Scaling up inclusive approaches to complex social change

23rd November 2022
Author: Becky Carter

Aid, Disability, Gender, Participation, Rights

Sustainable Development Goals

10.  Reduced Inequality, 5.    Gender Equality

This Learning Package presents research and evidence on how to scale up approaches to shift discriminatory social norms that drive inequalities and impede progress on the Sustainable Development Goals.


Tackling violence against women and girls and improving opportunities for people with disabilities are fundamental challenges for the Sustainable Development Goals’ ’Leave No One Behind agenda’. In 2017, the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) identified critical gaps in learning and know-how on scaling up and maximising development impact and value for money in these areas.

Many interventions addressing harmful social norms have been implemented as small-scale projects. There are limited experiences of scaling up successful interventions to reach more people in the same or new locations, and fewer evaluations of these experiences.

Running from the end of 2017 to mid-2019, a K4D Learning Journey focused on generating deeper learning on “Scaling up inclusive approaches to complex social change”. It investigated approaches to shift social norms that underpin the discrimination, exclusion and violence that prevents women, girls, and people with disabilities from participating and benefiting equally from development and development interventions. This learning package presents the main outputs of that Learning Journey.


The evidence base is small. However, there is relevant learning from a larger literature on scaling up development interventions in other sectors – and some experience of applying this to inclusive change interventions. There are also some frameworks that have been developed to guide normative change interventions, and some reviews of scaling up these types of interventions. Looking across this literature, the K4D’s Emerging Issues Report ‘Scaling Up Inclusive Approaches for Marginalised and Vulnerable People‘ identifies commonly cited scale-up pathways.

Scaling up complex, context-specific, normative change approaches faces particular challenges. Understanding these should guide the design of scalable inclusive change interventions and their scale-up strategies, and pinpoint what needs to be nuanced from the mainstream scaling-up guidance and frameworks. Two key challenges are:

  • ‘Understanding how to maintain intervention quality and intensity while scaling up. Successful smaller social norm programmes often involve intensive relationship-building and committed activists, as well as nuanced contextual understanding of politics and power (Raising Voices, n.d.).
  • Understanding how international external actors (including international organisations) can appropriately support change that involves politically and socially sensitive issues and affect very personal aspects of others’ lives (Harper et al., 2018, pp. 35–36).’ (Original citations provided in the Guidance note on scaling up social norm change)

The resources below have been selected due to their relevance to the learning package. Explore them to strengthen your understanding of scaling up inclusive approaches to complex social change.

Two key outputs shared are:

  • A rapid review of the evidence on lessons learned and key challenges in scaling up inclusive change (2018). The review focused on transforming social norms as the central mechanism for inclusive social change and looked for evidence on interventions aiming to reach the most marginalised. Within these parameters, the review covers programmes aiming to deliver inclusive outcomes for women and girls (with a particular focus on preventing violence against women and girls) and persons with disabilities.
  • Guidance on scaling up social norm change (2019) for marginalised and vulnerable groups particularly women, girls and people with disabilities. A main guidance note and four briefs on (1) concepts and resources; (2) types of scale-up; (3) resourcing and value for money of scale-up; and (4) risk management and monitoring.

The workshops were recorded by two graphic illustrators who produced images representing the discussions and these are included in the learning package. In addition to these images, the learning package also includes a selection of relevant articles looking at developments prior to and since the workshops and reporting on developments across the region.


The resources below have been selected due to their relevance to the learning package. Explore them to strengthen your understanding of scaling up inclusive approaches to complex social change.