The Challenge

In 2019, after 2 years in operation, The Human Safety Net recognised that emergent social innovations supported across the countries in which it operated had the potential for transformative, large scale impact with the appropriate tools and resources. This recognition was borne out of the deep links that The Human Safety Net and local Generali representatives had with social innovators in their community, which allowed for targeted support and in-depth knowledge of supported organisations. The challenge was to sustain the richness and strength of the social innovations already supported around the world, and at the same time the need for targeted, structured efforts to support them beyond traditional grant making. Up until then, organisations received funding by local Generali group entities as well as THSN global. By creating the Scale-up Impact programme, these organisations could access greater amounts of funding made available by THSN global as well as a dedicated scaling support track designed together with Ashoka.

The Practice

Local social innovators lacked the funding and expertise to scale what were very effective actions, and the level of support and coordination with other partners THSN could provide was seen as critical building block to enable the initiatives to grow.

Thus, as a final step THSN decided to create a central mechanism that could further support the scaling of those social innovations that across all THSN locations had the desire and capabilities to do so, as Social Scaling was identified as a key model to further enhance the desired impact of THSN network, as well as the most effective deployment of a corporate entities resources and expertise.

This required both financial resources and accurate planning, identifying the appropriate mechanisms that could guide organisations over a 3 year scaling programme. This meant designing engagement throughout the three years and continuous personalised capacity building activities, impact assessments, and co-funding efforts.

The key elements of the process are 1) RfP launch, open to all THSN partners, 2) concept note submission, by local NGO with support from loca THSN team, 3) full proposal, including co-funding pledges, 4) expert panel review, assessing and scoring NGOs, 5) Due Diligence checks on shortlisted applicants, 6) final selection by THSN global board and 7) Programme launch.

Overall, the process lasts 7 months.


THSN has invested 7 million euros over a 3 year period starting in 2019. Up to now, the scale-up impact programme has reached 8 organisations in 8 countries over two years, supporting each one with three year grants of up to 800.000 Euros. Collectively, these organisations are now reaching more than 16,000 people.

Scale-up impact recipients have also been able to leverage an additional 4.8Mln Euros in co-funding to support ongoing scaling efforts.

Insights / Advice to Peers

The process was designed from the start to engage all relevant stakeholder, ensuring adequate and widespread buy in from them, which is a critical element to ensure the effectiveness of the scale-up mechanism selected by NGO partners. THSN teams worked in close coordination to ensure NGO partners were well prepared for the application and prepared all necessary support. A strong ecosystem approach was key for the successful execution and following impact of the programme, allowing partners to find their own approach to scaling thanks to a wide pool of support, funding and expert advice. Our three key pieces of advice for others looking to launch their own scaling programme would be:

  • Carefully map out the user journey one expects the ngo applicants to go through, in order to understand when/where to provide additional support and how to plan for the future of the relationship with them.
  • Focus on selecting partners with significant expertise in scaling social innovations, in order to provide the best possible support to partner who are selected. This also means scrutinising proposals very closely, focusing on the proposed end-game and the overall plan of the organisation.
  • The long term sustainability of NGO partner should be considered once the relationship has ended, working with the ngo and other partners in its ecosystem to ensure they have access to additional long term co-funding.

Further Resources


Stefano Rovelli

Manager, Programs & Social Innovation

The Human Safety Net, Generali