In Research


Year: 2020
Published in: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations
Cited as: van Lunenburg, Marion, Karin Geuijen, and Albert Meijer. “How and why do social and sustainable initiatives scale? A systematic review of the literature on social entrepreneurship and grassroots innovation.” VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations 31, no. 5 (2020): 1013-1024.


Scaling, Social and sustainable initiatives, Social impact, Social entrepreneurship, Grassroots innovation


Social and sustainable initiatives generally start small and need to scale to create substantial impact. Our systematic review of 133 articles develops a better under- standing of this scaling process. From the literature, we conceptualize impact as the result of two different path- ways: ‘scaling out’ (extending geographical space or vol- ume) 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 pos- itively 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.