Evaluations of scaling up (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1097)



Please identify evaluations of the scaling up of programmes (at national or sub-national/regional level), prioritising those with a gender equality or social norms focus. What does and doesn’t work in the process of scaling up? Which implementing partners have been effective in taking programmes to scale?

Key findings

Factors that affect the success of scaling up include:

  • Politics: A number of evaluations suggest that political support is a key success factor, and offer recommendations on how to build this support. Demonstrating how the programme will help achieve key government goals, as well as building personal connections with government officials. Decentralisation can make scale up possible where local governments were interested, but can also limit cooperation between municipalities.
  • Capacity: Capacity building appears to be key to scaling up sustainably, and is considered a worthwhile investment despite being time-consuming in the case of weak local governments. Where scale-up is through government-NGO partnership, capacity and expertise is required in both agencies.
  • Implementing partners: Partnerships between government and NGOs are a common model for scaling up. One evaluation of scaling up sanitation across six countries found that various combinations of NGOs, projects and governments have proven successful. Another programme involving contract teachers in Kenya demonstrated that government-run programmes can face implementation and political economy constraints that an NGO-run programme may not. Others argue that in most cases, the participation of local government is vital to manage programme implementation, and that working with them rather than around them will pay off in the long term.
  • Leadership: Several evaluations highlight the importance of leadership and commitment. The leadership needed for small-scale innovations is arguably different from the type of political and managerial leadership required for systemic and large-scale changes. Support and involvement from national and regional leadership is considered a key success factor. Additionally, community leaders have proven instrumental in the success of some community-led interventions.
  • Evidence: Programmes taken to scale usually involve a well-developed strategy based on documented evidence and a pilot intervention to adapt the programme to local context. However, political opportunity and implementation feasibility - as opposed to a systematic assessment of how well a programme operates - often determine what can be scaled up in practice.


Oddsdóttir, F. Evaluations of scaling up (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1097). Governance and Social Development Resource Centre, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK (2014) 9 pp.

Evaluations of scaling up (GSDRC Helpdesk Research Report 1097)

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