Guide to Path-to-Scale Awards

What is a Path-to-Scale award?

Four J-PAL initiatives,  the Digital Agricultural Innovations and Services Initiative (DAISI), the Innovations in Governance Initiative (IGI), the King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI), and the Learning for All Initiative (LAI), offer scaling funds to support technical assistance and/or research with government, NGOs, and/or the private sector focused on adopting evidence-informed solutions. These may range from early-stage proposals to more robust solutions ripe for implementation. Our goal is to contribute to the adoption at scale of evidence-informed solutions by public, non-profit, and private sector partners that reach millions of people by 2030.

What do we mean by evidence-informed?

Path-to-scale projects must focus on solutions supported by existing direct evidence from one or more randomized evaluations, at least one of which should have been conducted by a J-PAL affiliate or invited researcher and/or funded by a J-PAL initiative. Ideally, these existing RCTs would have a published paper, but if not, they must at least have a preliminary working paper.

Path-to-scale projects should also have strong commitment from their implementing partner and a scaling plan that applies evidence responsibly: 

  • Commitment to evidence use: A common requirement in all Path-to-Scale grants is that there should be explicit, demonstrated commitment by the implementing partner to use the work that comes out of these grants in their scaling decision around this evidence-informed solution. This could take the  form of past examples of using evidence to inform decision making, a formal letter of support from the partner that includes discussion about what policy question / scaling decision this work will answer for them, what financial or in-kind contribution they plan to make to this project, and the timeline they envisage for making the policy decision based on this work. 
  • Applying evidence responsibly: Drawing on evidence from randomized evaluations is not enough to determine whether a program is relevant and appropriate for a particular context and feasible for an organization to implement well. This also requires a deep understanding of theory, the local context and systems, and analysis of descriptive data. Such an understanding is often gained through the process of adapting the program model to local institutions and systems and then piloting one or more versions of it to see if high-quality implementation is feasible. Applications seeking to apply evidence in a new context should include a formal scoping process to work with the implementing partner to diagnose the problem and determine whether evidence is relevant, as well as a process for adapting and piloting the program model in the new context before scaling.

What do we mean by solutions?

  • Improving existing programs, policies, technologies, services, delivery mechanisms
  • Optimizing more cost-effective adaptations to existing solutions
  • Path-to-Scale interventions with original RCT implementing partner in the same context
  • Increasing wider uptake of effective solutions, adapting and scaling solutions to new geographies 
  • Encouraging policy changes or shifts based on insights from existing evidence
  • Scaling through public-NGO or public-private partnerships (i.e. NGO scaling through government infrastructure in partnership with government)

What are the three Path-to-Scale award types?

Graphic showing the continuity of activities between different Path-to-Scale project types (Adapt, Policy Pilot, and Full Scale-up)

Adapt, Policy Pilot, and Full Scale-up grants are characterized by certain activities. Adapt grants are for exploring a new context for an RCT-proved solution and Policy Pilots test out implementation of such a solution, while a Full-Scale-up grant is intended to apply that solution at scale in a well-tested system. However, many activities can bridge multiple grant types. 

Adapt (suggested period of performance: up to one year): The partner has identified the potential evidence-informed solution, but more work needs to be done before they can pilot a scalable version of it. These grants can be used to support the partner in designing and adapting evidence-informed programs, policies, or delivery mechanisms to their context and systems so that they are ready to begin piloting it. This can include collecting data about the nature and extent of a problem to determine whether potential solutions are relevant to the context.  

Example: Targeting Subsidies for the Poor: Electricity in Cape Town, South Africa uses the existing evidence base on the targeting of social assistance to inform the targeting of utility subsidies.

Policy Pilot (suggested period of performance: up to two years): The partner is ready to pilot the evidence-informed solution but would like technical support in either ensuring a pilot maintains fidelity to the program features that drove positive impacts in the RCT evidence basis, and/or monitoring pilot implementation quality. These grants can be used to support the partner in piloting and/or evaluating a scalable version of an evidence-based solution, including analyzing pilot results and if successful, helping the partner make a case for broader scale-up.

