Understanding and Implementing Scaling Up: Key Concepts and Strategies

What is “Scaling Up”?

Scaling up entails taking successful projects, programs, interventions, results, or policies and expanding them so they can benefit more people. Think of it as taking a great idea and making it bigger and better so that it can reach more communities and have a lasting impact. For example, our HIT RESET projects aim to do just that by expanding and adapting successful innovations.

While the scaling up process may come across as being complex, there are four key elements: 1. Reaching more people (geographically), 2. The adoption of successful interventions, 3. Adapting the interventions to best fit the project at hand; and 4. Making sure the project, programme, intervention, etc. has attributes of sustainability to allow it to continue over time to shape policies that support the goals of the interventions. It also involves ensuring everyone can benefit, repeating successful strategies, getting political support, and changing how people think about the issue.

Why is Scaling Up Necessary?

Many successful projects start small and have limited funding. When the funding ends, so does the project, even if it was making a big difference. It’s like throwing a small pebble into a big pond—its impact doesn’t last long. Scaling up helps to continue and spread innovative ideas and technologies, so they can make a bigger, long-term difference.

Types of Scaling Up

There are two main ways to functionally scale up a project, meaning increasing the types of activities and integration with other programs:

  • Vertical Scaling Up: This means adding new activities related to the original project, like influencing policies or creating new programs that build on the original idea. For example, if a health project was successful, vertical scaling might involve changing health policies to support the project’s practices on a larger scale.
  • Horizontal Scaling Up: This means expanding the project to new areas or communities. It’s about taking what worked in one place and doing it in many other places. For example, if a program worked well in one city, horizontal scaling would involve starting the same program in other cities.

Simple steps to Scaling Up

The scaling up framework  involves several steps:

  1. Assess Readiness: Check if the project is ready to expand. Look at the current resources, capacity, and whether the community is ready for it.
  2. Choose a Strategy: Decide whether vertical or horizontal scaling fits best with the project’s goals, but keeping in mind that these can be done sequentially or simultaneously depending on the conditions and in phases.
  3. Develop a Plan: Make a detailed plan with clear goals, strategies, budget, timelines, and needed resources.
  4. Implement the Plan: Put the plan into a project management framework, managing resources, involving stakeholders, and ensuring quality.
  5. Evaluate Results: Continuously monitor and assess to make sure the scaling process is working as intended.

Key Factors for Successful Scaling Up

  • Vision for Scale: Have a clear long-term vision.
  • Careful Selection of Pilot Sites: Choose places that can serve as good examples.
  • High Impact: Aim for changes that make a big difference.
  • Solid Partnerships: Work with many different organizations.
  • Cross-Sector Involvement: Engage partners from various fields.
  • Dynamic Leadership: Develop strong community and political leaders.
  • Strengthened Systems: Improve organizational capabilities.
  • Networking: Share best practices widely.
  • Rigorous Testing: Test the approach thoroughly before scaling.
  • Consolidation and Refinement: Continuously improve the program.
  • Simplification: Keep the program simple and easy to replicate.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation: Regularly track progress.
  • Recognition and Publicity: Celebrate successes and share results.
  • Diversified Funding: Ensure a strong and varied funding base.

Challenges and Solutions in Scaling Up

Scaling up isn’t easy. Common challenges include limited resources, resistance to change and maintaining quality. To overcome these:

  • Develop a strong funding strategy: Ensure diverse funding sources.
  • Engage stakeholders early: Build support from the start to retain and grow levels of medium-long term commitment.
  • Adapt to local contexts: Tailor the approach to different environments.
  • Invest in capacity building: Strengthen your team’s skills and capabilities.
  • Develop a strong funding strategy: Ensure diverse funding sources.


Scaling up can transform successful projects into large-scale solutions that make a lasting difference. By understanding the key concepts and strategies, organizations can extend their reach and impact. With careful planning, strong partnerships, and continuous improvement, scaling up can address critical needs and create sustainable and meaningful change.

Stay tuned for our next blog post, where we’ll dive into how scaling up works in the context of our IAP project. We’ll move from theory to real-life examples to show you how these concepts come to life!


  1. World Health Organization (2010). “Nine Steps for Developing a Scaling-Up Strategy.”
  2. ExpandNet and WHO (2011). “Beginning with the End in Mind: Planning Pilot Projects and Other Programmatic Research for Successful Scaling Up.”
  3. Management Systems International (2012). “Scaling Up—From Vision to Large-scale Change: A Management Framework for Practitioners.”
  4. Hartmann, A., & Linn, J. F. (2008). “Scaling Up: A Framework and Lessons for Development Effectiveness from Literature and Practice.”
  5. UNDP (2013). “Scaling Up Local Innovations for Transformational Change.”

This project aims to provide support for projects which develop innovations to increase resilience in coastal communities of the Caribbean, as well as strengthen institutions, national and local governments’ ability to leverage information and knowledge for policy amendments.