Apr 04, 2018

Pratham Featured in SSIR: Earning the Right to Scale


In an informative article that appeared in the recent issue of Stanford Social Innovation Review (SSIR), authors William F. Meehan III and Kim Starkey Jonker discuss the difficulties many nonprofits face when attempting to scale up, and the qualities necessary for an organization to expand its impact successfully.

“Earning the Right to Scale,” Meehan and Jonker argue, “takes place as the culmination of a deep, long-term commitment to strategic leadership.” According to the authors, “One organization that exemplifies strategic leadership is Pratham, the largest nongovernmental provider of educational services in India.”

“Strategic leadership,” they explain, consists of seven elements: mission, strategy, impact evaluation, insight & courage, organization & talent, funding, and board governance.  The first four elements comprise strategic thinking while the remaining three components make up strategic management.

In the article, Meehan and Jonker also cite the qualities that differentiate Pratham from other NGOs.

“Pratham has an admirably brief and well-focused mission statement: ‘Every child in school and learning well.’ It has crafted its strategy thoughtfully and has carefully grounded that strategy in a proven theory of change. Pratham also stands out for its commitment to rigorous impact evaluation: As of 2016, it had undergone 11 randomized evaluations. Its leaders have consistently displayed insight and courage—starting with an ambitious vision for growth that Chavan and his colleagues developed back when it was a small operation in Mumbai. The organizational structure of Pratham reflects significant creativity in how it balances expansion across multiple states with strong local autonomy. To fund its work, it has created Pratham USA and Pratham UK as vehicles for mobilizing support from members of the global Indian diaspora. In its handling of board governance, Pratham has operated at a high level as well.”

The authors, who have closely examined numerous high-impact organizations including Pratham, offer a “Readiness to Scale Matrix,” which illustrates the five categories of scale-readiness. They also provide an online diagnostic tool based on this matrix to help nonprofit leaders determine whether they have earned the right to scale.

SSIR is a social innovation quarterly published by the Stanford Center on Philanthropy and Civil Society at Stanford University. Read the full article here.