Guest post by the International Food Policy Research Institute
The attention of donors and governments throughout the world is focused more than ever on battling poverty and hunger through investments and aid to agriculture, rural development, and nutrition.
Yet many of these development interventions are limited and short-lived. Incoming political leaders tend to promote their own new initiatives, and bureaucracies are plagued by a lack of continuity in leadership, a focus on the new and different, and a lack of effective evaluation of what works and what doesn’t. The number of aid-supported projects is rising, while their average size continues to shrink.
To ensure value for money and make essential development gains, successful projects must be scaled up; that is, expanded, replicated, and adapted to reach a greater number of people.
“Scaling Up in Agriculture, Rural Development, and Nutrition,” recently released by the International Food Policy Research Institute’s 2020 Vision Initiative, is a compilation of 20 policy briefs that describe experiences and share lessons on taking development interventions up to scale. Edited by the Brookings Institution’s Johannes Linn, the briefs are written by a wide range of actors, from local community representatives and NGOs to private businesses and donors.
The briefs show that there are no blueprints for when and how to take an intervention to scale. However, successfully scaled up projects—whether they expanded horizontally to other geographical areas, functionally to additional programming, or vertically to the national level—tended to follow key principles, use drivers to push the process forward, and seek out or create enabling spaces in which their initiatives could grow.
These projects most commonly started with an idea or model that worked at a small scale or had been promoted successfully elsewhere; had visionary leaders and or champions who recognized that scaling up was necessary, desirable, and feasible; were pushed forward by catalysts such as political or economic crises or pressure from outside actors; and offered incentives and accountability for results.
The enabling spaces they found or created included effective institutions, policy and regulatory frameworks, fiscal and financial resources, advocacy and outreach to key political actors, mobilizing partnerships, and learning through analysis, monitoring, and evaluation.
The stories range from experiences of scaling up local community development in the Peruvian highlands and regreening the Sahel to the Scaling Up Nutrition movement and projects from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, PepsiCo, and Oxfam, as well as innovations such as biofortified sweet potatoes and many other topics.
It is hoped that these briefs will help donors, governments, and development practitioners bring to scale interventions that can make real progress towards improving agricult
ural productivity, rural incomes, and nutrition, and achieving the Millennium Development Goals.
This post is excerpted from “Overview: Pathways, Drivers, and Spaces” and “Lessons on Scaling Up: Opportunities and Challenges for the Future” by Johannes F. Linn in IFPRI's 2020 Focus 19 publication, Scaling Up in Agriculture, Rural Development, and Nutrition.
Photo credit: ©IFAD/Susan Beccio