Scaling Up Doesn’t Equal Scaling Impact

Scaling Up Doesn’t Equal Scaling Impact

A healthy economy is made up of many small, healthy enterprises, says Andy Horsnell

Scaling up a social enterprise can be an effective way to increase impact. But in Canada, it’s more the exception than it is the rule, says Andy Horsnell.

“When I think of scaling up, I think of the global south,” explains the social enterprise consultant with Common Good Solutions in Nova Scotia.

Andy thinks this global pattern occurs because large-scale social enterprises happen in countries where the formal social safety net is not in place and social enterprises play a role that might otherwise be played by government agencies in countries like Canada.

The exceptionality of large-scale companies among social enterprises in Canada is comparable to proportions seen in the private sector, he adds. It’s just that there are more private companies overall.

When pegged with the choice between scaling through many small enterprises or a few big ones, Andy advocates for the former.

“I’m in the 'small-is-beautiful' camp,” he says. “That doesn’t mean small and unprofessional, it means a recognition that most local economies live and die on a diverse collection of diverse enterprises.

“I think it’s reflective of what a healthy local economy is made up of — a bunch of small, healthy enterprises, versus — to pick an extreme counterpoint — a one-industry town with a mine that goes to massive scale. When that goes under, the whole town dies.”

For many community-based nonprofits, the goal is to focus on the quality of what the organizations offer the community rather than quantity, he adds.

“That is the aspiration for most non-profit social enterprises, but also of most private companies. Most small businesses want to serve the local market really well without aspirations to grow.

“Scaling up is often accepted as a given that it’s a good thing. For some, it is. But I think the goal needs to be scaling impact, not the enterprise,” he says.

This article is part of an ENP-CA news inquiry in scaling up social enterprise. To learn more, click here.

To engage via Twitter, use the hashtag #scalingupsocent.

A version of this article was originally written for the Enterprising Non-profits Canada news service. This repost, for which we received permission, follows the style guidelines of the original post. To learn more about generative newsroom options for your organization or community, please contact peter(at)

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