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Asian Development Bank

Chapter 6 Communities and participation

Scaling up and sustainability

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6.6.1 Scaling up impact

The challenge of how to ‘scale up’ successful local-level initiatives has been a pressing issue for many years. This subject has been much researched and discussed in development circles, but it has featured less in writing on DRR, where there is a need for more evidence showing which approaches to scaling up work best in different conditions. Writing on development suggests that scaling up can be achieved through several different approaches, which may be applied separately or in combination (combining them is likely to have the greatest impact):+M. Edwards and D. Hulme, ‘Scaling-up the Developmental Impact of NGOs: Concepts and Experiences’, in Edwards and Hulme (eds), Making a Difference: NGOs and Development in a Changing World (London: Save the Children Fund/Earthscan, 1992), pp. 13–27; S. Gillespie, Scaling up Community-Driven Development: A Synthesis of Experience (Washington DC: International Food Policy Research Institute, 2004),

  • quantitative (or additive) – increasing the project’s size, geographical outreach and budget;
  • functional – increasing the scope and types of activity undertaken;
  • organisational – increasing an organisation’s size and capacity; and
  • multiplicative – achieving greater impact through influence, political engagement, networking, policy reform or training.

Scaling up can also be informal and spontaneous, where ideas and innovations are diffused and spread without external direction.

The Cyclone Preparedness Programme in Bangladesh is a classic example of an additive/quantitative approach. Begun in the early 1970s, the programme has grown to cover an extensive part of the country’s coastline. Its overarching structure is the responsibility of the government and the Bangladesh Red Crescent Society, but on the ground it is based on the efforts of nearly 50,000 community volunteers.+See; Plan International’s initiative in schools in El Salvador to encourage young people’s involvement in DRR took a multiplicative approach, working through the Ministry of Education to achieve national coverage. Starting as a pilot project in February 2005, it had scaled up dramatically by July 2007: over 5,000 schools had made school protection plans and DRR had been integrated into the national curriculum.+J. Twigg and H. Bottomley, Disaster Risk Reduction: Inter-Agency Group Learning Review (London: DRR Interagency Co-ordination Group, 2011),, pp. 18–20.

Interventions need to be well informed, clearly targeted at certain issues or groups, and either supported by communities or able to gain community support. Engaging local stakeholders is an essential foundation for long-term development and expansion. Careful development through piloting is also essential, to identify and establish working models at community level. An appropriate strategy for scaling up should be developed, based on a realistic assessment of local capacities and potential, as well as the time needed to build those capacities to the point where a project can develop by itself.

If CBDRM initiatives are to be sustainable and expand, they also have to be connected to their wider institutional, policy and socio-economic contexts. They develop and grow best where government and other institutions provide a supportive ‘enabling environment’.+See J. Twigg, Characteristics of a Disaster-Resilient Community: A Guidance Note (Teddington: DFID Disaster Risk Reduction NGO Interagency Group, 2009), Where a project identifies underlying problems or contextual factors that inhibit its impact or that it cannot address directly, it may need to put more effort into advocacy.

Case Study 6.6 Achieving consistency in scaling up

The Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium, an initiative implemented by the Nepalese government with international partners, consists of five ‘flagship’ areas: school and hospital safety; emergency preparedness and response; flood management; integrated CBDRM; and policy and institutional support for DRR. The Flagship 4 programme seeks to promote CBDRM by establishing a more consistent and systematic approach at Municipality and Village Development Committee levels. This is based on a standard set of nine minimum characteristics of a disaster-resilient community and a package of common elements to be included in all CBDRM interventions. Agencies that wish to join the programme have to sign up to this approach, and their projects have to address one or more of the minimum characteristics. This consistency makes it easier to share experience, monitor progress and identify gaps.

Flagship 4 Handbook: Nepal’s 9 Minimum Characteristics of a Disaster Resilient Community (Kathmandu: Nepal Risk Reduction Consortium, 2013),