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Scaling canvas

Blog Post

Why use it?

Scaling requires building a complete and consistent system. All the pieces of a sustainable system must be in place for scale to work, this is in addition to the need for a valid pilot with evidence of value. The Scaling Canvas is a tool that can be used to help innovators measure the readiness for scaling looking at six different variables 1) the core innovation 2) adoption 3) team 4) plan 5) ecosystem 6) finances” (DEPP Labs website)

What is it?

The Innovation Scaling Canvas created for the DEPP Labs is a ‘simplified’ version of the Innovation Scaling Assessment Map created for HIF’s Scaling Tools by Dan McClure and Ian Gray.

Click to enlarge

This comprehensive guide includes: the Innovation Scaling Canvas template; How to use; Guiding questions for scoring and discussion; and also examples of two fictitious organisations - one ready to scale and one not ready to scale.

How we used it.

We used the Innovation Scaling Canvas in multiple visits with the labs. Early on, we used it to get labs and innovators to start thinking about scale. Later we used the canvas to assess which innovations ready for scale and for a few innovations this tool was revisited every few months. The canvas was also integrated into the MEL framework for the programme.

Feedback / our own reflections.

We say we created a ‘simplified’ version but the main feedback the Labs had was that this tool would be better if simplified even further - 6 out of 10 responders to our feedback survey felt it could be made clearer. All had used it to assess the innovations supported by their Labs. One idea was to “make the format more like a storytelling tool, where the innovators can see how each box fits the bigger picture”. Certainly, a metaphor could help translate this better from ‘business speak’.

Although canvas tools are now commonplace in social enterprise sectors, few organisations actually use these tools really effectively without a lot of expertise and focused collaborative time. There is certainly room for adaptation to local contexts but also no team should feel like they’ve not ‘succeeded’ with the tool if they’ve not completed it. Like with all these tools, it’s the conversation that the tool generates - here between the Lab team and innovator(s) and with other supporting partners - which matters.

I put this feedback to one of the original authors of the tool, Ian Gray, whose response was that the complexity of the tool reflects the very nature of scaling which is complex. Oversimplifying the tool further would give an unrealistic view of the work innovations need to do - miss any part out and your pilot could fail to develop to anything more. The authors’ explanation of why scaling is hard, can be read here.

On discussion with Neil Townsend, DEPP Labs Programme Manager, his view was that the scaling canvas was hard to use in practice. Simplifying the language rather than taking anything away should be the next iteration of the tool.

Overall, the labs did use the tool and it was seen as the best tool out of those deployed. By taking an aggregate score across the portfolio, it can be used to answer the question: Has the innovation lab helped the innovators make progress? It was found however that some scores went backwards. Potentially this was due to an increased awareness of the meaning behind the score as often occurs with new measures. So it shouldn’t be taken too literally.

Improvements and recommendations.

Overall this tool didn’t have the impact that we hoped for and we had no opportunity to adapt it with the teams over time. The version of the Scaling Canvas Guide we provide with this blog has had some improvements made for usability but has more room for adaptation.

Keep reading:

DEPP Innovation Labs DEPP Labs key document

  • by Zofia Piotrowicz