Why are we Failing in Scaling Up our Successful Pilot Projects?

My name is Dayaar Singla and I am an international exchange student from India’s National Academy of Legal Studies and Research (NALSAR) University of Law, Hyderabad. My interest in this course was piqued by Prof. Ball’s description of how this is a “class as a think-tank”. Further, it is extremely interesting for me to study the Foster Care System in California as the entire concept is extremely alien for someone from India. This helps me in providing an outsider’s perspective to the class discussions.

In my understanding, resolution of any policy issue follows a 4 step process which can be shown as:

While my colleagues will be working on identifying the various problems that exist with the Foster Care System in California and attempt to propose solutions to rectify some of them, I due to my lack of understanding of the US socio-cultural and political system have decided to look at a broader problem that policymakers seem to be facing. In a number of social programs, we seem to be coming across the replication crisis which has been previously documented in scientific research. While some solutions proposed at Stage II seem to give successful results when they are tested in a pilot project, policymakers seem to be failing in being able to replicate the results when these projects are scaled up.

Over the series of my blog posts, I will first be introducing the replication crisis, as has been observed in other fields; then I will analyze successful pilot projects which failed to replicate their success when they were scaled up and attempt to draw out the commonalities between them. Finally, I will try to provide best practices that might help policymakers in designing pilot projects which eliminate some of the commonly observed factors leading to their failure on being scaled up.

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