Going to Scale: A Case Study of an Indian Educational NGO

Abstract

Effective programmes introduced by NGOs in developing countries have the potential to benefit a large number of people if they are scaled up, but instances of successful scaling-up are relatively rare. This paper uses a case study of an Indian educational NGO that has scaled up rapidly and effectively in order to explore the reasons for choice of scaling-up strategy, the particular barriers to scaling-up in the education sector, and how these barriers can be overcome. It finds that, while a high-functioning NGO can successfully overcome many of the internal organisational challenges posed by scaling-up, external barriers such as the difficulty of building relationships with key stakeholders like government officials and school teachers pose significant challenges. While these difficulties could in principle be mitigated by moving from an expansion-based to collaboration-based model of scaling-up, low accountability and governance of the NGO sector make it difficult to detect the quality of potential partners. The case also shows that India’s recent law mandating CSR has increased funding availability for scaling-up, but its requirement for corporate donors to preferentially support local projects has also created some challenges by constraining NGO ability to harness economies of scale during scaling.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See http://www.mca.gov.in/Ministry/pdf/CompaniesAct2013.pdf.

  2. 2.

    Section 135 of the Companies Act 2013 states that “the company shall give preference to the local area and areas around it where it operates, for spending the amount earmarked for Corporate Social Responsibility activities”.

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Acknowledgements

I am grateful to all the interviewees for their time and to Alfred Wu, Phanish Puranam, and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft.

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Guha, P. Going to Scale: A Case Study of an Indian Educational NGO. Voluntas 30, 1365–1379 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-019-00099-3

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Keywords

  • NGO
  • Scaling-up
  • Education
  • India
  • Corporate social responsibility
  • CSR