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How to scale impact: A 3-phased approach to drive systemic change

Reos Partners
February, 2024


Contributor: Monica Pohlmann

How can change makers, whether they are in community organisations, government, or the private sector, identify the most promising solutions and catalyse widespread adoption to scale the impact of transformative initiatives? To address this challenge, Reos Partners has developed and tested a strategic approach for scaling social impact. This approach involves identifying the most effective solutions, ensuring widespread adoption and implementation, and measuring and improving the impact over time.

Read on to learn how to scale your solution and drive systems change.

An urgent need for systemic innovation to address complex problems

Although some progress has been made toward improving the lives of people disadvantaged by the system, many governments and organisations are only addressing a small fraction of the need. While the focus has been on figuring out what works, little attention has been paid to what works at scale. Identifying effective solutions that can be adopted and implemented widely is crucial. 

To bridge the gap between what works and what works at scale, we need a systems thinking approach that combines technical and adaptive solutions while considering the needs of the people affected. However, many community and organisational leaders are not well-equipped to address systemic challenges due to:

  • Siloed structures and cultures: Existing frameworks tend to compartmentalise problems, hindering holistic understanding and collaborative action;
  • Limited stakeholder trust: Addressing systemic challenges necessitates diverse perspectives, but a lack of trust can impede effective collaboration;
  • Incomplete situational awareness: Shared understanding of the situation's complexities is crucial, yet fragmented information and differing interpretations can slow progress;
  • Lack of shared governance: Effective navigation of systemic challenges requires collective decision-making structures, which may be absent or underdeveloped in existing systems; and
  • Institution-centric (vs beneficiary-centric) mindsets: Focusing primarily on internal priorities can overlook the needs and perspectives of beneficiaries, limiting the impact and sustainability of solutions.

This is where cultivating system leadership capacities becomes crucial. By equipping diverse stakeholders with the skills and mindset to tackle adaptive challenges collaboratively and experimentally, we can unlock the potential for developing new solutions systemically, leading to impactful and lasting change.

Our approach to scaling innovation

We have extensive expertise in driving transformative change initiatives, focusing on cultivating leadership capabilities within complex systems. Based on this experience, we have developed a comprehensive approach to support communities and institutions in tackling adaptive challenges and facilitating the scaling of innovative solutions for sustainable outcomes.

This approach involves three distinct phases, as illustrated below.

An illustrative graphic that demonstrates Reos Partner’s guiding framework for scaling innovation 

An illustrative graphic that demonstrates Reos Partner’s guiding framework for scaling innovation 

Phase 1: Experimentation

This initial phase focuses on fostering diverse stakeholder engagement in a structured exploration and experimentation process. The objective is to collectively identify and co-create Success Factors: essential solutions and capabilities required to address the targeted challenge effectively. 

These Success Factors encompass both the "what" (solutions) and the "how" (capacities), enabling stakeholders to not only define solutions but also develop the necessary skills and collaborative processes to implement the solutions effectively.

The core of this phase lies in our Systemic Innovation Process: a structured framework designed to guide stakeholders through collaborative problem framing, exploration of potential solutions, and rigorous testing of their effectiveness. This stage uses our social labs methodology, which emphasises working systemically, experimentally, and collaboratively. 

Phase 2: Codify success factors

Building on the learnings gathered through Phase 1, phase two now shifts to determining generalisable success factors that can be scaled. The key steps involve:

  • Harvest learnings: Track hypotheses and outcomes through regular learning and reflection activities with innovation teams or a community of practice;
  • Identify generalisable success factors: Rigorously analyse and identify the generalisable Success Factors that played a critical role in achieving desired outcomes. These factors are then categorised and codified for clear understanding and future application.
  • Design optimal sequences: Develop optimal approaches for implementing Success Factors within new contexts. This step addresses the question: "If we were to guide a new organisation through this process, what would be the most efficient and effective way to sequence capacity building and solution implementation?"


Phase 3: Productise

Having identified and codified the key Success Factors, the final phase focuses on scaling impact by developing a product or service and business model to implement the success factors and scale adoption across contexts and user groups facing similar challenges.

Productisation involves taking a skill or service internally and developing a fully-tested offering. For example, Reos Partners' Emergency Aid Roadmap is a scalable product that was developed based on success factors that were identified through the Emergency Aid Lab, which sought to innovate a solution to an emergency aid (EA) challenge on US higher education campuses. The Emergency Aid Roadmap is a tested product that offers colleges and universities a curriculum and an online platform, workshops, and coaching to guide college administrators to apply the success factors to their context, learn and practice new capacities, and actually develop effective and sustainable emergency aid programs at their institutions. Early testers of the EA program reported a significant reduction in students leaving school due to unexpected financial difficulties.


A short video introducing the Roadmap to Effective Emergency Aid

A successful product or service involves finding the intersection of product goals, user needs, implementation of the Success Factors, and the right business model. To maximise the reach and effectiveness, several key elements come into play:

  • User-centred design: Employing a user-centred, agile, and lean product development process is crucial for ensuring successful adoption and adaptation to evolving needs. This process prioritises the intersection of product goals, user needs, and the successful implementation of the Success Factors.
  • Product structuring: The product itself must be carefully structured to deliver the Success Factors effectively. This involves:
    • Product experience: This encompasses activities like building awareness, delivering program guidance and resources, and providing support to implement the Success Factors.
    • Product operations: The behind-the-scenes infrastructure that underpins a smooth product experience.
    • Product development process: An iterative and flexible approach that allows continuous testing, learning, and adaptation based on user feedback and changing market conditions.
    • Product development components: The program, content, technology, and visual design elements that contribute to the overall product experience.
  • Implementation sequencing: Translating the Success Factors into a clear and actionable program sequence is critical. This involves defining program milestones, key actions, and supporting resources (tools and guidance) while considering the most effective delivery modes based on the target audience, information type, and desired outcomes.
  • Strategic partnerships: Collaborating with other organisations can significantly enhance the reach, efficiency, and value proposition of the product. Exploring strategic partnerships with relevant allies can, therefore, be a valuable strategy in this phase.

Scaling impact with Reos Partners 

To achieve significant social impact, it is crucial to take a systemic, collaborative, and experimental approach. At Reos Partners, we have developed a three-phased approach that offers a comprehensive framework for cultivating leadership capabilities, co-creating solutions, and improving impact over time. By identifying effective solutions, ensuring widespread adoption, and measuring impact, organisations can maximise their social impact and achieve sustainable outcomes. 

We believe in the power of collaboration and collective action to create a better world. Let's work together to scale your solution and increase your social impact. 

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