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Ensuring that Good Programs Make a Strong Impact (Part 3 of 3)

(Part 3 of a three-part blog entry)

Getting to scale is a major goal of most initiatives both at JFF and across the country, but most of us still struggle with figuring out how to scale up what works and create real, sustainable, high-impact change. At the Achieving the Dream State Policy Meeting in Seattle, Washington on February 1st, Barbara Endel of JFF and Israel Mendoza, former State ABE Director in Washington, led a roundtable discussion on this topic, drawing on both theory and practice (in particular, how Washington has scaled up its Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST model). The conversation yielded a number of useful ways to think about how one can plan for scale, manage change, and build ownership.

Here’s a list of key considerations we came up with for building ownership. (Here's our previous posts on tips for planning for scale and managing change.)

Building ownership:

  • Strive for balanced decision making–let the initiative develop both top-down and bottom-up. You can cede some authority to local colleges/instructors while still maintaining your core principles—this builds trust and a sense of ownership. Regular communication and a program approval process will help ensure that local entities are not deviating from the core of the initiative.
  • Make sure faculty and staff see them benefit for themselves as well as their students.
  • Create opportunities for college-level input and customization (including administrators, instructors, and support staff)—this will help create a sense of ownership at multiple levels.
  • Build a cadre of local experts who can train their peers.
  • Cultivate champions.

Getting to scale is a major goal of most initiatives both at JFF and across the country, but most of us still struggle with figuring out how to scale up what works and create real, sustainable, high-impact change. This is challenging—there isn't a precise formula that's guaranteed to work. But planning for scale early on, incentivizing and managing change, and building ownership are strategies that can help you get there. It's also important to remember that scaling is more than increasing the number of students served—it's about creating sustainable systems change that will have a long-term impact.

We hope these tips have provided some helpful ideas for how to think about scale. Please post any comments or ideas you have.