“Beware the scale trap”. In a Letter To Philanthropists Parker Mitchell, a former CEO of Engineers Without Borders in Canada, advised potential donors that “scale is important, but don’t rush it. Most good ideas take time – to iron out the details, to bring down the costs, to be tested in different environments”. Organic demand-driven scale will happen in time, but it takes patience to find the right elements of a solution.
These lessons are exemplified by The Nubian Vault Association (AVN). With a mission is to serve the one hundred million people living in the Sahel region of West Africa who are either homeless, or live precariously in short-life structures, AVN has spent 16-years, on the ground, developing a multi-dimensional approach that works.
AVN’s pioneering work will be presented this week at the finals of the Place By Design competition at SXSWeco. Rather than a celebration of the past, it will share a challenge with the whole social impact community: What’s the best way to grow faster – a lot faster – without wrecking a system that has worked well so far?