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Scaling up – going from project success to paradigm shift

Scott Poynton's picture

Once you complete your project, there’ll be time for reflection and celebration but not too much! Likely your project has successfully piloted a new innovation but it remains just that, a pilot. Peoples’ lives will have been changed and you’ll have learned an enormous amount, so now the challenge is to have an even bigger impact by helping change the existing paradigm in your field or in the region where you work. When conceiving your project and in your DM application, you’ll have identified how you thought you could scale up but now that you’ve implemented your project, you’ll have refined your thinking through lessons learned and so will now have a much more concrete and defined idea of what you need to scale up.
Scaling up normally means more money. Yet another of the great things about the DM Team is that they’re well connected to quite a few funders looking for ground-breaking but proven projects. Use them – the DM Team want to help you so keep them informed as your project unfolds and you needn’t wait until the end before you start thinking about putting proposals to other potential funders. Use your own networks as well or, through contacts or the internet, research far and wide to find out which funders are interested in the sort of work you’re doing. Reach out to these funders and get them interested in your work. A key tip here – never i.e. NEVER over-state your achievements when speaking to a potential donor. These are smart people, usually with quite a lot of relevant field experience, so tell them all the good and bad stories, about your successes and the challenges you faced to win them and the donors will see pretty quickly that you’re a serious and very grounded partner that they can work with. If you’ve not yet finished your project or not yet fully secured its intended benefits, explain this, be open and transparent. If you start using the past tense too early to describe your achievements i.e. ‘we’ve done this’ or ‘we’ve achieved that’ when in fact you should be saying ‘we’re doing this and hope to achieve that’ donors will respect you more and get the feeling that you’re honest and straight. They need to feel that they can trust their partners so this is critically important. Claiming too much too early is not only silly, it will undermine your credibility with important potential donors and will seriously compromise your chances to scale up because these donors talk to each other on a regular basis so your reputation can be quickly enhanced by your real achievements and your honesty or quickly destroyed by over-claiming. So be careful – openness, honesty and transparency in all communication is the way to go.
Another point to remember – this is not the time to forget your partners. These guys have been critical in helping you get to this point but it is not uncommon to see lead organizations forget this. In Press Releases and other communications material, too often the lead partner tells the world what they’ve achieved taking all the glory for themselves and too rarely take the chance to acknowledge their partners’ contributions. This annoys partners and leads to strained if not broken partnerships. This is a disaster! You need your partners now more than ever so when communicating about your achievements and submitting new proposals to new donors, always acknowledge and involve your partners. Donors will like it because they know that innovation is rarely delivered by a single person or organization and will quickly spot and distance themselves from arrogant folk that don’t give credit where it’s due.
Lastly, in preparing your scaling up proposals, don’t just re-word your DM proposal. Yes, draw on it as all the background information will be useful, but enliven it with news of the lessons you learned in implementing your pilot DM project and describe what you will do differently in scaling up.
And very lastly – having won a new grant to implement a more scaled up version of your project, don’t forget all the other tips all of a sudden. You still need to carefully select and support your partners and you still need a Steering Committee.
Good luck!


Submitted by Bart Saucelo on
PET is a bold and innovative socio-economic project to alleviate poverty and eradicate corruption in the government of a non-profit organization (Global Filipinos for Progress, Inc.. Please advise how to apply for a grant. Thank you. Bart M. Saucelo, M.D.

You can find general information on the Development Marketplace competitions held at the global, regional and country level on the DM website at: At the beginning of 2009, the DM will announce the Call for Proposals for the next global competition and make available updated guidelines for application. For other funding opportunities, I invite you to subscribe to this blog in which we regularly announce grant opportunities from other organizations.

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