Adoption and scaling up

An experience capitalization process does not finish with the identification of specific lessons: its main objective is that these are put into practice. Yet this is not an easy or straightforward process: adoption is never a sudden event, but one which requires an individual or organization to learn about alternatives to a current practice (new knowledge), to form a favourable opinion about these alternatives (being persuaded and being convinced), and then to make the decision to try them out. This is a process that is generally known as the “adoption ladder”, and which includes five separate steps: awareness, interest, evaluation, trial and adoption.


A very important part of the process is presenting the lessons learnt, or the innovation which is to be tried, in a clear way. This calls for a detailed communications plan, where the team defines the channels and products, and also determine when, and how often, it will share information. Most important, they identify the target audience, and shape their message according to that they know, to what they think about its work, and to what they are already doing (knowledge, attitudes and practice).

But the way in which all lessons are presented is only one of the many factors that determine adoption. The “adoption ladder” will be influenced by the characteristics of the innovation itself: if it has a clear relative advantage, or if it is complex or easy to understand and follow. And it will also be shaped by the context in which an organization works (such as the availability of additional information, or the legal, social or cultural environment) and, most importantly, by your organization itself. In addition to having a clear objective, adoption is higher in organizations which have the means and the opportunities to do so.

Incorporating the lessons learnt into the existing work plans, or activities, can also be seen a stepwise process. Even if of a smaller scale, this is a “project” that starts by setting clear objectives and finishes with activities, a budget and the distribution of roles and responsibilities, but which, in between, pays attention to all the different factors mentioned above.

Linked to this, the term “scaling up” refers to the expansion or replication of an experience so that its impact is larger. It follows horizontal approaches (like expanding the coverage of a project or programme) or vertical ones, where an experience leads to policy changes that then influence the design and implementation of new projects. Both approaches are shaped by drivers, as the forces that push the process forward, and by spaces, as those aspects that make an enabling environment. And both approaches build on the experience itself, and on evidence of its benefits. Not all experiences are equally “replicable” nor “scalable”: those that have a higher “replicability index” are those which are simple, or which respond to the local context and to the demands of the local population.

And both a vertical or a horizontal approach will require the support of policymakers at the local, regional or national level. An organization will need to advocate in favour of an experience, and try to influence their actions. This will mean studying the policy making process, and developing a strategy that helps it reach policy makers and influence this process.

© 2018, CTA. Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation

CTA is a joint institution operating under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement between the ACP Group of States (Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific) and the EU Member States (European Union). CTA is funded by the European Union.