How did you scale your social innovation and what tips for scaling could you share?

Building and scaling a successful project is a collective effort. Different groups of stakeholders within and outside your company join forces and contribute to the sustainable scale up of your project. There are many ways of scaling up. We asked 7 inspiring social innovators from different fields, sectors and countries running today some of the most successful projects in the field to share with us how they scaled their projects and organizations and here is what we’ve learned.

`Scaling social innovations is very challenging. While we first used a variety of media for scaling the innovation, we realised that patients are online, despite their demographic profiles which usually correspond with older populations. This led us to use a lot of paid advertising to support our organic reach. When it comes to scaling, therefore, we would recommend using a variety of means and to never stop testing; the main criteria should be speed, extent, costs and impact of reach.’ says the co-founder of Care Across, says Thanos Kosmidis who runs a digital start-up company focusing on cancer.

Thanos Kosmidis, Care Across

‘Apart from the fact that the main secret is that there is no secret, the team must always believe in its main goal. Our main goal, especially since we are science and technology enthusiasts, was to promote science education and communication. We strongly believe that motivating people to experience and understand science can benefit – or even change – our society and make it stronger and able to cope with the difficulties that the financial crisis has imposed on a global scale. Hence, the main tip is to contribute.’ says Nicholas Protonotarios who is in charge of “The Hub Events” series of lectures in social sciences.

Nicholas Protonotarios, The Hub Events

`We are currently scaling our initiatives from two (2) states to six (6) states in the south-west and there is another plan to start in Kaduna IDP (Internally Displaced People) camps. The challenge has been getting the funding to mobilize resources to reach more targets and create more opportunities that we envision. We have reached 4,100 pupils and engaged 163 volunteers which is 41% of our target in 3 years. Now the next phase is to reach 5,000 additional pupils and build a wider network in the coming 2 years. The plans have been designed and we are currently receiving funds and sponsorships to implement.’ says Adetunji Adeniran, co-founder and Executive Director at Hopefield Network.

Adetunji Adeniran, Hopefield Network

‘Scaling is always a good goal but it is important to ensure “safe scaling”, i.e. slowly, to make sure that the services and infrastructure can take it without serious failures. The problem is that a venture could lose credibility and trust very fast if things don’t work well or if the expectations have been raised more than the venture can manage.‘ says Toni Staykova, co-founder of the UKeMED Platform which works as a single open operational space to support the development and deployment of telematic services for the management and sharing of knowledge and experience among healthcare professionals in all operational aspects around the world.

Toni Staykova, UKeMED 

‘We scaled our organisation gradually. We went from one full time employee to two, to four and then started working with project managers for specific programmes. We maintained a very lean structure but focused on delivering key milestones at each step of our journey; first solidifying our vision/mission/operations, then refining our brand and identity, then working on our culture and setting up internal processes to automate procedures. What has always been consistent and a common denominator throughout has been our values, we have always stayed true to those and no matter the milestone, always refer back to maintaining those as the DNA of our organisation.’ says Effie Kyrtata, the co-founder and CEO of Reload Greece, a UK registered charity which enables a new generation of entrepreneurs to start businesses that have a social and economic impact in their home country.

Effie Kyrtata, Reload Greece

‘In Human Grid case the users have supported our initiative and offered energy, ideas and potential.’ says Stathis Haikalis being responsible for the Human Grid Project which is about connecting social initiatives and volunteer groups in Greece.

Stathis Haikalis, Human Grid Project

‘We have scaled our business by expanding geographically outside of the UAE and also as a result of our intermediary role much of what we do involves partnering and collaborating with others and supporting other similar initiatives. It was one of the reasons why C3 won the UN Sustainable Development Goals Award for the UAE last year. We also consider that the more we help our entrepreneurs to financial sustainability, the more we have deepened our impact. For us, this is scale. I think it is important for social entrepreneurs not to get too hung up on the idea of scale to the detriment of solving the social problem they set out to address in a real and tangible way. If your idea is a product like solar lamps then of course scale is important, but no more important than making sure that the right customers are able to buy the product and proving a clear social benefit at the bottom of the pyramid. If your idea is novel or involves progressive social change, then it may be too early to achieve scale, but by championing that cause and showing that a sustainable business can be created out of a social good, you will lay the groundwork for others to build on what you started or even for legislative or behavioral change to occur. Boiling this down to one line: try and always balance making money and achieving scale along with creating the impact that you want.’ says Anna-Liisa Googs, Co-Founder and Partner at C3 Partners – Executives on Demand (C3P), a UAE-based advisory firm providing senior executive support services to businesses needing temporary management solutions.

Anna-Liisa Goggs, Consult and Coach for a Cause (C3)

Would you like to learn how inspiring social innovators answer other important questions such as how to start your project from scratch or how to make sure that your idea actually fits the needs of the users?

Check out the Social Innovation Academy – the first fully online management training programme focusing exclusively on social innovation.  If you are interested in keeping up with this project, you can subscribe to our newsletter, become one of our friends or follow us on social media (LinkedInTwitter and Facebook). We welcome all requests for collaboration here.

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