By Akanimo Sampson
The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) will be hosting a webinar on September 29 on the art of scaling: Tools for scaling in a project in a better way and how to build partnerships about scaling.
The event is concerned with tackling multiple questions: What is the science of scaling and what have we learned so far? What critical knowledge gaps remain unfilled? What are the roles and responsibilities of researchers and R4D centers? And how can development and research organizations learn from each other for sustainable change at scale?
Scaling Catalyst at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, and Chair of the Community of Practice for Agricultural Working Group on Scaling, Scaling Catalyst at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Mexico, Lennart Woltering, and Chair of the Community of Practice for Agricultural Working Group on Scaling, and Leader of the Community of Practice on Data–Driven Agronomy, Daniel Jimenez, chaired the discussions during the August edition.
In his presentation, IITA Senior Innovation and Scaling Scientist, Marc Schut, talked about the Science of Scaling and argued that “If we are serious about achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, we need to think about impact at scale, and the use of agricultural innovation at scale.”
Schut, a social scientist from the Netherlands, is based in Kigali, Rwanda. He obtained his PhD in Communication and Innovation Studies at Wageningen University, the Netherlands (2012). His PhD focused on better understanding drivers that influence the role of research on policy and innovation processes.
Prior to his appointment with IITA, he worked as Postdoctoral Researcher in the PARASITE Programme with Wageningen University and Africa Rice Center. In his postdoctoral research, he developed and tested a diagnostic tool for Rapid Appraisal of Agricultural Innovation Systems (RAAIS), which was applied to analyse the institutional dimensions of parasitic weed problems in rain-fed rice production systems in Tanzania and Benin.
He also coordinated a project supporting the operationalization and implementation of a policy framework for sustainable biofuels in Mozambique (July 2011 to June 2012). Marc holds an MSc degree in Rural Development and Innovation from Wageningen University, and a BSc in Agricultural Education from Stoas Professional University, the Netherlands.
Marc Schut is also Principal Investigator of the CIALCA project that focusses on systems research and development of banana, cassava and potato production systems in Central Africa, and of a BMZ-funded project that explores the use of digital innovation and ICT for banana disease control and prevention.
He also added that most of the development projects do not achieve impact at scale because they start thinking of scaling towards the end of the project, do not design projects with scaling in mind, and have unrealistic ideas of impact.
Some of the projects also think that what works in one context can work similarly in another context (one size fits all) and give similar outcomes. This model is commonly known as Scaling the Old Way.
Furthermore, Schut shared lessons learned over the two years since the Scaling Readiness kicked off. Those include:
Scaling innovations should be seen as part of packages. This means that innovations have different levels of readiness and use, and do not scale alone. They are context–specific, so all the context of innovation scaling should be considered while scaling and ensure all the conditions for scaling are in place.
Innovations should not only focus on numbers (trying to achieve as many as possible), as many other elements ascertain impact at scale besides numbers.
Short–term and long–term projects develop differently. The accurate way of scaling innovations is through a long-term project because achieving impact takes time.
New competencies such as scaling champions should facilitate innovation use, which is not the same as innovation design testing and validation. These new competencies in the scaling process should understand policies and the need for the innovation by next users. The process should also include new partnership models.
Achieving scale goes hand in hand with having limited control over the way your innovation is used or abused at scale. Relinquishing control requires a different mindset, which also helps in sustainability and ownership of the innovation by the end-users.
Success requires developing fit-for-purpose partnerships and engagement with partners who will play a key role in overcoming the bottlenecks of scaling the innovation.
Project leaders must develop a new paradigm that focuses on scaling proven, tested, and validated innovations to improve the desired outcome.
Achieving scaling impact
In her presentation, Programme Officer at the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), Hayley Price-Kelly, discussed insights gained from the IDRC experience of scaling different innovations since 2016.
Price-Kelly emphasized that they had put a flexible scaling process in place, targeting specific knowledge in one context, and had to involve a range of actors that could enable the impact of the innovations.
“What we learned is that there is no blueprint for scaling in research for development innovations”, she noted.
Price-Kelly also shared some challenges to address in future scaling work, such as the affordability of the process. In the case study, production equipment was quite expensive.
She also indicated that scaling takes place regularly over multiple projects, and the idea is to adjust along the way to address all the components in the scaling process.