Blog: The Six Innovation Stages  

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GIE uses the six innovation stages as defined in Insights on Scaling Innovation by the International Development Innovation Alliance (IDIA*). It is important for social entrepreneurs or innovators to accurately select the right innovation stage on an innovation profile on GIE to the best of your ability.  

For each stage, the IDIA guide also lists the following factors that funders and other scaling partners look at when reviewing innovators/implementers: (i) Vision for achieving desired impact at scale, (ii) Direct evidence of effectiveness, (iii) Evidence of market/community demand and the innovator’s own incentives to scale, (iv) Scaling timeframe, (v) Financial management and accountability mechanisms, (vi) Team capacity, experience and expertise and, (vii) Monitoring and evaluation tools and capacity. 


The six stages of innovation: What they are & identifying the right innovation stage 


While we hope that the descriptions of scaling stages below will be useful to you, it is also important to recognize that distinguishing between these phases does not mean that scaling phases always cleanly follow one another in a linear fashion, as (for example) modifications that occur during the ‘Transition to Scale’ phase could require further ‘Proof of Concept’ testing before the innovation progresses to ‘Scaling’ and beyond. Similarly, the boundaries between these stages are porous and will often overlap in practice.

That said, not only can identifying your innovation’s scaling stage be a helpful input for your public GIE profile and for raising the visibility of your innovation, but it can also help you gain insight on the journey your innovation has taken so far and where you will go next. 


Stage 1: Ideation

You are defining and analyzing the development problem and generating ideas for potential innovations to address the problem. 

Your innovation is at this stage if...you don’t have one specific innovation you are working on, but have defined the problem that you are seeking to address and have potential solutions. 

Stage 2: Research & Development

You are developing a specific innovation that has the potential to address a development problem you've identified. 

Your innovation is at this stage if...you have one specific innovation you are working on to address a specific problem. You clearly know the problem and whom/where you’re developing the innovation for as well as have some ideas for the exact innovation and how the innovation work. You have also defined some key questions that you need to answer in order to understand the viability of the innovation as a solution to the problem.

Stage 3: Proof of Concept

The intellectual concept behind this innovation has been field-tested to gain an early 'real-world' assessment of its potential.

Your innovation is at this stage if...your innovation is beyond early development, its main components have already been tested in the real world in a low- or middle-income country and you can articulate its potential technical, organizational and financial viability based on the test(s). 

Stage 4: Transition to Scale

This innovation has demonstrated small-scale success and you're developing the business model and attracting partners to help fill gaps in your capacity to scale.

Your innovation is at this stage if...your innovation has demonstrated at least small-scale success in the real world and you are working on it’s scaling plan including refining the business model and developing necessary partnerships to support you by filling gaps (technical, financial) in your capacity to scale. 

Stage 5: Scaling

You are replicating and/or adapting this innovation across large geographies and populations for transformational impact.

Your innovation is at this stage if...your innovation is already on it’s scaling journey. You will have chosen among various possible scaling pathways - selecting not only a public (government) and/or commercial (private sector) route to scale and identified relevant partners for support but also specified the pathway within this domain - e.g. deciding between horizontal scaling (expanding impact through replication), vertical scaling (changing the policy/institutional environment through higher level influencing), functional scaling (expanding the functional scope of an innovation, e.g. adding TB and Malaria interventions to an innovation focusing on HIV/AIDS) or a hybrid of these.

Stage 6: Sustainable Scale

This innovation has reached wide-scale adoption or operation at the desired level of scale/exponential growth, sustained by an ecosystem of actors.

Your innovation is at this stage if...your innovation has achieved scale. This means that your innovation has reached a desired level of scale or growth, and that you are tackling, “longer-term questions that arise regarding how to manage the process while it operates at scale, whether it is sustainable (financially, politically, etc.), and how to navigate as the environment changes (partners, competitors, policy/regulatory frameworks or infrastructure, etc).

* International Development Innovation Alliance (IDIA) is a unique collaboration platform that brings together the senior leadership from the innovation teams, labs and departments of some of the world’s leading development agencies such as Australian Department for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Affairs Canada, GIZ, Global Innovation Fund, Grand Challenges Canada, Rockefeller Foundation, SIDA, DFID, UNDP, UNICEF, USAID and the World Bank Group.


Read how you can demonstrate your innovation stage via your innovation profile on GIE.