Scaling Innovation: It Takes An Ecosystem

Our team from Columbia University, School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA)

It’s not a Lab of the three of us but rather 20, 30, 50 people from the [UNDP] office who are early adopters of innovative methodologies who want to change the usual way of doing business.” The Serbia Accelerator Lab

Our research project aims to provide a hands-on strategy including a scaling framework and toolkit for the Accelerator Labs to scale social innovation as they enter the next phase of their learning cycle.

How we did it

Our mission was to develop a clearly defined and structured strategy that is flexible but also takes into account feedback-loops within the Accelerator Labs’ complex environment. As a result, our research methodology uses a collaborative approach involving the perspectives of all 60 Accelerator Labs, while complementing the insights with secondary research. This enabled us to learn from the experiences of the Accelerator Labs on what works, and what doesn’t, and develop a strategy that would be practical, and applicable in various contexts.

“To approach things from a level of humility, listen and understand the process, people, partners, pressures they are confined in. Coming in with openness instead of biases. Be open to absorb true factors needed to take into consideration to adjust.” The Philippines Accelerator Lab

The Stages of the SIPA team Primary Research: Online Survey, Phone interviews, Country Deep-dives and Focus Groups

So How Do We Scale Innovation in Development?

Scaling social innovation to address national challenges and achieve the SDGs is a layered, complex, and nonlinear process. With the support of UNDP’s Accelerator Labs Network, our team developed a scaling strategy with two main components: A scaling framework and a toolkit.

“Many solutions already exist. We need to focus on solving the problem collectively, not creating new solutions.” Strategy and Policy Unit, Uganda UNDP Office

The Scaling Framework: Scaling Process, Product and Service Line Innovations

To operationalize the scaling strategy, we developed a conceptual scaling framework to help answer the questions of WHAT could be scaled, and HOW scaling could look. Our scaling framework outlines three types of social innovation and three types of scaling. Drawing from examples of the Labs’ work, we discovered that social innovation could take the form of product innovation, process innovation, service line innovation, or a combination of some of them.

The Scaling Toolkit: A Practical Guide

Our toolkit starts with supporting the Accelerator Labs to build a vision for scale. Then it guides the Accelerator Labs teams to understand how they can create a successful coalition of stakeholders and leverage different stakeholders within the in-country innovation ecosystem. Additionally, it provides hands-on guidance on how to make use of the necessary resources for scaling. Finally, learning how to scale is key to the Labs’ iterative cycle. Thus, the final section of our toolkit aims to help Labs think through building collective intelligence and learning from failure.

Our Scaling Toolkit

“Forming partnerships with the private sector, such as banks and incubation hubs, to assist in scaling validated solutions. These types of institutions have past experience in scaling solutions by providing funding, access to markets, and access to business development experts.” UNDP South Africa Accelerator Lab

Our toolkit provides recommendations, guiding questions, and stories on scaling social innovation through each component within the four sections:

  1. Envisioning scaling: Provides guidance to creating a structured vision that will help provide a better chance of scaling.

What’s Next?

The UNDP Accelerator Labs network can use this framework and toolkit in several different ways and different stages of their scaling process to help guide informational needs around scaling social innovation. The Labs can also use our report to develop country-specific scaling strategies, all of which can be facilitated through a workshop or boot camp. The framework and toolkit are also great resources to use when discussing further thoughts around scaling with other Labs and when conducting in-country stakeholder meetings around envisioning scale.



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UNDP Accelerator Labs

UNDP Accelerator Labs

Building the world’s largest learning network around development challenges. 91 Labs in 115 countries.