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Begun in 2011, All Children Reading: A Grand Challenge for Development (ACR GCD) launched a series of competitions that leverage science and technology to source, test, and disseminate scalable solutions to improve literacy skills of early grade learners in developing countries. ACR GCD partners requested that an external research organization advise on the scale-up potential of the technology-based pilot projects in its second round of funding. To respond to this request, the external organization researched existing scalability frameworks that could be applicable to the technology-based pilot projects. Ultimately, it was decided to use an existing framework developed by Management Systems International (MSI) and adapt it to best fit the context (Cooley et. al. 2012). Potential for scale-up was assessed on 10 technology-based, pilot literacy projects across eight countries.
The purpose of the adapted scalability assessment tool was to provide stakeholders and decision-makers with in-depth, descriptive evidence with which they could make decisions on whether a project is appropriate for scale-up. Specifically, the scalability assessment tool contained seven parameters upon which feasibility of scale-up was examined: credibility, observability, relevance, relative advantage, ease of transfer and adoption, testability, and cost. Key questions from the MSI framework under each parameter were selected and modified to allow for descriptive responses. Ultimately, the adapted framework utilized 17 guiding questions across six parameters. Further, cost was examined through a cost analysis using the ingredients method to determine what proportion of the total grant amount was spent on management, development, and implementation costs (RTI International 2015). Diverse sources of quantitative and qualitative data were used to populate the scalability assessment tool for each project. These included qualitative responses from key informant interviews and focus group discussions; EGRA results; literature and landscape reviews; project monitoring, evaluation, and learning data; and project cost data. Ultimately, the findings from each project’s scalability assessment supported grantees in recognizing enabling and disabling factors in taking their project model to scale.
This panel presentation aims to share learnings from the process of operationalizing scalability into research design. Further, the application of a scalability assessment tool to a variety of pilot projects in different contexts can provide valuable lessons on how donors and funders should make decisions regarding which projects to support. Findings from the scalability assessments conducted on ACR GCD projects allow the researcher, funder, and implementer communities to recognize the greater set of scalability criteria – beyond just reading outcomes – that should be utilized to understand what projects have the ability to sustainably and meaningfully impact children’s literacy.
Cooley. Larry, Rajani Ved, and Kate Fehlenberg. 2012. Scaling Up – From Vision to Large-Scale Change. Washington: Management Systems International.
RTI International 2015. Measurement and Research Support to Education Strategy Goal 1: Early Grade Reading Costing Template and guidance. Washington: United States Agency for International Development.