||TABLE OF CONTENTS
TRANSFER AND REPLICATION
III. POINTERS FOR
This paper reviews the key issues and methodologies involved in the
replication of social programmes. The related, but more general, processes
of knowledge transfer and dissemination as well as the more specific
strategies involved in replication and going-to-scale are examined. (1)
Replication has been extensively debated in the non-profit sector in
the United States. The other major arena for such discussion is the sphere
of development where also there has been an increasing concern with
widening coverage of programmes and interventions. This issue has
universal relevance and appears high on the agenda of donors and
implementors in both developed and developing settings. Unfortunately,
these discourses often remain compartmentalized with little or no
acknowledgment, cross-referencing, cross-fertilization or exchange. It is
remarkable that even the literature emanating from each side shows little
knowledge of or interest in the main thinking and trends of the other.
This paper explores the linkages between these parallel, but insulated,
II. KNOWLEDGE TRANSFER AND REPLICATION
The study of knowledge transfer and replication dates back to
nineteenth century anthropology. After World War II, the debate has been
pursued in a wide range of fields such as education, planning, sociology,
medical practice, commercial and social marketing, and agricultural
extension. During the last fifteen years, it has also gained ground in the
social sector. A variety of labels, having their origins in distinct
disciplines and social practices, are used to describe the phenomena but
there is little uniformity or consistency in usage in the research
literature and in development language. (2)
In the 1970s and 1980s research on dissemination and related activities
reached its peak and culminated in a number of seminal publications. The
work of Glaser et. al. (1983) and Rogers (1983) falls in this category and
remains mandatory reading on this subject. Rogers, drawing on agricultural
extension work, made a significant contribution to the formulation of key
concepts and the theory of diffusion, while Glaser offered a detailed
overview of research and practice in the field of dissemination and a
taxonomy of what to do, in which context, and under what circumstances. (3)
The principles underlying knowledge use and transfer can be best
understood through a consideration of parallel discourses on this subject
in other disciplines and areas of activity. Illustrative comparisons can
be drawn with the fields of medicine, agricultural technology, sociology
of education and consumer behaviour. In each of these, transfer, diffusion
and replication can be viewed as processes linking the origin of an
innovation, idea or product on the one hand, to a universe of potential
users, clients or beneficiaries on the other. This separation between the
source and the recipient of the impulse is central to this concept. There
are, however, other latent premises which need to be made explicit.
First, the subjects (or the universe of potential beneficiaries) are
assumed to be unable to generate the required change or transformation by
themselves. This inability could stem from a wide range of factors.
Second, it is implicitly assumed that the source
(donor/supplier/innovator) has the capacity to accurately recognise and
prioritise the needs of the recipient. Third, the product or innovation is
expected to satisfy the needs of the recipients. Finally, there is the
underlying assumption of the universality of needs within the universe of
Viewed in these abstract terms, the process of going-to-scale is
characterised by three components: identification and recognition of a
particular need in the target population; a system whereby a product can
be developed externally for meeting this need; and finally, a mechanism
for the effective delivery of this product from the producer or source to
the user or recipient. This process is fairly successful when applied to
uni-dimensional single-effect products which cater to relatively
homogeneous populations: mass immunization programmes, for example. (4) It is less
successful in the case of the so-called green revolution which appears, at
first sight, to be similar. However, decades of experience reveal that
such thinking might have contained much that was simplistic. (5)
The social sector forms a third domain in which diffusion and
replicative processes have been applied. If some of the assumptions which
held validity in the case of medicine tended to crumble in the interactive
socio-economic arena of agricultural technology transfer, the position is
far worse when social-sector interventions are considered. Two examples
are provided by anti-poverty programmes that attracted attention in the
60s and 70s - the Community Action Program (CAP) in the USA and the
Educational Priority Area (EPA) in the United Kingdom. While both were
motivated by social needs which are widely recognized, the simple model
for mass transfer and replication did not meet original expectations
(Higgins 1978). There was a tendency to overlook the social heterogeneity
of the population, and hence the diversity of their needs; there was an
over-privileging of the external agency and undervaluing of the voiceless
within the recipient population. The multi-dimensionality of the product,
of the recipients, as well as of the context, got inadequate recognition.
II.1 Rationale for Dissemination and Replication in the Social
Arguments for increasing the coverage and impact of programmes are
readily available. Practitioners, policy makers, researchers, and funding
agencies would agree that there is sufficient knowledge and experience to
address most problems (6). As so many
people are still not reached, there is an obligation to extend,
disseminate, or replicate this information so that more can benefit. The
assignment, therefore, is not so much to improve the "state-of-the-art",
but rather to lift up the "state-of-practice" so that an ever increasing
number can benefit. (7)
A related angle is provided by the assertion that it makes sense on
pragmatic and economic grounds to replicate what has proven to be working
rather than reinventing the wheel. This argument is increasingly gaining
ground with donors and policy makers alike. In an environment of shrinking
resources for the social sector, both funding agencies and governments are
coming under increasing pressure to show "results". They are also accused
of spending the bulk of their resources on innovation and project
identification rather than on replication. It is suggested that
replicating good practice is a cost-effective means of utilizing scarce
resources. The assertion is that money would be saved if project
experience could just be transferred to other sites. (8) Consequently,
funding and implementing organizations are under pressure to focus on
bringing to scale existing programmes rather than supporting yet more
"experimental", "pilot", "innovative", "alternative", or "trial" projects.
