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In the Lion’s Mouth

Posted by Susan Beccio Monday, November 1, 2010

Thomas Elhaut, Director, does not mince words when talking about 'scaling up' investment in rural development at the IFAD Asia-Pacific annual performance review event in Nanning, China. "I think that we need to believe in what we do and have the courage to speak about it."

Scaling up a project can mean a variety of things with an even larger variety of results. It can mean injecting an innovative development project with more money to reach a larger basin of participants. It can mean widening the geographical reach of the project or even using it as a model to be replicated in another country. It can also mean designing a second phase of the project that includes high profile investors from other development funds and from the private sector.

"One has to accept that things will take time," says Nigel Brett, Country Portfolio Manager for Bangladesh. "Not all innovations succeed, and not all innovations are 'upscaled'. Maybe after 5 years you realize that it is a 'boutique project' and it is not practical to upscale. One has to be aware when something is not working, it is important to have that learning approach."

Some IFAD-funded projects that were immensely successful in the first phase turned out to be less than successful when taken out of context. It is important to keep in mind cultural differences even within a country's borders.

"In the design phase, a project has to be matched to the local culture and tradition," says Qaim Shah, Country Programme Officer for Pakistan.

Also, social capital can be the driving force behind a project and this may get lost when a project is expanded and some of the original players are no longer involved.

None advocate for acting recklessly. "Keep it small, go undetected, test it out and when it proves successful, use the results to influence policy," says Thomas Elhaut.

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