2010 October - Scaling up

The first in a series of events to stimulate thought and discussion on funding ideas and practice, especially in these tough times.

October 2010
The first in a series of events to stimulate thought and discussion on funding ideas and practice, especially in these tough times. Discussion was led by Tris Lumley, one of the authors of a report from New Philanthropy Capital: Scaling Up for the Big Society looks at smart ways of understanding the impact of good projects and ways to spread the most effective practice.

The new government faces entrenched social problems and aims to reduce the budget deficit. Its Big Society idea implies a beguilingly simple solution: use charities to fix social problems and at the same time reduce government borrowing. But is the solution as simple as that? Can charities really offer sustainable and scalable solutions to tackling the toughest UK problems, especially when government also seems keen to distance itself from one-size-fits-all solutions to local problems – too associated with the last administration’s centralising style and not in keeping with their focus on localism?

In this report Martin Brookes, Tris Lumley and Esther Paterson, through analysis and case studies, argue that charities and social enterprises have an important role to play in building a Big Society. But two things stand in the way: an inability to provide evidence of their impact; and the challenge of identifying proven, cost-effective approaches and organisations that can be scaled up to meet the challenge. Among the many questions the paper raises are those about how to scale up – grow organically, replicate or encourage adaptation and emulation?

The paper raises many questions to help funders think about strategies to support VCS development: where to look for the evidence in approaches that merit scaling up; how to assess and measure effective impact; how to spot cost-effective solutions. As funders and service providers explore ways of working that concentrate on outcomes not process, commissioners in particular are looking at budgets holistically, across departmental and organisational boundaries, so that deep-rooted social problems can be constructively addressed. London Funders’ meeting started to explore some of the tools and mechanisms to assist.