Recently, a more developmental rationale has been put forward. (10) The spreading
of good practice is viewed not merely as trying to persuade others to
mount identical programmes, but rather as an opportunity for mutual
learning and sharing of experience. A positive outcome of exchanging
experience, according to this view, is that it allows networks of people
and groups to develop. These can, in turn, grow into coalitions that can
demand more political attention and appeal for larger allocations of means
and also evolve into institutional vehicles for internal problem-solving.
In practice, a combination of economic and developmental motives may
well provide the justification for dissemination and scaling-up. However,
it is important to make a clear distinction to help bring order to the
discourse on the subject.
II.2 Strategies for Increasing Coverage in the Social Sector
In many human development and research circles concerned with
developing innovative and effective social programmes, dissemination was
rarely an issue for deliberate reflection at the start of a project. It
was more or less assumed that once a pilot project had been successfully
completed, replication would follow as a matter of course. At most, a
report would be written and a set of recommendations formulated "for
further action". This further action was then considered to be the task of
others. As a rule, no information was provided on who the others were, or
only in general terms such as "practitioners", the "government", or the
"NGO community". Neither was it made clear how these others should go
about spreading (or receiving) the good news.
In response to rising pressure to look beyond the pilot phase of a
project and to assume active responsibility for following up on project
outcomes, many donor agencies made the inclusion of dissemination a
mandatory objective for providing funding. Even when formally stated as
one of the objectives, project designers tended not to look beyond the
boundaries of their present work or think about its wider implications.
Many donor agencies that carry the pursuit of replication in their banner
tend not to move beyond rhetoric. The majority do not provide long-term
support for replication work, resulting in the creation of "white
elephants" and dependency on external funding. (11)
In recent years there has been a renewed interest in applying the
principles of knowledge transfer in social programmes. (12) Donor
agencies, governments and the international development community are all
expressing a concern for making use of existing, well-tested experience.
This has provided an impetus to documenting and broadcasting illustrative
cases and there is now a steady flow of descriptions of commendable
projects, models, and of approaches "that work". This information about
good programmes is expected to assist others in developing their own work.
have also been made to highlight the ingredients or key features that make
for success and to provide practical guidelines and strategies for
The following distinct paths to replication may be distinguished in the
social sector: (15)
Franchise Approach: Also known as the "cookie-cutter"
approach, it is closest to the private sector in its policy and
practice. It assumes that there is a product - in this case a programme
- that can be replicated. The components of this prototype programme and
performance standards are largely inviolable. There is a central agency,
usually the franchiser, which provides technical assistance, marketing,
training and other services.
In reality, dissemination efforts usually combine
features of the approaches listed above. However, for the sake of clarity,
two contrasting approaches are identified in this paper. The first will be
called universalist - broadly speaking, proponents of this view share a
belief in universal principles which can be applicable to a very wide band
of practices and situations. The dissemination effort is
supply-determined. The second approach is termed contextual - the emphasis
here is on local practice, local initiative, spontaneity, mutual learning
and problem solving. The dissemination effort is demand-driven. While both
approaches are acceptable in principle, emphasizing one or the other would
determine the choice and adoption of sharply contrasting strategies. There
are sufficient commonalities in the first three forms of replication to
warrant grouping them under the universalist label, while the fourth and
fifth could be termed contextualist. It may be worth noting here that
advocates of the universalist and contextual approaches largely debate
their separate viewpoints in insulated groups and there is little evidence
of learning from each other.
Mandated Replication: This approach is usually, though not
necessarily, sponsored by government and occurs when a parent body wants
to disseminate a prototype programme through the organizations under its
jurisdiction. Mandated replication is always top-down and there is
usually no element of choice involved.
Staged Replication: This is the most structured approach to
replication and takes place in three stages. The first is the pilot
stage where the viability of the programme concept is tested; followed
by the demonstration stage where the programme is implemented in a
variety of sites. This stage is usually closely monitored and rigorously
evaluated and successful demonstration is followed by replication. The
analogy is drawn with prototype testing and development in the private
sector and the need for an independent replicating agency is stressed.
Concept Replication: In this approach the focus is not on the
universal and specific elements of the prototype programme but rather on
general components and principles which can be transported to other
sites. Unlike the approaches mentioned earlier, strict adherence to the
strategies and the model of the prototype are not required and success
is measured in terms of adaptation and sensitivity to each unique local
context. There is no accountability for how components are transferred
and used at each local site.
Spontaneous or Endogenous Replication: The essential
difference here is that the demand for information comes from below. It
is need based and is characterized by spontaneous and informal contacts
between like-minded individuals. Additionally, the communication flow is
not one-way - from recognized model to recipient - but is rather a
two-way process of convergence where participants "create and share
II.3 The Universalist Approach: an Appraisal
As stated earlier, the most concerted discussions and reflection on the
theme of replication have taken place in the United States. The
universalist viewpoint appears to be gaining ground as a potential
strategy for extending the scale of effective programmes in the social
sector. (16) Two
broad trends are discernible in the literature. First, while paying lip
service to the validity and importance of concept replication, a strong
preference is expressed for developing a more planned, structured and
controlled approach to disseminating good practice. (17) This is
reflected in a call for adherence to standards and principles; for
protecting the identity of the programme that is being replicated; and for
charting out admissions requirements for selecting local sites. There is a
move towards giving this controlling function to an intermediary
organization which acts as the replicating agent and has "final
accountability for program performance". A need has also been expressed
for a national agency which can develop and promote replication strategies
and speak with an authoritative voice on the subject. (18)
A second and related move is towards applying theories and practices
developed in the private sector to replication efforts in the non-profit
According to RPS (1994:ii), replication in the social sector "... is
entrepreneurial, market-driven ... In short it appears to be analogous to
our market economy." This conclusion is based on their finding that the
most successful replication does not take place on account of deliberate
policy but is the result of a private entrepreneurial effort, very similar
to starting a new business. Thus, in the social sector as well,
replication efforts would require a "champion" or "programme entrepreneur"
who has the charismatic and leadership qualities required to design
programme strategies, promote its achievements and secure long-term
Once conceived, the programme would need to be "marketed" and "promoted"
in order to raise its public profile and increase its ability to compete
for scarce funding. Concern is expressed for the lack of "incentives", in
sharp contrast to the private sector, which would be required to sustain
commitment to the programme. Finally, there would be a need for protecting
the programme prototype from being cloned or expropriated without due
acknowledgement and payment. It is suggested that in order to avoid loss
of revenue, protect the reputation of the programme, and prevent misuse of
key concepts and strategies, the social sector would in future need to
enforce copyrights and patents and levy licensing fees.
