development are essential components of economic growth and the battle against poverty, hunger, and malnutrition worldwide. In the developing world, investment in agriculture was much neglected in recent decades by governments and donors alike, as outlined in Brief 2. Following global spikes in food prices over the past several years, world attention has once again focused on the critical need to support this key sector. But it is not just a question of more investment and more aid; it is a question of how governments and donors ensure value for money. In the past, attention has focused on innovations in agricultural technology and rural development interventions, with little thought given to how one takes successful interventions to scale. Common political and administrative incentives have reinforced this pattern, as has an increasingly fragmented international aid architecture, in which small and disconnected donor-funded projects predominate.

It is now becoming clear that both innovation and scaling up “what works” are critical, and the policy briefs in this series provide many outstanding examples for effectively scaling up successful interventions in developing countries. They show not only that scaling up is possible but that there is an increasing commitment to it among concerned actors. It is not enough to merely replicate interventions; what matters is to scale up impact sustainably. Scaling up is not an end in itself but an instrument to achieve the goal of improved lives for the greatest number of people.

The previous briefs further demonstrate that it helps to have a common analytical framework and a common language as stakeholders consider scaling-up opportunities and challenges. The analytical framework used in this set considers pathways, drivers, and spaces (Brief 1). This is only one possible framework, but the authors found it helpful in exploring the experience of scaling up and considering suitable approaches for the future.

This brief summarizes the main conclusions from this wide-ranging series. It looks at the actors, dimensions, processes, and pathways of scaling up while summarizing what we have learned about the drivers of the process and how to create the spaces that allow scaling up to take place. Finally, it comments on cross-cutting issues that are relevant to the scaling-up process and that must be addressed as interventions are brought to scale.

This brief is one of series on scaling up in agriculture, rural development, and nutrition.

Linn, Johannes F.
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International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
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