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Sonal Shah: Moving from Social Innovation to Scaling Impact

June 02, 2017 by Andrew Young

In a new letter, Beeck Center executive director and Network member Sonal Shah looked back on achievements from the first three years of the Beeck Center’s existence at Georgetown University, and plotted out next steps for social impact work at Beeck and beyond.

Beeck’s work over the years – including courses, partnerships with organizations and policymakers, and research – has uncovered a number of lessons on how to scale social impact. Shah writes:

“Innovative solutions alone are not enough, and scaling organizations will only get us so far in addressing the social challenges that we face as a global society. We need to unlock social impact at scale. And so now we are asking, what will it take to move the social impact movement from innovation to scale?

A key understanding, which we have discussed in our research, is that achieving impact at scale requires a systems view of change. Our theory is that scale requires an approach to change that leverages and works across a set of interdependent systems and forces:

  • Financing : via new financial mechanisms and changing the market conditions;

  • Technology : to enable more effective ways to provide better services and create feedback loops for end users;

  • Data : as a tool for decision making to reveal useful information, develop better analytical capabilities, and identify new solutions;

  • Policy : helping decision makers and citizens recognize when policy can be used as an instrument to effect broad change and when it can hinder change; and

  • People : taking a human-centered approach to solutions, investing in people throughout the system who have the skills to reinforce change, and ensuring that communities have a voice in the process.

Each of these factors is critical at different times to get to the tipping point for scale.”

Read more here.