Example: Forest Conservation on a Budget: Redesigning Payments for Ecosystem Services in Mexico to Increase Cost-effectiveness pilots a modified Payments for Ecosystem Services contract and assesses impact on program take-up rates, avoided deforestation, and participants’ income.

Full Scale-up (suggested period performance: up to three years): The partner has already piloted a version of the evidence-informed solution in their context (either in an RCT or policy pilot) or elsewhere, with sufficient justification that the solution has been responsibly adapted and contextualized. The partner would like technical support in expanding the program more widely. The definition of “full scale” can be different depending on the context and the particular problem, but it can mean a large geographical reach (e.g., across a large city, a region, or a nation) or a large number of lives impacted (e.g., changing a global private organization’s practices). This grant can support a range of activities such as ensuring implementation and rollout protocols maintain fidelity to the key program features that drove positive impacts in the evidence base. 

Example: Market-Based Schemes for Air Pollutants is scaling India’s first emissions trading scheme (ETS) for air pollution, which the research team designed, implemented, and evaluated jointly with the Gujarat Pollution Control Board in the city of Surat, in the Indian state of Gujarat.

What kinds of activities do different Path-to-Scale grants typically entail?

  • Scoping research: Proposals can include scale-up scoping activities, including research and data collection to determine whether a scale-up is feasible, relevant, and appropriate in the specific context. (for adapt, policy pilot proposals)
  • Supporting solution design: Staff, NGO, or social enterprise technical support to the partner in designing and adapting the evidence-informed program, process, or delivery mechanism to pilot. (for adapt, policy pilot proposals)
  • Pilot implementation costs: Proposals can include some pilot implementation costs. K-CAI does not fund program implementation costs for a scale-up beyond the pilot phase, as this funding should be secured by the partner internally or from another third-party source. (for policy pilot proposals)
  • Capacity building: As long as they directly contribute to the scale-up of an effective innovation, proposals can include capacity-building activities to help the partner design monitoring and data systems to track their performance. Proposals must demonstrate why these activities are essential for achieving the end goal of reducing emissions and/or improving lives of people in poverty. (for adapt, policy pilot, full scale-up proposals)
  • Embedding staff: Hiring or seconding part- or full-time staff members with relevant expertise to work directly with the partner during the scaling process, either embedded in the partner’s office or just working closely with them (for adapt, policy pilot, full scale-up proposals)
  • Path-to-scale research: Grants can be used for path-to-scale research that builds on existing RCT evidence from completed (and ideally published) studies, such as replication trials that test previously-evaluated interventions in new contexts, as well as RCTs at scale to evaluate interventions previously tested at a small scale. The partner must have a strong commitment to using the evidence from at-scale research activities, and there must be a clear path to scale the intervention post-RCT. (for adapt, policy pilot, full scale-up proposals)
  • Monitoring and process evaluations: Data collection for process evaluations to monitor the implementation of program pilots, analyzing pilot results and if successful, helping the partner make a case for broader scale-up. (for policy pilot, scale proposals)
  • Scaling support: Providing technical support for scaling successful pilots and improving partner-owned monitoring and evaluation systems for scaled-up programs. (for full scale-up proposals)

The same activity can span multiple types of Path-to-Scale grants. For example, exploring the applicability of some evidence to a new context (Adapt) and testing a new implementation of existing evidence (Policy Pilot) will both require a deep understanding of the new context through a needs assessment and adjustment for the assessment’s findings through design adaptation. 


To learn more about applying to Path-to-Scale grants with any of the initiatives and to check eligibility, please visit the initiative webpage for the Innovations in Governance Initiative (IGI), the King Climate Action Initiative (K-CAI), or the Learning for All Initiative (LAI). If you are interested in applying to Path-to-Scale funding for Digital Agricultural Innovations and Services Initiative (DAISI), please reach out via email at [email protected]

Page Content