In short, in order to be successful, replication strategies should look
to the business sector for inspiration, in particular to the field of
business franchising. (21) It is
suggested that the participants and donors can be assured of certain
quality standards in large-scale franchised programmes. The licensing
agreements to carry out the programme usually entail an adherence to fixed
standards of effectiveness. Training, upgrading and inspection are the
responsibility of the franchising agent and there is the stipulation that
the licence can be removed if the subcontractor fails to meet certain
standards. Funders are more inclined to invest in the expansion of such
Despite earlier critiques of the universalist approach within various
disciplines, it is once again in the foreground of social action, but this
time taking its cue from the private sector. Several factors could be held
responsible for this trend. The recent resource crunch has implied a move
away from government funding of social programmes and a corresponding
increase in the importance of the voluntary or non-profit sector for the
delivery of such programmes. The government has increasingly incorporated
principles of corporate philosophy with respect to the use of its own
resources and also for the disbursal of funds to the voluntary sector. At
the same time, social problems have not decreased and there is an urgency
in the search for successful prototypes. Given this climate, and the
parallel rise in corporate philanthropy, techniques developed in the
private sector have percolated into the world of social programmes. While
it is undeniable that there is a real and immediate need to search for
solutions that reach more people, it remains necessary to consider the
appropriateness of these techniques and to anticipate and examine their
First, replication is seen as the culmination of a unilinear unfolding
of discrete activities starting with the pilot and the demonstration
stages. Agencies' annual reports, conference discussion papers and
research and evaluation reports present innumerable examples of variations
and elaborations of these stages. But the existence of these stages and
their sequential order is hardly challenged. A close look at practice
reveals that they are often not clearly distinguishable and they, or their
elements, may exist simultaneously. Projects never work in total
isolation, they have radiation effects and they respond to environmental
influences from the onset. This is especially the case when project staff
belong to varied networks and are in constant communication with others.
Second, this approach looks on programme replication as an activity to
be carried out largely by the sponsor or initiator of the original
project. These initiators are generally governmental or parastatal
agencies and private or non-governmental organizations as well as
so-called "pioneers", "champions", or "charismatic leaders" belonging to
these organizations. The designation of the sponsor as the main directing
and initiating actor has far-reaching consequences. It immediately builds
into the work a "source bias" reflecting the interests, style and values
of the sponsor. (22) Going-to-scale
becomes a centralized, top-down process with the major decisions made at
Third, there are dangers inherent in transferring strategies developed
in the business sector to improve replication practice in the social
sector. There can be vast differences in objectives, guiding philosophy,
target groups, values and mission. Principles and practices that have been
developed to maximise profit might not be applicable, beyond a point, to
agencies working for the benefit of disadvantaged sections of society. For
example, notions of staff ownership and commitment, and the need for
transparency and participatory decision-making are viewed very differently
in the two sectors. (24) It would be
difficult to juggle the need for local participation, ownership and
responsiveness to contextual variables - crucial elements in social
programmes - with the requirements of standardization which are central to
the franchise approach. It is interesting to note that even franchised
operations are increasingly allowing for local input and creativity and
imposing standardization only where necessary.
The World Organisation of the Scout Movement/World Scout Foundation
aptly illustrates this move towards increased contextualization in the
social sector. (25) World-wide the
organisation counts over 32 million members, boys and girls. Scout groups
differ widely from country to country, and within countries, from place to
place. In Indonesia, Scouting is compulsory, and every school-going boy
has to join; in Yemen it is very much a an elitist activity; and in the
USA, scouting is a strong commercialized movement (26). The
activities carried out by scouts cover the range from complete leisure to
fully-committed social action and the mechanisms that keep the movement
together are elastic. At present these consist of rituals, external
paraphernalia and a well-run organizational structure. Local groups take
care of their own funding, and contribute to the running costs of regional
and international headquarters.
Fourth, there is yet another danger to "cookie-cutter" replications
which remain faithful in their form and content to the original "model"
programme. They may succeed and even be locally supported, especially if
they appeal to a well-resourced leadership, but do they work to the
benefit of their target group? Sustaining such a model may even become
counterproductive as it could absorb all available resources and
discourage the promotion of other, more appropriate models. Everything
else becomes less attractive, not to be emulated. For example, it is a
familiar sight in derelict or deprived areas to see first class community
centres or sporting grounds that resemble the facilities available in
better endowed places. These exact replicas have often been established by
benefactors who, in tandem with local leaders, want "the best of the best"
for youth. They are usually the show pieces reserved for visitors and the
media but they may reach only a fraction of the youth living in the
neighbourhood. It is also likely that the services offered are
appropriated by the least disadvantaged youth. For financial and
psychological reasons, the existence of such a service could foreclose any
other form of assistance to deprived youth in the area.
