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Corporate Philanthropy

Collaborating To Achieve Scaled Impact

How we facilitate collaboration influences breakthroughs in innovation and scale.

The mantra of “achieving scale” remains an elusive goal for those of us working in the global philanthropic and social enterprise sectors. What defines scale? Is it measured relative to the gap we seek to close?  For example, after nearly 30 years of experience, we know that microfinance does benefit people who are living under $2 a day.  Today, microfinance serves 150 million people.  But, how do we deliver services to the nearly 2.7 billion people in the world who are unbanked?  What is the right threshold to define scale and how do we get there?

The same questions could be posed to any number of gaps—access to secondary education, treatments for certain diseases, or clean water and sanitation—where we have effective tools but grapple with how to scale delivery of these solutions.  And, this isn’t just a funding issue. Arguably, achieving scale is fundamentally a design as well as a methodological challenge.  Therefore, it requires collective brainpower and collaboration of various stakeholders.  How we facilitate collaboration will influence breakthroughs in innovation and scale.

One unique approach that has enabled and celebrated collaboration is the Clinton Global Initiative. The forum is an ongoing action-dialogue involving leaders of countries, companies, foundations, NGOs, media as well as global citizens. As in any collaboration, success depends on a shared vision of a more integrated and equitable global community with shared accountability, values and benefits. 

The basis of any such collaboration must be trust among the partners, where there is a freedom to brainstorm, debate and ultimately improve ideas.  I find this practice healthy and helpful as we wrestle with how to scale solutions to education, financial services and employment for young people.  This encapsulates our foundation’s overall approach to partnership, and has enabled us to support quality and sustainable programs at scale.

This week, I am attending CGI’s annual meeting where I’ll join a panel discussion entitled “Youth Unemployment: The Next Great Global Challenge” and cover fresh approaches to create economic opportunities for young people.  Other ideas will be announced at CGI in the form of two new, measurable initiatives with our partners, the Equity Group Foundation and Camfed. Both will expand secondary education and build financial capacity of African youth and women.   

The insights and ideas I will discuss at CGI have been generated from best practices and current research, but most importantly from lively discussions and collaborative efforts with our partners. It is this partnership in action that will equip us to face the global challenges ahead, and think about how to respond with innovative and scalable solutions that will have measurable impact.

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COMMENTS

  • BY Susan Ross

    ON October 1, 2010 06:16 PM

    Hi Reeta:

    Thanks for your article. As someone who has spent 20 years in the international health and development field, I think one of the key challenges is the dearth of successful scale-up models. There are many great programs that work a a small level, but working at scale does not necessarliy mean doing the same thing in more places. Many NGOs are constrainted to think at scale becasue of resources. I think that both designing and implementing efforts at scale-with the appropriate systems to support scale- is a major assest that businesses could contribute. However, my personal expereince is that many business have not fully taped their ability to apply their core competences to address social and envirnromental issues. cheers susan

  • Reeta Roy's avatar

    BY Reeta Roy

    ON October 14, 2010 12:05 PM

    Susan, thanks for your comment. Yes – many organizations are constrained to think at scale because of resources. Most of the partnerships of The MasterCard Foundation focus on scale-up of programs, at a local and regional level. I encourage you to explore some of the models and efforts of our partners like BRAC, Camfed and Digital Opportunity Trust. Best, Reeta

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