Are We Bigger Yet? A Behavioral Approach to Assessing Scaling-Up

As program designers and implementers, how do we make sure our intervention will scale up? As program evaluators, how do we know if something is going to scale up? In 2018, we at the GEF IEO decided to find out by looking at completed projects that reported both successful and less successful scaling outcomes.

We identified factors mentioned in 18 interviews with GEF Secretariat teams and GEF Agencies at the corporate level. We then validated these factors using 20 cases built primarily from document reviews, supported by evidence from an additional 40 cases. Six of the cases involved field visits and interviews specifically to assess whether or not--and how--scaling activities were sustained post-GEF support. Each case consisted of one or more linked projects.

It turned out that all the factors could be clustered around three key behaviors or actions necessary for impact to scale:

  1. Adoption of Intervention. For impact to be scaled up, the relevant stakeholders must first be willing to implement the intervention that generates impact.
  2. Sustained Support for Scaling-up Processes. For the relevant stakeholders to implement the intervention that generates impact, supporting institutions must sustain the enabling conditions for implementation.
  3. Learning for Adaptability and Cost-Effectiveness. For scaling-up processes to be sustained, supporting institutions have to learn from systematic feedback that will allow them to adapt the scaling-up process to changing contexts and make it more cost-effective.

In monitoring and evaluating the likelihood of scaling, evidence can be collected on the extent to which the three actions are taking place in terms of actual change in behavior (e.g. time and fund allocations, use of new technology), and the extent to which a program is contributing--or not--to the factors and enabling conditions that make these behavioral changes possible (Figure 1). But how do the factors and enabling conditions lead to these three behaviors taking place? Click here to download the full infographic and check out some of the findings from our analysis.

Figure 1. Framework for assessing the likelihood of scaling-up. Adapted from the Evaluation of GEF Support to Scaling Up Impact

While drawing on cases from the environmental sector, this behavior-focused framework allows it to be used to assess program outcomes in any sector. It presents the causal chain of key behaviors, factors, and enabling conditions that need to be assessed and given attention to, to improve the likelihood of scaling happening. It is by no means comprehensive, as it reflects only themes that emerged from interviews and project documents involving GEF-supported interventions. Figure 1 also only provides a relatively simplified example of the complex interactions that take place between and within these factors and conditions. However, the framework can easily be adapted to focus on factors and enabling conditions that are more critical to a specific setting and intervention.

Read more about how the GEF has helped scale up impact, and how the factors and enabling conditions have contributed to the process, by clicking here.

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