Finally, in the current trend towards "planned" replication, there is
an undue stress on technical and organizational aspects at the cost of
human and social aspects. Social reality is inherently complex and does
not submit in a predictable manner to externally imposed interventions, no
matter how well planned or technically sound they may be. At the heart of
all social processes are people and they are also the intended
beneficiaries of social programmes. Unless the human aspect is given due
consideration in the design and dissemination of programmes, the effort is
likely to fail. According to Cernea (1991:7) "the neglect of social
dimensions in intervention-caused development always takes revenge on the
In the world of development practice and literature, there is an
increasing awareness of the need to "put people first" in the planning of
intervention programmes (Cernea 1991; Chambers 1993; Korten & Klauss
1990). A change is called for in the conventional approach to planning,
which is dominated by technical factors and administrative details. The
rationale for this change is sought not just on ethical and humanitarian
grounds but is rooted in the belief that this is essential for assuring
the effectiveness of programmes.
The Summer Training and Education Programme (STEP) - a USA remedial
training programme for 14 and 15 year old poor urban youth over two
summers - provides a very good illustration of a planned replication where
more importance was given to form over content. (28) STEP has been
hailed as a model of staged replication and is seen as an unqualified
success as far as the replication process is concerned. However, long-term
evaluations show that the programme had little or no impact on the youth
it aimed to serve once they had left the programme. This outcome would not
have been so surprising to the sponsors of the programme if the complex
social dynamics surrounding issues such as poverty, urban deprivation,
unemployment and teenage pregnancy had been acknowledged and incorporated
into the programme at the outset. Few astute social observers would have
believed that a short intervention like a summer programme could rid youth
of multiple, structural disadvantages.
II.4 The Contextualist Approach: An Appraisal
The contextualist approach recognizes the uniqueness of each particular
setting, thus precluding the wholesale cloning of models and practices
from one context to another. Primacy is given to addressing local needs,
adapting to local environments and acknowledging the validity of local
knowledge. The relationship between the giver and receiver is viewed as
equal and non-hierarchical and each exchange is a potential opportunity
for mutual learning. The very term "dissemination" is seen to carry the
connotation of a dependent or passive receiver; as are the words "target
audience", "consumers" and "takers". Instead, notions of "partnership" and
"convergence" should govern all exchanges.
In a parallel discussion on the merits and demerits of centralized
versus decentralized diffusion, Rogers and Marcus (1983) note that a
centralized approach is preferred only when highly-technical expertise is
required. Contrasting the two strategies they observe that
decentralization invites local control, stimulates staying power, promotes
peer-to-peer diffusion and horizontal networks, encourages local
experimentation by local non-experts, is problem centred and demand-driven
and has a higher degree of adaptation. Centralization is dependent on
highly-trained experts, is top down, draws on research for innovation,
manifests a low degree of adaptation and is supply driven.
It is obvious that the contextual approach is more suited to the
transfer of components and principles and not to the actual replication of
a project or programme. The key words frequently used are: indirect,
dispersed, inadvertent, spontaneous, less measurable, and less
geographically bounded (Chambers 1993). Not surprisingly, no framework or
blue-print is prescribed for implementing this strategy and there is room
for using indirect means for achieving wider impact and coverage. Thus,
activities such as lobbying, influencing policy, advocacy, training and
networking are deemed to have equal, if not more, significant results than
The contextualist approach is usually developed as part of a broader
strategy which also includes other, more direct means of replication and
going-to-scale. (29) Each
individual situation should determine the choice of strategy to be
followed; in certain cases a combination of approaches may well be the
most feasible course of action. While "expansion" and "addition" are seen
as obvious means of increasing impact and coverage, it is felt that
indirect means of replication should be given due recognition as they can
often have superior results. Advocates of the contextual school rarely
approach dissemination and replication strategies in isolation but place
them in the wider framework of development theory and discussions on NGO
management, impact and efficiency. (30)
There are several merits to the contextualist approach - more
particularly, its sensitivity to the local level, the importance that is
given to local knowledge and to need-driven demands for information, and
its acceptance of the relevance of direct and indirect means of increasing
impact - to make it an attractive component of any replication strategy.
It is empowering, ensures local control and encourages self-generated
learning. At first glance, it would also appear to contain all the
elements required for developing an appropriate strategy for replicating
policies, programmes and practices - the starting point of this paper. A
closer look at how this approach works in practice reveals some
First, notwithstanding its strengths, critics of the contextualist
approach would deny it the label of a strategy since there are few rules
governing its implementation. The replication effort is informal and
dispersed and there are few well-defined criteria for evaluating its
success. The premise of the uniqueness of each situation can sometimes be
taken to an extreme. If all commonality is denied, room can be left open
for unnecessary re-inventions of the wheel, with each local agency
expending time and resources to find new solutions to problems that are
not unique. It is not rare for small organizations to become self-serving
and inward-looking with little or no contact with other like-minded
actors. This precludes them from coalition-building and from joining
forces in the interests of a common cause. A major avenue for increasing
the impact of the work of the local sector could then be lost.
