Scaling strategies

How can organizations grow their societal impact? On this page, you get a concise overview of different scaling strategies that exist to increase your impact.

Scale up – scale deep – scale out – scale down

When people talk about growth, the word ‘scaling’ is never far away. From a traditional business perspective, growth is mostly related to scaling up. Scaling up is an interesting way to grow impact, but it is not the only way. Growing your social/ecological impact is a combination of different scaling strategies. Let’s get introduced to scaling up, scaling deep, scaling out and scaling down as strategies to grow your impact.


Let’s start with the best known scaling strategy: SCALING UP. The typical growth path. A range of upscaling strategies exist. The most well-known is capacity building: doing ‘more’ e.g. raising the production, serving more people, launching new products/services, geographical enlargement,… Branching, mergers and takeovers, a joint venture partnership and franchising are other strategies to scale up and to grow your impact.


Another way to grow your impact is by SCALING DEEP. With deep scaling you strategically work towards a mindshift. You put your ideas on the line and convince others. Effective ways to scale deep are being exemplary and getting the media on your side. A system shift to happen needs some inspiration. For this reason, you act exemplary and carry out your story. Take advantage of digitalisation that has led to knowledge being shared at an enormous speed and get the media on your side.

Motivate change by sparking the public debate. This can be done through lobbying, writings, lectures, partnerships, influencing policy and the effect of social media,… For sure, government adoption can grow your impact substantially. Imagine your idea being institutionalised. Reaching out to private as well as public actors often requires specific skills and as an organisation, you might need to change your business model so that specific skills and networks can get involved to achieve deep scaling. 


Next to scaling up and scaling deep, I’d like to inspire you to SCALE OUT. Scaling out is basically making your impact transferrable. By scaling out, you enable others to contribute to the impact. The different approaches to scale out, range from control to flexibility with open sourcing being the most flexible and licensing being the most controlled. It’s important to first check to what extent you are ready to give control away. For example, are you going to be able to deal with it if your ideas are taken over, but no one knows it came from you? If you choose for licensing, you make a blueprint with processes, training or marketing materials,… available as a complete ‘package’ to an existing or newly established organisation at a different location.

You can aswell invest in training and teach others to implement your solution or aspects of it through courses, workshops or seminars. A possible option is the train-the-trainer model. Maybe, you are confident to get your solution replicated in a loose relationship between you as originator and the implementer. In some cases a fee for replication may be charged for materials or advice, but the replication strategy generally has no ongoing financial or legal relationship between the two parties. This model is generally most appropriate when a project, or elements of it, such as a tool or approach, can be easily copied by others.

Finally, open sourcing can have big impact in the right hands! If you are really eager to boost positive impact, you should not be reluctant for sharing your expertise and information openly. Open sourcing is mostly perceived as a simple way to share best practices but the reality is that it still usually needs a proactive approach to be successful.


As an impact maker, it’s important to know when you should stop spending valuable time on projecting your initial plans if they don’t lead to the impact you want. How do you know when to keep going on, or making the call to downsize? The most valuable resource that you have is your time, so you should spend it carefully. SCALING DOWN can be necessary to grow your impact. For every door that closes, you can win time to grow your impact. Find out if there is a loss of focus: which activities or interventions do not make a difference and should you stop, so that you can focus more on those activities that make a difference.

The legacy canvas can help you to bring your different scaling strategies together in one canvas. Interested to learn more about how to grow your impact? Order your book Leaving a Legacy.  

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