The mantra of “achieving scale” remains an elusive goal for those of us working in the global philanthropic and social enterprise sectors. What defines scale? Is it measured relative to the gap we seek to close?  For example, after nearly 30 years of experience, we know that microfinance does benefit people who are living under $2 a day.  Today, microfinance serves 150 million people.  But, how do we deliver services to the nearly 2.7 billion people in the world who are unbanked?  What is the right threshold to define scale and how do we get there?

The same questions could be posed to any number of gaps—access to secondary education, treatments for certain diseases, or clean water and sanitation—where we have effective tools but grapple with how to scale delivery of these solutions.  And, this isn’t just a funding issue. Arguably, achieving scale is fundamentally a design as well as a methodological challenge.  Therefore, it requires collective brainpower and collaboration of various stakeholders.  How we facilitate collaboration will influence breakthroughs in innovation and scale.

One unique approach that has enabled and celebrated collaboration is the Clinton Global Initiative. The forum is an ongoing action-dialogue involving leaders of countries, companies, foundations, NGOs, media as well as global citizens. As in any collaboration, success depends on a shared vision of a more integrated and equitable global community with shared accountability, values and benefits. 

The basis of any such collaboration must be trust among the partners, where there is a freedom to brainstorm, debate and ultimately improve ideas.  I find this practice healthy and helpful as we wrestle with how to scale solutions to education, financial services and employment for young people.  This encapsulates our foundation’s overall approach to partnership, and has enabled us to support quality and sustainable programs at scale.

This week, I am attending CGI’s annual meeting where I’ll join a panel discussion entitled “Youth Unemployment: The Next Great Global Challenge” and cover fresh approaches to create economic opportunities for young people.  Other ideas will be announced at CGI in the form of two new, measurable initiatives with our partners, the Equity Group Foundation and Camfed. Both will expand secondary education and build financial capacity of African youth and women.   

The insights and ideas I will discuss at CGI have been generated from best practices and current research, but most importantly from lively discussions and collaborative efforts with our partners. It is this partnership in action that will equip us to face the global challenges ahead, and think about how to respond with innovative and scalable solutions that will have measurable impact.