Second, the objective of increasing impact and coverage is also not
served well if there is an undue focus on processes at the cost of
outcomes. Some proponents of this approach would go so far as to reject
the notion of planned, step-wise change, especially in community-based
work. According to Smale (1993:16), "most people need to reinvent their
own wheels and want to use them in their own way". Consequently, there
cannot be a blue-print for community-based practice as "there are no
destinations, only journeys". However, it would be difficult to deny that
journeys could and should be undertaken with some sense of destination in
mind. If the aim of social programmes is to mitigate the effects of social
disadvantage, the interests of the target group will not be served well by
a strategy which leaves so much to chance.
Third, an element of wishful thinking and romanticization can be
detected in the notion of decentralization of diffusion efforts. It is
necessary to bear in mind the critiques developed in the discourse on
decentralization where devolution of authority is sharply distinguished
from democratization. It is emphasized that the focus should not be just
on shifting the responsibility for financial allocations and
decision-making but equally on understanding the nature of local power
structures and political processes which get "empowered" as a result of
decentralization. Writing more than a decade ago about the "myth of
decentralization", Bryant and White (1982) warn that it can invite
corruption, internecine warfare and take-over by local elites. (31)
Finally, it is important to ask the question: who assesses local needs
and how are they legitimized? All too often, this is done by an outside
agent - the "animator" - or by the representative of a donor agency.
Needs, priorities and areas for intervention are often defined on the
basis of a short exposure or a superficial knowledge of the field. Local
hierarchies, power structures and disagreements may not be reflected in
the message that is taken back. For example, undue emphasis may be given
to the voices of the most vocal and visible youth, who may not be the most
vulnerable and marginalized.
III. POINTERS FOR PROGRAMME REPLICATION
The universalist and contextualist approaches both have their relative
merits and in real situations they can often be combined, bringing out
their individual strengths and mitigating their weaknesses. The actual
form of these combinations will vary from one context to the next and will
be informed by such considerations as the impact on the target group, the
numbers reached, and the sustainability of the interventions. No matter
what approach is used, accumulated experience - in research, policy and
practice - shows that replication is a complicated, costly and
time-consuming process. There are no easy solutions to it and no short
cuts. However, it is useful to look at the various trends in social
programming, policy and practice that offer promise - including those
found in development experience -and also to explore the long research
tradition in related social science disciplines where parallel discussions
are held on the subjects of knowledge transfer and use. The integration of
inputs from these distinct field of practice and research yield some
considerations that need to be kept in mind when discussing replication in
the social sector.
III.1 Commonality vs Specificity
The problems facing most countries of the world have an element of
commonality. Korten (1990) mentions, by way of illustration, over twenty
development problems that do not recognize North-South or East-West
distinctions. Some of the needs that are increasingly shared in common
• reducing chronic unemployment; These global risk factors have a direct bearing on
the well-being of families, particularly those who already live under
stress caused by poverty, discrimination, or disabilities. But families in
the richer countries are also sensitive to these risk factors. A recent
study reveals that 15-30% of children in the OECD countries could be
considered "at risk" for the same reasons as in developing countries
• controlling drug trafficking
• managing population growth and distribution;
reducing teenage pregnancy;
• providing housing for the homeless;
• making credit available for micro-economic activities;
reducing hunger, illiteracy and infant mortality among difficult to
• treating AIDS victims and controlling the
spread of the disease;
• meeting the needs for bilingual education;
• facilitating reconciliation among racial, religious and ethnic
• resettling refugees;
• ensuring the preservation of
human rights; and
• increasing citizen awareness of global
Further, the causes of these problems, and their manifestations, do not
run parallel to each other, but are closely interdependent. Being commonly
rooted, these problems often appear in clusters. Studies from the United
States confirm that risk behaviours are interrelated in children and
youth: nearly 50% of American youth are involved in two or more of the
four categories of risk behaviours that have been identified as: drug and
alcohol use and abuse; unsafe sex, teenage pregnancy, and teenage
parenting; school failure, underachievement and dropout, and; delinquency,
crime and violence.(Lerner 1995).
This connectedness also manifests itself internationally. Events in one
country could have an immediate impact on the lives of people living at
the other end of the globe and vice versa. Communication and
exchange of values and ideas occurs all the time and with considerable
speed and few remain untouched. Ling (1989) notes, for example, that
"lifestyle illusions have become the new communicable disease -
transmitted through the information media...They are initiated as fast as
communications speed information from one country to another". Common
problems call for joint action and learning.
In recognizing the commonalities of social issues, the underlying
specificities of each local situation should not be ignored. Seeking
common solutions to shared problems could well imply a negation of
underlying contextual differences and a stifling of need-based local
action. Care needs to be exercised not to impose "universal" solutions to
problems which are intrinsically local and to avoid coopting local
initiatives into donor-determined, homogenized approaches. In fact, a
sensitive balance has to be struck between accepting what is universal or
global while recognizing and protecting what is valuable at the local
level. This issue strikes at the very heart of the discussions on how to
disseminate and replicate social policies and practices across cultures
III.2 What Makes Programmes Work?
A first step to understanding why programmes work is to uncover the
principles and processes underlying "good practice". Most reviews of
successful programmes are mainly descriptive in nature, they seldom go
further than offering evidence that the project has a positive effect on
the target group and should, therefore, be supported or emulated.
Analytical studies that reveal why programmes work, under what conditions,
and how are rare. Without this understanding, the dissemination of
projects, or of their elements, could degenerate into a form of blind
cloning or become a matter of intuition.
