The challenge

Our global society faces complex, large-scale and urgent development and sustainability challenges. There are many organisations trying to tackle them, and there are plenty of great ideas and solutions out there; but collectively we’re still struggling to have positive impact at scale, and fast enough, to truly make a difference.


What we did

Forum for the Future and Shell Foundation worked together to develop a better understanding of the role of market-based solutions in addressing development and sustainability challenges, and to find practical ways to scale up the most effective approaches for greater impact.

Our research included a review of existing insights, additional desk research and in-depth interviews. We also held a series of high-level workshops in the UK, the US and India involving leading organisations - from NGOs and foundations to businesses and development agencies - who are applying, or are interested in applying, systemic approaches to creating change. Our aim was to:

  • Understand more about cutting-edge practice, what works and why, by learning from pioneering organisations and initiatives, both past and present;
  • Pull together and share the insights in a way that helps others to achieve greater impact by taking effective solutions to scale
  • Accelerate the shift in how businesses and foundations address tricky sustainability and development challenges

As a result, we have developed a toolkit including a framework for achieving impact at scale through market-based solutions, together with an analysis of common barriers to progress, a set of insightful stories and case studies, and recommendations and possible routes for further action.



Phase 1 provided a toolkit to help both individual organisations and coalitions to plan, design and deliver deliberate, systemic change for impact at scale, and to overcome barriers to progress. The project also bought together a wide range of organisations at the cutting edge of systemic change, including Forum partners and others, who are continuing the conversations about how to scale up their impact on various big challenges.

Phase 2 is currently under development, so watch this space...



"Social innovation does not happen easily and, as this study shows, achieving scale or replication at an industry level is rare.  If you want to achieve lasting global impact you need to take a systemic approach to test new ideas and to build new markets around those that work – and that means looking beyond short-term projects to far more effective forms of cross-sector collaboration.”
Chris West, Director, Shell Foundation


Get involved

To find out more about the project, or how to get involved with Phase 2, please contact Geraldine Gilbert by email or call +44 (0)207 324 3639.


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Image courtesy of mckaysavage via Flickr (CC)

Partners involved in this project