Submitted by eschneider on Tue, 11/09/2021 - 12:33
Lily Zandniapour

SCALER tool overview  

AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps volunteers serve communities and nonprofit organizations throughout the U.S. to tackle our nation’s most pressing civic challenges. We recognize that successfully scaling effective interventions can help improve the lives of more individuals and can benefit more communities. One of the most effective ways for AmeriCorps to expand our positive impact, bridge divides, and strengthen communities is by expanding the scale and reach of our most effective national service interventions.  

The AmeriCorps Office of Research and Evaluation created its Scaling Evidence-Based Models initiative with an independent research partner, Mathematica, in order to deepen understanding of our most effective program innovations, and to develop a framework for successful scaling of evidence-backed interventions. The evidence-based Scaling Programs with Research Evidence and Effectiveness framework provides insights into conditions that can help identify and support effective interventions that are ready to be scaled.  

From this framework, AmeriCorps invested in the development of a guidance document, and eventually, a web-based resource known as the Scaling Checklists: Assessing your Level of Evidence and Readiness tool to apply and translate research into action and to demonstrate successful scaling principles gathered from the research. The framework and SCALER tool are just two components of the Scaling Evidence-Based Models initiative. The project also includes additional technical reports, and resources like practitioner and funder guides and case studies that can be utilized throughout a community-based organization’s scaling progression to determine next steps.  

What does the SCALER tool do? 

AmeriCorps-awarded sponsors and grantees, as well as community-based organizations and practitioners, interested in increasing their impact within local communities can use the SCALER tool to assess readiness of a model or intervention to scale. The framework and its scaling checklists can be used to determine whether an intervention has sufficient evidentiary support of improving participant outcomes, and to establish intervention-level and organizational-wide processes and supports necessary for successful implementation.  

How does the SCALER tool work? 

The SCALER tool assists users in exploring whether their model is ready to scale and provides insight into programmatic implementation elements that can enhance scaling preparedness. It also identifies areas of growth and improvement that can facilitate readiness and success. This could save valuable time and resources when attempting to scale, while also offering additional resources toward supporting a community based organization’s goal of scaling.  

Before starting to use the SCALER tool, users must gather the information to answer “yes” to each of the following three questions and have it ready as a reference throughout interaction with the tool:   

  1. Are you familiar with any research studies that have been conducted on your intervention?  
  2. Do you have knowledge of your organization’s preparedness and support for building evidence for your intervention if needed? 
  3. Do you have a good understanding of your intervention’s core activities, target population, and implementation supports, along with your organization’s culture and infrastructure that can support scaling? 

If the answer to any of the questions above is no visit the additional SCALER resources section to determine next steps. If the answer to each of the questions above is yes, you’re ready to begin using the tool and progression through the steps to evaluate the likelihood of successfully scaling your intervention. 

The interactive framework consists of checklists that when completed help determine whether:  

  • The evidence of your intervention’s effectiveness meets industry standards for rigorous evaluation research; and 
  • The infrastructure, context, procedures, and processes in place will support successful scaling.  

Eight SCALER checklists 

The SCALER tool provides organizations with eight checklists to determine viability of successfully scaling an intervention. 

  • Checklist 1: Identifying an effective intervention 
  • Checklist 2: Building evidence of effectiveness 
  • Checklist 3: Specifying the intervention 
  • Checklist 4: Defining the target population 
  • Checklist 5: Establishing implementation supports 
  • Checklist 6: Having an enabling context  
  • Checklist 7: Establishing an implementation infrastructure  
  • Checklist 8: Summary checklist 

The takeaway from completing each checklist is a collection of detailed reports and responses that can:  

  • Identify activities your organization can take to enhance scaling readiness; and  
  • Address areas that need further attention, resources, or support with key stakeholders, organization leaders and funders.  

The framework, tool and the suite of products have more applications than simply community-based organization self-assessment. This evidence-based framework also can be used to gauge organizational progress over time by providing an entry token that can be saved to either update information or compare standing and capacity with a previous point in time assessment. The SCALER tool checklists give organizations an evidence-based and validated assessment tool to use when selecting interventions to fund and based on the likelihood of successful scaling of an intervention. A built-in worksheet supports staff discussion and input on strategies for improvement of program evidence, operations and stakeholder engagement. Finally, the resources embedded in the tool and the suite of resources inclusive of guides, case studies and recommendations, provides actionable information that improves program implementation and delivery, whether your community-based organization desires to scale or not. 

Scaling resources