Assessing and Improving the Scaling Potential of Agricultural Technologies
USAID’s Bureau for Food Security (BFS) and country missions have been implementing the Feed the Future (FTF) food security initiative since 2010. In many cases, small-scale innovations developed and introduced by FTF have since scaled up or are in the process of doing so. However, some innovations that could have gone to scale have not done so, have not reached their full-scale potential or are not fully sustainable at scale. At the same time, the BFS has funded research that has produced hundreds of innovations with varying potential to transform agriculture in developing countries, as well as more that are moving through the research pipeline. The Agency needs to be able to decide which innovations have the greatest potential for both successful scaling and significantly improving food security and reducing malnutrition across FTF countries and elsewhere.
To this end, BFS asked the E3 Analytics and Evaluation Project, led by Management Systems International (MSI), to develop a toolkit to assess the scalability of agricultural innovations. The resulting Agricultural Scalability Assessment Toolkit (ASAT) and accompanying guide draw on 15 years of experience by MSI and its team lead for this research, Dr. Richard Kohl, in scaling innovations and programs in the developing world, as well as on the literature on scaling and diffusion of innovation. This work includes extensive experience assisting FTF project design and strengthening scaling strategies, and five case studies the MSI team conducted of successful scaling up of agricultural innovations through commercial pathways in developing countries.
The ASAT is designed to provide a qualitative appraisal of an innovation’s scalability. The ASAT provides information on the strengths and weaknesses of the innovation relative to scalability, the most promising scaling up pathways (i.e., commercial, public or public-private partnerships) and information on the extent to which target contexts – locations and populations – and their market and public-sector capacity currently facilitate scaling.
The ASAT is not meant to be the decision-making toolkit. Instead, the toolkit is intended to identify constraints to and opportunities for scaling. These will serve to inform decisions about whether, and where, to invest in the scaling up of specific innovations, or for further investment in research and development. The ASAT can also inform design efforts to improve the scalability of an innovation, improve and strengthen market and public-sector systems to facilitate scaling, or both. The ASAT’s greatest value is not the scoring per se but in the assessments behind the scoring and the conversations provoked in making and justifying an assessment.