Putting scale at the forefront of project design

Development pilot projects begin with high hopes and good intentions.

But too many of them proceed with the mistaken belief that a good idea plus a lot of hope can combine to create lasting, large-scale change, according to Larry Cooley, president and founder of Management Systems International, who has for decades studied the gap between what works at a small scale and what it takes to change a system. In many cases, that gap stems from too much complexity in project design.

“If you really design something as a project, and not as a chance to try and test and explore or stretch system change, then you’re going to overdesign,” Cooley told Devex in an exclusive video interview in our Washington, D.C., studio.

At a time when foreign assistance dollars must be stretched further, and as donors increasingly shift their attention to local systems — and the positive changes development implementers can bring about within those systems — it is more crucial than ever to understand what it takes to think about scale from the very beginning of the project cycle.

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About the author

  • Igoe michael 1

    Michael Igoe

    Michael Igoe is a Senior Reporter with Devex, based in Washington, D.C. He covers U.S. foreign aid, global health, climate change, and development finance. Prior to joining Devex, Michael researched water management and climate change adaptation in post-Soviet Central Asia, where he also wrote for EurasiaNet. Michael earned his bachelor's degree from Bowdoin College, where he majored in Russian, and his master’s degree from the University of Montana, where he studied international conservation and development.