January 1, 2015

Designing for Transformative Scale: Global Lessons in What Works

Photo: Akshaya Patra Foundation

Sector leaders around the globe are on a quest to dramatically scale the impact—not the size—of their organizations and programs. In this Rotman School of Management magazine article, the authors explore nine strategies global organizations are using to address massive unmet needs. Regardless of the strategy, three principles stand out as indispensable for laying the groundwork for transformative scale.

By: Jeri Eckhart Queenan, Roger Thompson

Executive Summary

A growing number of social sector leaders around the globe face a dilemma. They have developed successful organizations and programs that serve large numbers of people in need. But they want to do more—much more. The question is how do they achieve truly transformative scale?

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The Bridgespan Group has identified nine strategies—first outlined in a Stanford Social Innovation Review article—that hold real promise for guiding organizations to much greater scale. This new article in the Rotman School of Management magazine takes a global perspective on transformative scale, illustrating each of the nine strategies with examples from organizations at work in developing countries.

Regardless of the chosen strategy, several principles shape how an organization’s leaders think and act in pursuit of their chosen mission. Three stand out as indispensable for laying the groundwork for transformative scale:

  • listening carefully to beneficiaries,
  • obsessing over affordability, and
  • building a scalable operating model.

Many organizations struggle to get these principles right. But some that come closest are those serving people at the bottom of the economic pyramid. Massive need and severe resource constraints force these organizations to design for scale from the beginning.

Organizations that get these three principles right greatly increase their chances of achieving transformative scale; those that don’t have no chance at all.

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