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News & Events Scaling – Definition, strategies and challenges to inform a learning agenda
Scaling – Definition, strategies and challenges to inform a learning agenda
Scaling – Definition, strategies and challenges to inform a learning agenda

Scaling is at the heart of both the name as well as the strategy of LAND-at-scale (LAS). Scaling and scaling potential are key in the way the program was designed and is reflected in the three pillars chosen to realize the aim of the program. The first pillar is about scaling successful initiatives and projects; the second pillar focuses on land governance innovations with scaling potential; and the third pillar covers knowledge management, with a focus on gaining a deeper understanding on the conditions required to make scaling successful. In this blog, we explore how scaling is approached by the project partners and what challenges they experience and envisage in scaling their initiatives. These insights, which are based on interactions between the project partners during the LAND-at-scale exchange event in June 2022, will guide the knowledge management partners in supporting scaling at project and program level.



Scaling in the context of the LAND-at-scale program is defined as increasing the application of a successful strategy or innovation that has contributed to an improvement in land governance. This is place in a wider context that includes elements such as structural and sustainable change; attention for the enabling environment; adding value to ongoing processes; incorporation into inclusive and multi-stakeholder approaches; and/ or following and adhering to global standards and best practices (e.g. VGGT, Fit-for-purpose land administration). [1] This can be done in different geographies, contexts an/or with regards to other target groups. During the LAS exchange, project partners agree that scaling is about more than numbers, such as hectares registered or community members reached. Crucial for project partners is the sustainability of the intervention, making sure that the structures established or supported are resilient, and that impacts bring about structural change. Scaling and sustainability need to incorporate the interests of different groups, such as women, youth but also traditional leaders or refugees.


The pertinent role of government

LAND-at-scale partners are unanimous in recognizing the central role of government to achieve better land governance at scale: in particular for the implementation of legal reforms, the development of a supporting policy and institutional framework, and ensuring a capable cadre of civil servants. Buy-in from government for the interventions is essential for institutional embedding to achieve sustainable results at scale. But, whereas project partners are conscious of the importance of government, they also identify potential challenges. These relate in particular to institutional complexity with overlapping jurisdictions, and limited resources and capacity within (local) government institutions. Training of officials is often a temporary stop-gap as skills development could also spur a brain drain. IT-professionals, required for the sustained operation and maintenance of land administration systems are a particular example of this.

LAND-at-scale projects focus an important part of their activities on local level processes. This approach aligns with decentralization reforms, and allows for higher levels of inclusion by local communities. Local authorities are capacitated as part of the interventions, promoting their legitimacy and service delivery. But, “the success of such an approach depends largely on progress made in the reform of national framework conditions. Local authorities cannot be expected to become trusted and legitimate institutions if they lack basic levels of autonomy and reliable funding (fiscal resources) nor can they be expected to deliver social accountability to citizens ”.[2] To scale initiatives with local authorities, it needs to be clear what the motivation behind the approach is: enabling local authorities to implement national policies, or empower them to conceive and implement a set of local public policies?



The local level approach poses other scaling challenges to project partners. Interventions can be adapted to the local reality, for example in community mapping activities. But, this immediately poses the question, how to implement such locally adapted interventions in other localities? Local adaptation is time-consuming, and requires resources. A project implementation period of 3 years often allows for adaptation to a limited number of contexts and realities. Although bottom-up approaches can in theory be designed with a scaling vision, the practicality of scaling such interventions is more difficult.

A second challenge, which again speaks to the local realities, is that of legal pluralism. Most LAND-at-scale interventions take place in a situation where statutory and customary law co-exist. Not only does this complicate the implementation of LAND-at-scale interventions, it may also hamper the scalability as customary legal practices differ across locations. The inclusion of traditional systems of governance can increase the legitimacy of an intervention, e.g. in dispute settlement, but aligning traditional and formal justice systems remains a challenge. Such elements of power and legitimacy need to be carefully addressed, and will differ according to the locality.


Strategies by LAND-at-scale

In the design of the LAND-at-scale program, the above aspects have been considered carefully. This has led to elements that aim to address the identified challenges. LAND-at-scale interventions have incorporated scaling as an objective from their inception and first insights into scaling opportunities are emerging. Some interventions build on successful pilots, such as in Burundi and Uganda. In other countries approaches that have proven themselves are being combined for increased impact, for example linking land registration with dispute resolution (Rwanda), legal empowerment (Mozambique) or land-use planning (Colombia) activities. A thorough inception phase, to map the context and establish links with a range of stakeholders forms part of most LAND-at-scale interventions, together with a transparent approach[3].

Project partners have built different scaling strategies into their projects. Capacity building is a key tool implemented by many project partners. Civil servants, community leaders, and local dispute resolution organizations are often identified as target groups, but also surveyors in Colombia, and IT professionals in Rwanda. A train-the-trainer approach is applied as a strategy to reach a large number of people in an efficient manner. “Beneficiaries” of the interventions are also organized into collectives, in order to reach a higher number of people efficiently.

As mentioned, the first pillar for scaling within the LAND-at-scale program is to build onto successful initiatives. Lessons from these initiatives have been integrated into the formulation of the LAND-at-scale intervention. They are also captured and documented as part of the knowledge management program to make them available for other stakeholders. Similarly, several project partners will compile Standard Operating Procedures, manuals and other documents for other actors to use when rolling out similar interventions.

A third strategy is engagement with multiple stakeholders to share lessons and scale tested approaches. This goes beyond implementors, and involves other donors and community organizations. National government is considered a key actor to reach land governance improvement at scale. In the LAND-at-scale projects, engagement with local authorities is motivated by national policy frameworks. Through close collaboration with Dutch embassies, communication with host governments is kept open.

LAND-at-scale knowledge management partners will engage in desk research on existing knowledge regarding scaling in international development and natural resource management. It will look into aspects identified in this blog, such as different scaling strategies, contextualization vs generalization, how to shift from donor funding to more diversified funding strategies, how to create an enabling environment for scaling, and what are the risks related to scaling? This will not only inform LAND-at-scale partners, but also the wider land governance community. If you have an interest in exchanging with us on this topic, please send an email to And keep an eye out for our future events and publications on scaling land governance!



[1] LAS Internal scaling document based on initial LAS interventions in countries.

[2] European Centre for Development Policy Management (2021): Position paper on Inclusive Governance, p18. Available on

[3] Vintges, T. and Meij, L. (2021): Where bottom-up and top-down meet: Challenges in shaping sustainable and scalable land interventions. Paper presented at FIG e-working week 21-25 June 2021. Available on Land Portal

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