The ‘Scaling up for System Change’ phase is a time of movement and consolidation. Partners are learning about what works and are looking for how this can be supported to grow or embed into business as usual. There is momentum that change is possible. Government’s role in this phase will typically include: connector, promoter and champion and scaling investor.
This phase will raise some challenges and pressures, as partners are more cognisant of what needs to change. There may be concern that what has been learned is lost if it is expanded or embedded into ongoing practice. Skills and expertise in what and how to scale new ways of working or embedding processes as business as usual are key during this phase. Government is increasingly recruiting these skills in or looking to build them. You may be able to draw on this expertise for the group, or source project funding.
You could also support the group by promoting what is being learned across government. Laying the foundations supports readiness for, and openness to, what is being learned. Building escalation and problem-solving forums with senior decision-makers will enable quicker solution brokering, and may act to protect the work when the increasing levels and impact of innovation challenge the status quo.
Typically, at this time funds are needed to expand a prototype idea to a pilot or to evaluate the work to provide an evidence base that supports take up by government or other partners. You may be able to support access to discretionary funds to support scaling. Not all activities require funds and some practice changes can be absorbed into business as usual. However, evidence of impact is still likely to be needed to support adoption of practice change.
Government has a high threshold of what constitutes evidence, although there is an openness to case studies that include data and qualitative evidence from people with lived experience demonstrating the changes achieved. You could support the partnership to demonstrate the rigour of the action learning process the group has taken for a government audience, linking the achievements to government priorities.
You will likely experience strong advocacy for greater flexibility in how government does business. For example, partners may suggest pooled funding or outcomes-based funding to create more flexibility in how services work together and to reduce the reporting burden. There are great examples of these approaches across Australia and New Zealand that you can look to.
During this phase be mindful of:
- How you can support momentum: for many partners, including you, this work is additional to their ‘day job’. To maintain momentum, you can build relationships and connections behind the scenes to smooth the path to known needs such as data, funding or connections.
- Identifying funding sources: sometimes partnerships just need funds to test ideas and build an evidence base. An innovation fund would enable groups to apply as needed. Large amounts are not necessarily needed, but timeliness matters to maintain momentum.
- How lessons can be picked up by government: you may need to work with your government colleagues to map out a pathway or process to support the sharing and/or take up of ideas by government at the local level.
- Those whose role is to maintain the status quo: those whose job is to protect the current system may resist change, particularly in place-based approaches where their jurisdiction is broader than the community that is advocating for locally relevant approaches. Government is often labelled this way, however those who see their role as protecting the status quo are everywhere. The common ground and pathway to change and shifting this mindset will be ‘better outcomes’.