Sowing the Seeds of Successback

By Judith E. Katz, On Target Strategies

If you weren’t at the 2010 Inaugural Social Impact Exchange Conference on Scaling this week, you might think those of us who attended were planning our first trek to Everest as we spoke about the need for flexibility, capacity building, adequate staffing and thinking exponentially. And that might be because the same passion, focus, absolute command of the basics and program details along with commitment to data based analytics is absolutely necessary for the successful replication of social programs as it is for a mountain trek. This is not a rubber stamp activity. 

All of this is required to support nonprofits ability to replicate their most effective programs – programs that identify new opportunities, develop innovative approaches, demonstrate accountability and that secure predictable revenue sources for financial stability according to Andrew Wolk of Root Cause.

As Rohit Menezes of the Bridgespan Group said, one needed to think about scaling critical relationships, embracing opportunism and thinking exponentially. From seeding a board with those who know the people you need to influence for a mental health organization to imagining a new way of spreading not only the word but the skills to accomplish the program (KABOOM stopped building playgrounds and put out on the web the handbook for everyone to be able to do it), scaling requires the ability to step back and see the world in a new way. 

All of the above pertains after answering Geri Summerville’s (Public/Private Ventures) piercing questions about readiness, (Can your organization pass this smell test?) particularly when enlisting another agency to take on your beloved program. So, she asked, about support from the receiving organization starting with its board and staff to its community with its own local politics to its ability to have dedicated resources for implementation and stable funding.

Clearly you need a plan that outlines the usual mission, values and strategies. Even more importantly your plan has to articulate the social impact of the endeavor, how it can be financially sustainable and how you will know that it is working. Data and performance indicators are CORE requirements. Most likely, you will also have a public policy component to support your innovation, e.g., charter school legislation.

So are you ready to scale your best work? Or, would you like to be part of scaling some one else’s best work? After all, excellence and effectiveness is a good mantra for making the right future happen.

For complete coverage of the 2010 inaugural Social Impact Exchange Conference: Taking Successful Innovation to Scale, go to Ventureneer SIEX10.