Published In: VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations (2020)
Cite As: van Lunenburg, M., Geuijen, K. & Meijer, A. How and Why Do Social and Sustainable Initiatives Scale? A Systematic Review of the Literature on Social Entrepreneurship and Grassroots Innovation. Voluntas (2020).
Social and sustainable initiatives generally start small and need to scale to create substantial impact. This systematic review of 133 articles develops a better understanding of this scaling process.
Social and sustainable initiatives generally start small and need to scale to create substantial impact. Our systematic review of 133 articles develops a better understanding of this scaling process. From the literature, we conceptualize impact as the result of two different pathways: ‘scaling out’ (extending geographical space or volume) and ‘scaling up’ (influence on public discourses, political agendas and legislation). The review identified strategy, actor characteristics and institutional environment as key factors for scaling. The literature indicates that for strategy a focus on open structures generates speed and higher impact, but we also found critical views on this. The literature shows that the actor characteristics such as the ambition to scale, equal focus on the economic and the social logic, entrepreneurial skills and leadership are positively related to the level of impact. The institutional environment influences actor characteristics and strategy choices and also has a direct effect on the level of social and sustainable impact.
Recommendations from this resource
1. Further explore whether the relations between actor characteristics, strategic choices and impact are linear.
2. Time must be taken into consideration as well in future research, as speed seems to be related to structure choice and we do
not know to what extent strategic choices could change over time.
3. Further exploration of the framework in a specific branch or specific topic, like social initiatives in healthcare or sustainable initiatives in the food industry.This will help to explore the different relations and dynamics in the framework more in detail.