A number of principles have already been referred to in the text as
they appear to be essential to most successful programmes. They include
empowerment of users, recognition of cultural diversity and local needs,
promotion of holistic development, and parental involvement. However,
mechanical adherence to these principles will not automatically lead to
positive development; their meaning and function should be continually
It is important to bear in mind that knowledge and practice are not
stable - they have to be reviewed all the time. Questions have to be posed
continually and in each different context as the answers will vary
accordingly. Understanding the issues underlying wider principles is,
therefore, necessary to counter the mechanical application of outdated
practice. It will also ensure that programmes and policies are not static
but remain responsive to changing needs.
III.3 Giving Validity to all Knowledge
A review of critical writings in the field of knowledge use and
transfer reveal important guidelines for replication in the social sector.
These are of particular relevance in situations where government
departments or large funding agencies take the lead in dissemination
The most fundamental conclusion of these critiques is that knowledge is
not objective or value-free; it is identified with the groups that create
it and it serves to further their interests while disregarding those of
others. In order to ensure that dissemination does not become a way to
exert power and control over small, local organizations, care should be
taken not to treat "knowledge users" as empty receptacles with no
mechanisms for their own knowledge creation. This requires giving validity
to all kinds of knowledge - be it research or practitioner knowledge.
Similarly, in order to be truly effective, knowledge should not be imposed
from outside but should be owned or internalized by users. Ideally,
two-way information sharing, rather than knowledge emanating from a single
source, would be one way to avoid this situation. At the practical level,
it would be more effective to present users with a range of programme and
policy options rather than promoting one particular prototype. This would
allow them to make comparisons and to select and combine elements to suit
their particular environment.
III.4 Networking as a Tool for Dissemination
Outcome-oriented networking of networks could be yet another way of
disseminating good practice. The participants should belong to vertically
and horizontally linked structures, connecting public and private
organizations. These networks should be multi-nodal and comprise
autonomous subsystems. There should not be a tightly-structured chain of
command or communication. The participants should have the capacity to act
and learn without being forced to do so and they should have the potential
for voluntary and collective action. Most importantly, they could form
coalitions of smaller NGOs, or even GOs, who could act together to make an
Networking also has its drawbacks: network meetings are not low-cost.
They can easily degenerate into talking shops, or turn into elite groups,
excluding others and monopolizing the debate. These unproductive dynamics
can be avoided by encouraging the participation of groups or sub-networks.
This can be done by identifying specific needs and problems among the
network partners; by setting goal-oriented agendas; and by facilitating
and monitoring progress. Sustained, effective and locally rooted
dissemination is most likely to take place through outcome-directed
networking. Replication through networking is not likely to evolve
spontaneously or from the bottom up; guidance and direction by a
centralized force is usually needed, not only to initiate but also to
supervise and sustain the process. Traditionally, government agencies and
grant-making organizations assume this role. Some of the problems
associated with this could be avoided if NGO coalitions were also to take
on these functions.
IV. CONCLUDING OBSERVATIONS
This paper has not sought to produce a list of recommendations. These
abound in the literature emanating from the non-profit sector and display
a general tendency to reduce the many dimensions of this issue into a set
of how-to-do guidelines. It is only when the processes of going to scale
are appreciated in their full complexity that meaningful policy can be
drawn up. The search for simplicity has been a main stumbling block in the
formulation of this policy. Some of the complexities underlying the
question of programme replication have been touched upon in this text.
The progress of replication efforts is often measured in terms of
criteria such as the effect on the participants, the numbers reached; the
spread of project sites over the country, region or world; the volume of
services extended, of the institution or of its staff. When these
indicators meet expectations, the programme is judged to be successful.
Seldom, if ever, are advances gauged against overall needs in a given
country or region. Thus, while an organization is expanding its exemplary
programmes the impact on the total target population may remain
insignificant. It is hard to judge the relevance of dissemination
programmes that are carried out without a clear understanding of the total
picture. There is a need for a system that would monitor this situation.
At the most basic level, such a monitor would gather data on the target
population, their needs, what programmes are offered for them, how many
participate and who and how many are left out, or require special
Additionally, the monitor would feed back information and demonstrate the
effectiveness of dissemination programmes to all participants. A
self-monitoring system used by the participants would be an important
force to increase the outreach of services.
The expansion of programme coverage is often the outcome of an
intricate interplay between donor and recipient agencies. The relationship
between donors and recipients is, by definition, unequal. Barring rare
occasions where popular NGOs are courted by the entire donor community,
recipients are dependent for their income and livelihood on donors and
will, in varying degrees, cut their cloth according to the donors' whims
and wishes. In spite of the often encountered expressions of "genuine
partnership" and "critical dialogue" it is the donor who, in the ultimate
analysis, calls the shots. As most donors and development agencies are
identified with the West, there is also the danger of imposing models and
practices developed in the West at the cost of existing and effective
local customs and approaches. Dissemination efforts spearheaded by
prestigious persons such as first ladies, celebrities or royalty should
also be looked at with circumspection, particularly when they take a
guiding role with respect to the direction and content of the programme.
