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Scaling up in Social Economy: Trajectories, Strategies, Challenges and the Supporting Ecosystem

Thu, July 15, 3:15 to 4:15pm, Virtual 2021, 2


The aim of our paper is to better understand the determining factors of scaling up strategies
mobilized by social economy enterprises (SEE). The notion of scaling up in the context of SEE
refers to the scope or magnitude of the social impact expected from this development on
society and the populations served (Casasnovas and Bruno, 2013). Thus, changing scale does not
simply mean increasing the size of one's organization (Bellemare, Léonard and Lagacé-Brunet,
2017; Casasnovas and Bruno, 2013). In this sense, scaling up strategies cannot be reduced to a
simple logic of growth. Some strategies focus on aiming high in terms of impact while remaining
small in terms of structure (Bellemare, Léonard and Lagacé-Brunet, 2017). However, scaling up
often involves increasing SEE activities, especially when the goal is to serve more people (André,
Gheerbrant and Pache, 2014).
The scaling up strategies of SEE has five fundamental characteristics. First, it aims to sustain or
increase the scope of a socially innovative initiative, while preserving the economic viability of
the organization implementing it. Second, it is an essentially iterative and non-linear process,
which can take the form of an organizational change as well as a collective social and societal
transformation project aimed at changing the system as a whole. Finally, scaling up can be seen
as a social innovation process in itself.
Yet, due to the relative newness of the phenomenon, little is known about the process and
trajectories, and more specifically the determinants that drives SEE to implement one or the
other scaling up strategies: What are the deciding factors? What are the challenges to be
addressed and how? How can support organization cater the right services and tools to help
successfully implement these strategies? This is what this paper wishes to address based on
several case studies on SEE (based in Quebec, Canada) who have put in place different
strategies to broaden their social impact while trying to maintain their economic viability. These
case studies were initially produced for the benefit of a report for the Seoul social economy
Centre. They were to serve as inspiration to enrich the strategies already implemented in SEEs
in South Korea.
Our presentation will begin with a brief description of the usually recognized scaling up
strategies and their respective objectives. We will continue by outlining the selected cases and
pointing the relevant contextual elements. By marking out the different trajectories, an effort
will be made to highlight the deciding factor in pursuing one or other or even multiple
strategies. Our analysis tries to show the facilitating elements and the difficulties common to
each of the experiments carried out by the concerned SEE. The discussion then takes a step
further, considering how the aspirations and also challenges encountered by organizations in
their scaling up process can be met and supported by the Quebec social economy ecosystem.
We conclude with insights for building a research agenda on effective, integrated and
comprehensive support services for SEE ready to broaden their impact by implementing a
scaling-up strategy.