January 22, 2021

Guiding principle 3: Coordination 

Scaling takes place in complex systems and involves coordinating with a diverse and evolving set of stakeholders. Considering the people, places and things that affect or are affected by the scaling process helps us to understand this complex system and plan for optimal impact. 

An introduction to Guiding principle 3: Coordination

Guiding questions

  • Flexibility is key for engaging with an ‘evolving set of stakeholders. What factors have helped or made it harder for you to remain flexible and to coordinate with stakeholders during the scaling process? What factors have made this easier? 
  • Which types of stakeholders (i.e., initiators, enablers, competitors, individuals or groups on whom the intervention has an impact, etc.) have been the most challenging to consider and engage in the scaling process and why?

General conclusions from the discussion

The conversation around the coordination principle emphasised the need to consider power relations throughout the scaling process and in efforts to incorporate the views and interests of a diverse range of stakeholders. We need to think about how different stakeholders are influenced, and come up with tailored strategies to influence them. Scaling advisors also noted that timing is crucial in developing collaborative relationships, especially with an expanding set of stakeholders in a scaling process—and challenges arise when funding cycles are not flexible enough to accommodate this.

The following statements do not reflect all the opinions or reflections presented during the session. In some cases they reflect the ideas presented and shared in their own working groups. We have kept the name of the person who shared this particular idea during the session. 

Discussion

[Ursula Harman, Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú]

  • We need to incorporate all stakeholders’ perspectives. If you don’t have a stakeholder perspective when working with technology you will have a very limited vision of the complexity of the problem.
  • This involves considering power relations throughout the coordination process. Coordination in scaling needs to create or reinforce inclusive spaces that allow a dialogue with the variety of stakeholders in the decision-making process.
  • Often you do not know who the relevant stakeholders are when you begin. You find out as you roll out the pilot and then the scaling effort.

[Abu Syed, Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies]

  • Without government support, scaling may not be possible. Even if the pilot is successful, the private sector is interested and there is demand from relevant government institutions, development funding often comes with conditions to involve government institutions.
  • While there may be public demand for a technology/innovation that has been piloted, scaling up is a step further. This requires engaging with the private sector (national and international) to find appropriate technologies for mass production.
  • Don’t assume government support is easy. Governments have to comply with laws and regulations that often make it hard for them to participate actively in action research.
  • It is imperative to keep engaged with policy/decision makers, so that they incorporate the idea or technology into their own planning processes.

[Tatiana Rincón, Fundación Capital]

  • Enablers and champions are some of the most important actors to collaborate with. We cannot expect the whole of government or an entire community to be involved in the intervention. But individuals can be the link. The challenge is in long-term interventions that experience high turnover of these enablers and champions.
  • Timing is crucial in developing collaborative relationships. However, funding cycles are not always flexible enough to respond to national or local political cycles. Having a multi-year funding cycle can help align available resources to government funding.

[Patterson Siema, African Population and Health Research Centre]

  • The government can be a co-funder and driver of scaling efforts. Early involvement can help build a case for support and identify the best way for the government to get involved (when, how and by how much). 

[Ivonne Villada, Proyecto Capital]

  • The evidence we need is not just about the interventions, it is also about the institutions involved. Researchers involved in a pilot often do not have enough insight into the organisations they need to be collaborating with.

[Blanca]

  • Engagement is time consuming but funding does not necessarily reflect this. Funding tends to focus on generating evidence, not on the time required to build and sustain alliances, advocate for support, engage with multiple stakeholders, deal with set-backs and so on.
  • Collaboration includes competition. Often the engagement necessary is with groups opposing your proposals. Building channels of communication with them may be critical for success.
  • New partners and champions may arise unexpectedly. We may share final objectives, even if we work in different fields. 

[Hayley Price-Kelly, IDRC]

  • From IDRC’s perspective we should consider collaboration right from the start. We need to think about how flexible funding is to be able to respond to unexpected collaboration needs, and to think about how our funding contributes to the funding provided by others (to other actors or at different stages of the scaling process).
  • Funding also has to focus beyond the intervention itself – for instance, to help build an enabling environment for it. 

[Enrique Mendizabal, OTT]

  • Scaling interventions/efforts require particular skill-sets that may not be present in a single person – or in a thematic or issue expert: management, communications, networking, etc. We need scaling entrepreneurs.

About the authors:

Enrique Mendizabal:  Founder, On Think Tanks

Louise Ball:  Freelance communications consultant currently based in Medellin, Colombia

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