Scaling Up Through Aid: The Real Challenge


At the Gleneagles Summit in 2005, leaders of the G8 group of nations committed to increase aid to poor nations by $50 billion per year. During the same year, in a meeting in Paris, donors promised to coordinate their interventions for more effective delivery. These commitments are now often referred to as the promise of donors to “scale up aid.” Increasing aid flows and improving coordination are indeed important goals and, in fact, goals that donors seem to have trouble meeting. The international donor community met this fall in Accra and will meet in Doha in November 2008 to review progress with this aspect of scaling up aid, and it is hoped that they will recommit to meet the ambitious targets set three years ago.

Scaling up aid is only one of the challenges that donors face. A more important challenge is to “scale up through aid,” meaning that aid flows should not merely support short-lived, one-time and partial development interventions—pilot projects, short-term technical assistance, programs that only address part of the problem, but leave major bottlenecks unaddressed—but should support projects, programs and policies that scale up successful interventions in a country, region or globally to reach the entire target population. Scaling up means that programs are long-term and sustained and that external support is aligned with country needs and deals comprehensively with the development challenges—often by working in partnership with other donors and pooling resources. This is the scaling up challenge that donors should address head-on, but so far have not.

This policy brief reports on the findings of an in-depth review of the literature and practice of scaling up development interventions and focuses on the role that aid donors can play in supporting scaling up for effective development. It stresses that successful scaling up with external assistance means that donor agencies need to: work with a vision and leadership; help create the political constituencies for large-scale implementation; create linkages among project, program and policy interventions; strengthen the institutional capacity of the implementing entities; provide for effective incentives and accountabilities of their own staff and management; work together with each other; monitor and evaluate the progress of programs with special attention to the scaling up dimension; and finally make sure they focus on effective preparation and flexible implementation of the scaling up process. While this is a long-term agenda, donors can take a few practical steps right away that will provide a basis for a more ambitious effort over time.