this text, various pointers have been suggested on how to professionalize
the relationship between donor and recipient. Early involvement in project
design and planning by all stake-holders, working through transparent
networks, NGO capacity building, and evaluations are some of the most
prominent tools to this end. The philosophical underpinnings of the code
of conduct for donors have been worked out extensively by Pantin
(1979,1983), who summarizes this philosophy in two words: respectful
A main argument running through this paper is that effective and
sustainable programmes reaching out to large numbers are few and far
between and take a long time to establish. Take the example of programmes
for children and youth. In 1975, a survey showed that life for youth in
the inner cities of North America had only worsened after a decade of
intensive debates and federal, state and municipal involvement (Goldman
and Dotson 1975). Now, twenty years later, the situation is not better and
has, in fact, deteriorated further. (35) This has
happened, or has been allowed to happen, against the back cloth of efforts
to expand programmes that "work"; the availability of tried and tested
programme and policy scenarios; and the existence of vast skills and
knowledge on how to implement these. The situation of children in other
countries is often not much different. (36) Given this
track record, it behooves politicians, researchers, donors and policy
makers to adopt an attitude of profound modesty, or even wariness, about
their proposals and about any future scenarios they set in motion. It may
well be that an informed uncertainty proves to be a better compass to go
by in the debate on replication than a set of over-confident, but
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1. We would like to thank the International Youth
Foundation, which commissioned an earlier version of this study and Renee
Pittin, for her comments on the draft.
2. The following descriptors are useful in accessing
the subject area: acceptance, adaption, additionality, adoption,
application, assimilation, communication, coverage, diffusion,
dissemination, distribution, exchange, expansion, extension, flow,
going-to-scale (also scaling up and upscaling), growth, innovation,
multiplication, new knowledge research, new practice research, new
products research, reception, replication, retrieval, spread, transfer,
transmission, utilization, and also, frequently, planning.
3. Much of the current debate on going-to-scale turns
out to be a repetition of earlier, readily available information, without
reference to lessons learnt in the first round of replication efforts more
than a decade ago.
4. There could be little doubt or disagreement about
the desirability of mass immunization, or of its intrinsic welfare-raising
contribution. It would also be fair to argue that beneficiaries could not
really be expected to develop such a product at the micro-level. The focus
then falls on developing the best version of the product, of an efficient
delivery mechanism and of ensuring the acceptance of the product by the
beneficiaries. Large scale replication systems are thereby necessary.
5. In the case of high-yielding variety seeds as
well, the model of external development of the product, followed by mass
diffusion would appear to be justified. However, it became quickly
apparent that the benefits of such technical change were very unevenly
distributed within the target population, with those whose need was the
greatest benefiting the least. The externally generated product was
defined exclusively in terms of positive attributes but experience has
revealed negative dimensions, most prominently in the form of the high
degree of dependence on chemical fertilisers, and the consequent
environmentally damaging effects. Contrary to the case of immunization
programmes, the impact of this intervention was not self-contained and
neutral with respect to other social outcomes. Finally, partly as a result
of the eventual discovery of these problematic side-effects, there has
been a certain grudging recognition of the values of the original farming
technologies, and new approaches attempt to build on the essential
features of these endogenous systems.
6. See, for example, Myers (1992), NASW (1993),
Pittman (1995), Schorr (1989). More recently, the American First Lady,
Hillary Rodham Clinton (1995) also contended that "we do not lack the
information, but rather the will to do what is best".
7. See, for example, Myers (1992), NASW (1993) and
Schorr (1989). The International Youth Foundation (IYF), whose explicit
mandate it is to "replicate good practice", operates YOUTHNET, a data bank
that contains a growing selection of international "exemplary" projects.
8. There is little evidence in the literature,
however, to suggest that planned or staged replication of project
prototypes is an any way less costly than starting a new programme. On the
contrary, most research shows that it can be an expensive process
requiring vast human and financial resources. Bieman and Tomlinson (1992)
note the high costs involved in any exchange of practices and ideas within
a North-South context.
9. This trend is particularly strong in the United
States, as witnessed by the fact that many foundations have taken up
"going-to-scale" as a major topic in their programming. See for example,
Birman and Kaufman (1991); Council of Foundations (1993); Mott Foundation
(1990); Paisly et al (1983); and International Youth Foundation
10. See, for example, Cernea (1991), Chambers
(1993), Edwards and Hulme (1992) and Pottier (1993).
11. There is a tendency among donor agency staff to
undertake new initiatives and to respond much more enthusiastically to
innovations rather than to more of the same.
12. See, inter alia, Backer (1993); Chambers
(1993); Conservation Company (1993); Conservation Company &
Public/Private Ventures (1993); Dichter (1989); de Lone (1995); Edwards
& Hulme (1992); Mott Foundation (1990); NASW (1993); Public/Private
Ventures (1990); RPS (1994); Rothman & Edwin (1994).
13. Garvin (1995) suggests that many urban problems
could be resolved by applying solutions found elsewhere. If there is a
problem, he argues, go and look where they have found the answer.
14. With respect to the area of children and youth,
a review of in-depth as well as meta-studies shows that most successful
programmes meet a certain combination of criteria. Briefly, they focus on
children; promote positive growth; are preventative; allow for optimal
participation by the children, parents and communities; are contextual and
respond to local needs; have a positive bias towards vulnerable groups,
especially poor children and girls; are horizontally and vertically
embedded in organizational structures; and are low-cost. They are also
well managed; conduct regular evaluations and offer training opportunities
to their staff (Grant 1990; International Initiative 1991a,b;
International Youth Foundation 1991-5; Van Oudenhoven 1989).
15. The first four paths to replication have been
identified by Replication and Program Services, Inc. (RPS) on the basis of
their survey of US practice (RPS 1994). RPS also provide a listing and
descriptions of US-based youth programmes which fall into each of the four
16. The main proponents of this approach are: Backer
(1992a,b); Mott Foundation (1990); Conservation Company (1993a,b); de Lone
(1990); Public/Private Ventures (1990); RPS (1994).
