A chlorination project by Dispensers for Safe Water and Innovations for Poverty Action has received Stage 3 support, allowing the organizations to scale the project in Kenya and Uganda. What is the best way to scale projects so that they will have more impact? Photo by: Jonathan Kalan / DIVatUSAID / CC BY-NC-ND

As donors seek to catalyze innovations to achieve large-scale impact in developing countries, the terms innovation and scale often appear together when the international development community gathers to discuss priorities.

The way to scale traditionally is to “find the best practice and replicate, replicate, replicate,” said Kristi Ragan, a chief of party for DAI, who moderated the plenary panel on Tuesday at the Society for International Development’s 2014 Annual Conference in Washington, D.C.

But that strategy doesn’t always work, especially for the private sector — and each organization or business has developed their own best practices.

MasterCard has a unique position. We are scaling as a sole course of business,” noted April DuBois, vice president for international development at the technology and electronic payments leader.

The way MasterCard defines scale, she explained, is for instance reaching 90 million Egyptians with the first Arabic mobile money program, or 22 million South Africans with first capability to send and receive electronic payments.

“Scale is about reach,” DuBois said.

Cathy Clark, director of the CASE i3 Initiative on Impact Investing and co-principal investigator for social entrepreneurship at Duke University, warned it’s very difficult to achieve scale without strong partnerships with capital markets, and encouraged development professionals to think of partners “not just as private sector” and seek other investors who might care about your outcomes.

These might be suppliers or even competitors, and she and her colleagues are calling it a new “collaborative capitalism.”

“What we are seeing is this tremendous growth in institutions across all sectors who are thinking of themselves as outcome buyers,” Clark said.

This strategy requires a multisectoral, multilingual set of leaders. John Wille, lead private sector development specialist at the World Bank, said he’s already seen the adoption of private sector disciplines in deciding where to focus resources and make sure there’s a knowledge base and staff deployed in the right places.

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  • Kelli Rogers

    Kelli Rogers is an Associate Editor for Devex. Based on the U.S. West Coast, she works with Devex's team of correspondents and editors around the world, with a particular focus on gender. She previously worked as Devex’s Southeast Asia correspondent based in Bangkok, covering disaster and crisis response, resilience, women’s rights, and climate change throughout the region. Prior to that, she reported on social and environmental issues from Nairobi, Kenya. Kelli holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri, and has since reported from more than 20 countries.

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