Seed-Scale: A Universal Process for Community Change

SUMMARY: There are no universal solutions for cultural, economic, and ecological sustainability, but there is a universal process to identify local solutions. The Seed-Scale process enables communities to gather their own human energies and invent sustainable solutions that expand to more communities.

PROBLEM SPACE: Seed-Scale addresses core challenges to international development and conservation: 1) how to sustain and evolve appropriate local solutions, 2) how to scale up local successes across regions and nations, 3) how to reach the poorest 20 percent of humanity that has been excluded from conventional development approaches.

SOLUTION: Seed-Scale has been used by communities and governments to create large nature preserves (as in Tibet, China), rapid social change (as in India), extend health services (as in Peru), or help countries rebound from conflict (as in Afghanistan).

For example, in Afghanistan, communities in Hazarajat, one of the country’s poorest regions, used Seed-Scale to organize more than 500 literacy classes teaching approximately 15,000 women in local homes and mosques. Communities used locally available assets to create a low-cost and culturally appropriate solution to increase women’s literacy. A parallel health training program reduced child mortality by 46 percent.

In Peru, Future Generations used Seed-Scale to guide the Ministry of Health in creating a community-based health system. Today, 2,158 communities co-managed health care facilities. This approach is self-sustaining because health center revenues are reinvested back into local health programs. Quality expands through regional centers of action learning and demonstration.

Four principles underlie the Seed-Scale process. When communities and governments employ these principles, solutions evolve to fit local circumstances.

1) Build from Success: Strengthen what is working
2) Create Three-way Partnerships: among communities, government, and outside change agents
3) Make decisions based on evidence, not opinions
4) Seek behavior change as the primary outcome

Using these principles, communities determine their own priorities and focus on practical solutions through the implementation of simple, one-page workplans.

Successful communities become regional centers for action learning and experimentation that can rapidly train others. Successful communities in this second wave become extension sites themselves, and so on, creating an exponential expansion of iterative change.