Ingrid Mulder, Maria Belén Buckenmayer, and Ryan J.A. Murphy
Scaling is a motif describing the proportionate growth of innovation. However, while the logic of ‘scaling’ may work in business, social systems change is not straightforward. Over the past decade, scholars have adapted the original idea of scaling from business to differentiate the different ways to scale that are more appropriate in the context of social innovation. Scaling is sometimes thought of as a panacea: it is the ‘end result’, purpose, or answer to what we are trying to achieve. However, such an end result is ill-defined: we do not have a commonly agreed upon language or straightforward for what we are scaling, where we are scaling, or how we are scaling change in social systems. Instead, systemic designers currently use a mix of jargon from (social) innovation, design, systemic change, and/or transition design. While these fields share similar ambitions for scaling, we argue that systemic designers need a better understanding of scaling strategies for systemic innovation. The complexity of issues addressed by systemic design requires a more nuanced literacy to understand how scaling systems change happens and demands building capabilities for designing for these different dimensions and directions of scale. The context of the study is a Master-level course addressing the ‘scaling’ literacy designers need to understand when maturing systemic social innovations. Students demonstrated a richness in their scaling strategies distinguishing different dimensions and layers of scale.
The current work elaborates upon dimensions of scaling and scaling strategies to bring more nuance to systemic scaling and concludes with a multi-level framework for scaling literacy. We call for scaling literacy to further advance systemic design’s methodological practices and expand the capabilities and action repertoire of future generations of systemic designers.
Keywords: design capabilities, design curricula, scaling literacy, scaling strategies, social innovation, systems change, systemic impact