17. An important study on replication, which was
conducted under the auspices of some US agencies, concluded with the
following three recommendations: a how-to publication which would pull
together relevant information in a manual; establishment of a replication
resource group designed to "serve the interests and needs of private and
corporate philanthropy, concerned with the most cost-effective use of
program development, demonstration project and replication strategies";
and a national fund for programme replication (RPS 1994).
18. Recognizing the importance of such an agent,
private organizations in the USA have established the specialised agency
Replication and Program Services, Inc (RPS). Based in Philadelphia, this
new office provides support to foundations and private voluntary
organizations in disseminating their work.
19. See Archie 1993; Backer 1992; Mannes &
Meilleur 1989; Oster 1992; RPS 1994.
20. The role of the "champion" is seen by many as
crucial for dissemination efforts. The argument runs that somebody is
needed who believes in disseminating programme outcomes, who is committed
to it, is internally motivated, who can push and move things, and has the
skills, endurance and personality to carry on and to convince others to
follow. However, as these champions are not always easily found, it is
often recommended that an external, professional "replication agent" be
appointed to guide the dissemination. What they would lack in personal
qualities would be made up by their expertise, professional interest, and
21. The franchising of programmes, products, names,
and logos is common practice in the field of social programmes in the USA.
More than half of the top one hundred charitable non-profits, e.g.
American Red Cross, YMCA, and Scouting groups, are franchising
organizations (Oster 1992). They transfer to franchisees the exclusive
right to use their "trademark" or sell certain products, usually in a
particular territory, in return for a payment. The franchiser provides
assistance and exerts control over certain aspects of the operation.
Profits, losses and liabilities are borne locally. Similar practices are
now becoming common in other countries as well.
22. According to Rogers (1976) research and
evaluation studies of replication have also been heavily "source biased"
as they have mainly been commissioned by sponsors.
23. What, for example, is the commitment needed to
sell a McDonald hamburger?
24. It is not surprising that most of the
deliberations on replication take place at the behest of organizations
that wield power to implement decisions.
25. See various information leaflets from Scouting
Nederland and WOSM/WSF Geneva.
26. The many local and national differences became
manifest, almost to the point of mutual non-recognition, at the triennial
Jamboree in The Netherlands in 1995. The Japanese scouts were appalled to
see Dutch scouts kissing each other. The Dutch were, in turn, stunned by
the military look of the Japanese, while many Muslim scouts were not
allowed to have any companionship whatsoever with the other sex. Uniforms
varied equally widely.
27. A re-evaluation of 25 World Bank financed
projects shows that 13 of these were unsustainable, not for financial
reasons, but because socio-cultural factors had been neglected at the
stage of project formulation and implementation (Cernea 1991).
28. For a comprehensive description of the
replication process involved in the STEP programme see Walker &
29. See Cernea (1991); Chambers (1993); Clark
(1991); Edwards & Hulme (1992); Korten & Klaus (1990).
30. A recent British publication, exploring the
different ways in which NGOs should increase their impact lists three
strategies for dissemination: additive -implying an increase in the size
of the programme or organization; multiplicative - where impact is
achieved through deliberate influence, networking, policy and legal
reform, or training; and diffusive - where spread is informal and
spontaneous. No preference is expressed for any one strategy as each would
be effective in a different circumstance and no clear-cut criteria are
provided for implementing the various strategies (Edwards & Hulme
1992). It is interesting to note that this volume on replication makes no
reference to the parallel discussion taking place among US organizations.
31. The discussion about the merits and demerits of
centralization and decentralization, and components of these multi-layered
processes still attracts attention. Dillinger (1994), overseeing the
international scene and writing for the World Bank, states that the
objectives of decentralization are only tangentially related to
administrative performance. He believes that governments are not genuinely
interested in delegating responsibilities aimed at improving service
delivery. At best they agree to a disorderly and reluctant series of
concessions, primarily to maintain political stability. Recent
developments in inter-sectoral networking may merge the advantages of both
centralized and decentralized strategies.
32. See Huberman 1994-95; Nilsson & Sunesson
1993; Watkins 1994.
33. See Van Tilborg & Riemersma (1995) and
Zuzovsky (1994) for detailed descriptions of the role of monitors.
34. The involvement of well-know people in programme
promotion has become a regular feature on the development scene. Their use
is obvious: they help to attract attention, open up doors and rally people
around a good cause. It is argued here, however, that involvement should
be restricted to promotion and not to guiding the direction and content of
35. Kozol (1995), writing about children in urban
ghettos reports that child poverty in USA has reached its highest level
since 1964. "People have become tired of shouting", he notes.
36. Evidently, much has gone wrong and several
attempts have been made to reflect on these poor outcomes and on what
could be learnt from the past. See, for example, Grant (1989) and Klein
and Gwaltney (1991a,b). The implicit suggestion in their work is that if
certain missing areas were given proper attention, things would go better.
It is not certain if this optimism, which is expressed at many fora, is
About the authors
Nico van Oudenhoven and Rekha Wazir, psychologist and sociologist, are
co-founders of International Child Development Initiative (ICDI),
Hooglandse Kerkgracht 17, 2312 HS Leiden, The Netherlands. ICDI is an
international development support agency specializing in programmes,
policy and research for marginalized children and youth. The authors have
written extensively on these issues and also on the topic of development
management. Their recent publications include «Partnership - a development
Strategy for Children» (1997) and «Child Sexual Abuse: What can
Governments do?» (1997).
The opinions expressed in this series are those of the
authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of UNESCO.