Scaling up to Accomplish Development–Part 3

Millennium Development Villages won’t scale. That’s the criticism.

I’m a great believer in scalability.  In development, the term is used to describe comprehensive application of techniques or methods to achieve widespread change. To scale up to national distribution of bednets to prevent malaria, for example, is a common use of the term. It sounds like goobledy gook, but it’s not. It’s very important, necessary and valuable. I’m a believer.

But I wonder if we get caught in a zero sum analysis referring to one methodology to the exclusion of another.  This analysis creates tension between local and national. For example, some development specialists are saying long-term partnerships between groups such as local congregations or a combine of congregations and villages elsewhere are proving beneficial for long-term, lasting change. These are usually facilitated by organizations with development skills such UMCOR or LWR.

These are not scalable as are national programs implemented through coordinated efforts across a country or a region, and initially they don’t address the problem of corruption. I believe, however, they’re an alternative to small-scale, one-off projects in different places which dilute effectiveness altogether. And they are relationship-based, an important part of any development effort. They can create deeper, comprehensive change over time, and they can be an entry point for creating advocacy for policy-based large scale intervention.

So the question is posed: Should a partner concentrate on a long-term relationship that results in comprehensive change in one place or support small changes in many places around the globe?

The criticism must be acknowledged that this model does not address en masse the needs of the billion people who live in the nations with the lowest standard of living. These countries continue to be unstable, corrupt breeding grounds for disease and violence. They represent a global threat that must be addressed, and the model I’m describing doesn’t adequately do that. But it could be helpful. More in the next post.

What do you think about small-scale, long-term development in contrast to large-scale efforts?

Join the conversation!

Post a reply in the form below.

Leave a Reply:

Gravatar Image