Findings from the Scale Academy – Forging Ahead: Early Lessons

April 1, 2009  • Elaine Edgcomb, Joyce Klein &

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Achieving greater scale has been one of the primary challenges facing the microenterprise industry for more than a decade. By the late 1990s, the microenterprise field had grown to several hundred practitioner organizations, which served an average of 200 clients per year. Driven by recognition that there were an estimated two million entrepreneurs who might benefit from services but were unable to access them, the field over the ensuing years engaged in a number of efforts to spur growth.

Those efforts yielded sporadic but not widespread success. At the same time, they and other efforts within the Community Development Financial Institutions industry yielded many lessons about the paths to and prospects for scale. As such, in 2005 the Citi Foundation – a long-time supporter of the microfinance industry both in the U.S. and internationally – asked FIELD and the Association for Enterprise Opportunity to take a new look at what it would take to advance scale in the U.S. Together FIELD and AEO conducted an extensive literature review and survey on the subject, and from this work emerged the Scale Academy for Microenterprise Development.

The Scale Academy, funded by the Citi Foundation and the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and managed by FIELD and AEO, is a three-year initiative to support a set of highperforming microenterprise organizations that demonstrated a commitment to scaling up their operations to serve more clients. Launched in 2007, the Academy provides a combination of operational grants targeted toward organizational capacity, technical assistance and peer learning opportunities to the participating grantees.