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Tipping the Scales: Shifting from Projects to Scalable Solutions in Fragile States


This article proposes a new paradigm and management framework for programming in fragile states. Confronted by the root causes of fragility and the pressing needs of hundreds of millions of the world’s most vulnerable persons, it argues for focusing on both problems simultaneously. The article singles out four features that distinguish scaling strategies in fragile states and suggests that the most promising interventions for tackling fragility and building resilience only ‘kick-in’ at scale because of the higher degree of functioning social capital they require. The article cites a number of examples to support the view that scaling-up approaches provide a valuable organizing framework for integrating a focus on social capital into programming and overcoming the piecemeal, one-off and non-strategic character of aid programmes in fragile states.

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  1. Under special circumstances, philanthropy- and faith-based NGOs deliver key education, health or social welfare services sustainably at scale.

  2. For similar arguments, see Chandy and Linn (2015).

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Correspondence to Larry Cooley.

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An earlier and summarized version of this article was published as a Brookings blogpost:

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Cooley, L., Papoulidis, J. Tipping the Scales: Shifting from Projects to Scalable Solutions in Fragile States. Development 60, 190–196 (2017).

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  • Scaling
  • Fragile states
  • Social contract
  • Social capital
  • Resilience
  • Wave sequence