Innovation and Scaling for Impact
How Effective Social Enterprises Do It
Christian Seelos and Johanna Mair

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Contents and Abstracts
Introduction: Social Enterprises Require a Distinctive Perspective on Innovation and Scaling
chapter abstract

In this introduction we set the stage and provide a critical but constructive perspective on innovation in social enterprises. We reflect on the legitimacy, roles, and challenges of innovation. The main message in this chapter is that although innovation may play important roles it is not a natural requirement for making an impact. Instead of taking the legitimacy and necessity of innovation for granted, we hope to whet your appetite for diving deeply into organizations and their environments to derive at a more differentiated understanding of how innovation can be integrated in the long-term trajectory of a social enterprise. At the end of the introductory chapter, we briefly present four social enterprises that we occasionally use as illustrative examples in the chapters that precede their detailed case studies.

1 Of Red and Green Zones: How Innovation and Scaling Create Impact
chapter abstract

Chapter 1 challenges widely held assumptions and the popular use of the word innovation. We explicitly link innovation to the objectives and potential for impact creation in organizations. Because our focus is on established organizations, we present a framework that clarifies the relation between innovation and the impact-creation logic of organizations. Innovation in that framework refers to deploying organizational resources for uncertain future outcomes. We propose that innovators keep an eye on six types of uncertainties. We explicitly distinguish innovation from scaling, activities that act on and improve already existing knowledge, products, services, or interventions to serve more people better. This distinction between innovation and scaling has serious implications for decisions about allocating resources to either innovation or scaling. The frameworks in this chapter provide a consistent terminology and an analytical perspective for comparing and for drawing important distinctions and insights from the four case studies in section two.

2 Mapping Innovation Pathologies
chapter abstract

Chapter 2 further explores the distinction between innovation and scaling. Where Chapter 1 treated innovation and scaling as distinct sets of activities, this chapter explicitly links the two. This perspective sensitizes readers for the ways in which innovation and scaling are joined over time and fundamentally depend on each other. This process view of innovation opens up an opportunity to diagnose innovation pathologies, unproductive innovations that waste scarce organizational resources. We develop the process perspective of innovation into a diagnostic tool that enables mapping innovation pathologies. An objective assessment of these pathologies supports decisions about how to make innovations more productive and how to integrate innovation and scaling into an organization's long-term impact-creation logic.

3 Innovation as Learning: The Story of Gram Vikas (India)
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This chapter provides a detailed history of Gram Vikas, a social enterprise that addresses inequality in rural villages in India. Gram Vikas achieved a transformation of more than 1,000 villages in rural Orissa by using the themes of water and sanitation to break discriminating gender and caste relations. The case study follows the decisions of the founding group who went to Orissa in 1972 to make a difference for disadvantaged communities. Rich data and quotes from Gram Vikas staff as well as external observers provide readers with a productive context for understanding how decisions about innovation and scaling were made and with which consequences they were enacted. We conclude the case study with a brief analysis of the characteristics of Gram Vikas's distinct innovation archetype, how innovation and scaling shaped the organization's trajectory over two decades.

4 Innovation in Support of Scaling: The Story of Aravind (India)
chapter abstract

This chapter provides a detailed history of Aravind, a social enterprise that addresses cataract and other diseases of the eye in India. Aravind built a reputation for being among the largest and most productive eye hospitals in the world. The case study follows the decisions of its founder, Dr. V, who in 1976 started the Aravind eye hospital after his retirement as head of ophthalmology from the Madurai Medical College. Rich data and quotes from Aravind staff as well as external observers provide readers with a productive context for understanding how decisions about innovation and scaling were made and with which consequences they were enacted. We conclude the case study with a brief analysis of the characteristics of Aravind's distinct innovation archetype, how innovation and scaling shaped the organization's trajectory over two decades.

5 Innovating and Scaling for Transformative Impact: The Story of BRAC (Bangladesh)
chapter abstract

This chapter provides a detailed history of BRAC, a social enterprise that addresses a range of poverty-associated problems and needs of rural communities in Bangladesh. BRAC has achieved tremendous growth and today is the largest NGO in the world. The case study follows the decisions of its founder, Fazle Abed, who in 1971 left the Shell company to start a small and inexperienced development organization. Rich data and quotes from BRAC staff as well as external observers provide readers with a productive context for understanding how decisions about innovation and scaling were made and with which consequences they were enacted. We conclude the case study with a brief analysis of the characteristics of BRAC's distinct innovation archetype, how innovation and scaling shaped the organization's trajectory over two decades. We also demonstrate how their innovation archetype relates to the central concepts and frameworks developed in Chapters 1 and 2.

6 Innovation that Enables Diffusion of Proven Ideas: The Story of Waste Concern (Bangladesh)
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This chapter provides a detailed history of Waste Concern, a social enterprise that addresses the problem of waste by demonstrating that waste can be a resource. Waste Concern's innovations have been adopted by many development organizations as well as the private and public sectors within and outside of Bangladesh. The case study follows the decisions of its founders, two academics who started experimenting with action research projects on the potential of waste as resource in the 1990s. Rich data and quotes from the founders as well as external observers provide readers with a productive context for understanding how decisions about innovation and scaling were made and with which consequences they were enacted. We conclude the case study with a brief analysis of the characteristics of Waste Concern's distinct innovation archetype, how innovation and scaling shaped the organization's trajectory over two decades.

7 Innovation Archetypes: Balancing Innovation and Scaling over Time
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In Chapter 7 we compare the histories and the innovation archetypes of our four featured organizations in a systematic manner. We show how impact-creation logics and green zones dynamically change over time and potentially become broader and deeper. This evolution has important implications for the relative innovation advantages of organizations that organizational decision makers and potential funders should explicitly consider.

8 Mapping Problem Spaces
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This chapter therefore focuses on problem spaces, the ways in which needs and problems associated with poverty are embedded in local characteristics of their socioeconomic and political environment. We introduce a crucial distinction between two types of problem spaces, technical and relational problems. The factors that create and sustain important needs and problems of individuals and communities can be mapped as a distinct problem space. This mapping approach is the basis for a diagnostic framework that organizations and their supporters can use to understand the implications of these factors for intervention design, for innovation, and for scaling. The problem space framework is a vital tool to reduce problem-frame uncertainty. It guides the design of appropriate interventions and adequate measures, and it helps establish more realistic expectations about the time required for translating interventions into beneficial outcomes.

Conclusion: A Guide to Productive Innovation and Scaling for Impact
chapter abstract

This closing chapter summarizes and synthesizes our main findings and makes practical recommendations for how to use and to integrate the tools and frameworks presented in this book for other organizations. A central message is that productive innovation rarely comes from trying to make organizations more "innovative." Rather, productive innovation is the result of investment in organizational infrastructure, and this often means innovating less. And although routine work and small improvements to existing products, services and interventions do not have the "sexiness factor" of innovations; organizations are well advised to resist the innovation hype and concentrate on building committed, productive organizations based around a clear, consistent and well-developed impact-creation logic. Doing so requires patience, realism, and a willingness to invest in building and nurturing enduring organizations that develop their own unique character and approach to innovation and scaling for impact.