A graphic showing a rising arrow, with a person-shaped figure hanging off it

Evidence and scaling up

I spoke at a dinner of the Board of the Childrens’ Investment Fund Foundation on Friday. Rather bravely, I thought, I opened by saying that I am not a great fan of philanthropic foundations. In my explanation, I touched on the role of evidence in scaling up, and the role of foundations such as CIFF.  Here are my remarks.

One comment on “Evidence and scaling up”

  1. Thanks very much for this stimulating paper. Reading it, I was struck again that the need for locally aware, participative programming and iterative monitoring and learning has been knocking about for a while. They’re in multiple good practice guidelines, and are fairly well-represented in organisational development and management literature, and so forth. Concepts of complexity provide an elegant way of approaching them, and it’s great to have statistical confirmation supporting the ideas, but the principles don’t feel that new.

    For me, this suggests an interesting question: why is that we’ve known these are important for ages and not really followed through across the board on the organisational changes? Why do the lagging organisations (observed in the quoted studies) lag? I don’t think it’s just a lack of rigorous statistical support – I think there are deeply seated reasons based in organisations’ internal discourses, pressures and hierarchies, which for me prompts a possible research agenda (disclosure: I’m doing a PhD in this area.)

    I found the third point on the need for a local struggle particularly interesting. It comes close to talking about power and politics, but without making that step. For me, this extra step is quite important: the apolitical, technical framing of the problem in my view leads away from some of the really important questions that need to be asked to take the analysis forward further: what is it about the hierarchies, cultures and politics of the institutions that have blocked such shifts? How do technical VFM approaches to impact and cost effectiveness mask the political decisions that are happening? What role if any do Northern organisations and people have in ‘the struggle’?

    I’d be interested in your / people’s views on whether my assumption – that these ideas aren’t new – is right, and on the research questions.

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Owen Barder

Owen is Senior Fellow and Director for Europe at the Center for Global Development and a Visiting Professor in Practice at the London School of Economics. Owen was a civil servant for a quarter of a century, working in Number 10, the Treasury and the Department for International Development. Owen hosts the Development Drums podcast, and is the author Running for Fitness, the book and website. Owen is on Twitter and