Government insights on the journey to sustained impact at scale

Sustaining impact through government is a critical pathway to scale for many social impact organizations. But what do government partners advise on how to do so successfully?

Governments bring networks and infrastructure to reach more people, authority over public spending and an understanding of their population’s needs and values. As such, many social impact organizations believe the government is best placed to scale and sustain the impact of solutions over the long-term, particularly in low-resource settings.

However, effectively and sustainably transitioning solution ownership to government is complex, particularly when navigating the challenges of shifting resource-constrained settings.

There is recognition that to do so successfully requires strong partnership between all the stakeholders involved – government, social impact organizations and funders – but these different organisations do not always have the same priorities, and government perspectives can be diluted or lost.

Through Spring Impact’s work with VillageReach – an international non-profit that transforms health care delivery to reach everyone – we have been developing a Learning Network to bolster knowledge around how to successfully embed solutions into government systems. Recognising that government voices are insufficiently heard, we have a particular goal to ensure government input into building this knowledge.

We recently hosted a webinar – in partnership with VillageReach and Devex – which shared insights from voices across governments in Cameroon, Ethiopia and Uganda, on how to partner effectively with government to scale social impact.

What are the key things government partners advise to think about when scaling with government?

Align priorities

Donor-funded solutions and innovations must support government priorities and strategic plans. This requires co-developing solutions with government from the outset. In some cases, funders and social impact organizations may be trying to address an area that they believe is important but which there is limited awareness or understanding of, so is not a current government priority. Social impact organizations and funders therefore need to raise awareness and advocate for the issue area if they want government to prioritize it in the future.

As Dr. Martina Lukong Baye, coordinator of the National Multisector Program to Combat Maternal, Newborn & Child Mortality at the Cameroon Ministry of Public Health says: “Governments have so many competing priorities and never enough resources … so it’s very, very important that right from the beginning the government is involved in the way an innovation is being proposed.” 

Ensure broad engagement

Partnerships need to be formed across government agencies. This may include different ministries (i.e. finance, health, justice). Organizations need to think about how best to engage everyone from government leaders to technical teams at the national and local levels, as well as across different sectors.

Dr. Baye highlighted the need for this: If you don’t engage all the necessary partners when you carry out the pilot, when the pilot ends everything crumbles. That’s not something that anyone wants to see after investing. So make sure you take the time to engage all the necessary partners and work together. I know, it’s time consuming, but you need to be patient to achieve sustainability.”

Build trust

True partnerships require patience, empathy, flexibility and transparency, and building these relationships takes time, listening and mutual understanding.

Joram Patrick Mugisha, assistant commissioner-Innovations & Intellectual Property Managament in the Uganda Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation explains: “You need to be flexible. And to really realize that if [government, funders and social impact organizations] want to work together and achieve the common good that each of them thinks would be for the good of all… then openness has to exist between the three parties”

Prove impact

The government needs rigorous evidence of impact to be willing to invest resources. Funders should be prepared to support robust evaluation, to help governments invest resources in solutions that can have sustainable impact at scale.

 Dr. Daniel Gebre-Michael Burssa, chief of staff of the Ethiopian State Minister’s Office for the Federal Ministry of Health explains: “if you want to have sustainable impact at the national level, the government will ask for project impact evidence. It’s essential to have a strong evidence base.”

Consider accountability

Government accountability will ultimately come from two sources – higher-level political leadership, and the community who elects them. Social impact organizations and funders can play a role in empowering communities, helping create the tools and structures to enable them to hold the government to account against commitments.

Dr. Burssa explains: “ I’m sure that a lot of the government has accountability from the parliament … but they don’t have accountability from the community side. The community should be the one who the government is accountable to, and is ultimately who will elect them ….. For example, in our context we have a community scorecard, which involves the community in evaluating the health care system”

For further insights listen to the full discussion – held as a Skoll World Forum virtual ecosystem event.

Through the Learning Network, we are also hoping to help source, develop, test and share tools and best practices that all stakeholders can use to increase the likelihood that innovations will achieve sustained impact at scale. Our first tool – a ‘journey to sustained impact at scale’ – will build on this panel session, considering the milestones towards successful government ownership. We are looking for funders, social impact organizations or government participants who may be interested in co-developing the tool over the coming months. Please email meg@springimpact.org to participate.

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