June 25, 2008
Going to scale often entails replicating a program in new locations, but it can also involve efforts to expand a programs reach in existing locations, enabling it to have a greater effect on communities already being served. This was the case with Experience Corps, a Civic Ventures program that enlists older adults as volunteers to help strengthen literacy and other skills of elementary school students in low-income neighborhoods. Beginning in 2001, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies, Experience Corps embarked on a four-year initiative to expand in five cities. P/PV examined the five sites efforts to increase the size of their volunteer pool and expand to additional schools, manage their larger and more complex programs, and raise sufficient funds to meet annual goals and sustain growth.Growing Bigger Better considers how the sites initial readiness to expand, the organizational resources they possessed, and the receptivity of the external environment (i.e., the local school districts) shaped the sites progress. The report reflects on whether and how the local sites, and the program as a whole, benefited from the expansion effort, drawing out lessons that are relevant to other programs considering expansion. It concludes that while program expansion is a major undertaking, the Experience Corps expansion initiative clearly demonstrates how programs can become stronger, more energized and even more innovative through carefully planned and managed growth, and thus extend the benefits of their services to larger numbers of individuals and communities.