Bertelsmann study on scaling social impact

The first European study to examine both national and transnational scaling strategies and their success factors

Bertelsmann Stiftung introduces their 2015 study on Scaling Social Impact in Europe as being the first European study to examine both national and transnational scaling strategies and their success factors. A total of 358 social enterprises in six European countries were surveyed for this quantitative study, which provides a basis for further knowledge acquisition and serves as a decision making tool that can help social enterprises choose the scaling strategy that is right for them.

The study comes as an update to the initial paper on SCALING SOCIAL ENTERPRISES – A THEORETICALLY GROUNDED FRAMEWORK 2012 on which the four scaling trajectories in BENISI were designed, and it remains under the coordination of Prof. Dr. Christiana Weber.

The initial four strategies evolve and now regroup into four clusters, within which strategies are similar and beyond which differences exist:

  1. Capacity building: Social programmes are increased from an existing region.
  2. Strategic expansion: New locations are established, new products/services are introduced, new target groups are addressed and/or geographic expansion is accelerated.
  3. Contractual partnerships: New locations are established in collaboration with long-term partners.
  4. Knowledge dissemination: The social enterprise’s concept/operational model is shared, without expanding the organisation itself.

Both research and direct observation show that numerous levers and strategies exist which social enterprises can use in their efforts to achieve scale. Conversely, it is not always evident and has been researched to a lesser extent which of the applied strategies is or is not successful in helping social enterprises reach their goal, and why this is the case. In any event, it can be said that a scaling strategy alone does not determine the success or failure of a social enterprise or social intervention, since the factors that influence success are numerous and their interdependencies complex.

This complexity becomes clear in view of the framework we have developed, which integrates – based on a comprehensive literature review – all organisational and contextual core elements considered relevant in theory and practice for scaling social impact. Given this complexity, the following questions arise:

• Which strategies result under which conditions in successful scaling activities carried out by social enterprises?
• Which success factors should be combined with which strategies? Or:
• Which success factors need to be brought together in which configuration, and how? In short, under which circumstances and in which context will a strategy prove success?

By providing evidence-based findings, this study is intended to aid social entrepreneurs in choosing and implementing suitable (transnational) scaling strategies and making potential supporters more aware of the key elements relating to (transnational) scaling.

Read the full report and order a free copy on Bertelsmann Foundation’s website.