2.18: Scale: Big Change Is Needed – But How?

For episode eighteen of season two, Tim and Tuesday discuss what it means to take the work, and The Outside, to greater scale and longer lasting impact.


Together, Tim Merry and Tuesday Ryan-Hart are THE OUTSIDE—systems change and equity facilitators who bring the fresh air necessary to organize movements, organizations, and collaborators forward for progress, surfacing new mindsets for greater participation and shared impact.


NOTE TO LISTENERS: We recorded this podcast prior to COVID-19 but the question of how we scale our change work for greatest impact feels even more important. The global crisis has brought into sharp relief the need for systemic and structural change towards great equity. The short-term discomfort of change is better than returning to the long-term dysfunction of life prior to COVID-19. Let’s work together for it!




  • Tim: This week on the podcast we are going to talk about “scaling” – what it means to take the work to greater and greater scale. We are going to touch in on two things: (1) How we are going to greater scale with the clients and people we are working with on how we roll out change and graduate it to a level of scale where it really begins to impact the systems and organizational structures as a whole; and (2) The Outside is also going to scale.


  • Tues: One of the things I want to begin to interrupt, because it feels like right on the edge of our own learning, is that when we talk about greater and greater scale; the inference is that we somehow mean we’re “scaling up.” One of the things that we’ve been in really clear learning, and articulation of, is the idea that there are different kinds of scale. When we talk about scaling, we might be talking about “scaling impact,” but that does not mean getter bigger, etc. The first time I heard the difference between scaling up was with Deborah Frieze – scaling up vs scaling across… which is sharing learning out across an ecosystem. The scale of impact is felt because you are scaling across.


  • Tues: We are soon going to have Gabrielle Donnelly on the podcast and she and Bronagh Gallagher are really expanding our thinking on scaling. They talk about scaling up (how do we work with systems and structures), scaling across (across an organization), scaling deep (shifting culture and beliefs and assumptions) and scaling scree (scree are mountain pebbles – often when you begin to do this work, other pebbles begin to fall which you had no intention of falling).


  • Tues: For example, last year we did a project with a Core Team that launched 11 prototypes (small experiments such as layers of decision-making, mental health, purchasing processes) and created 8 recommendations from their learnings. This year, the work is around how do we institutionalize those recommendations. That is the scale we are at now.  The work has gone from a small group of people experimenting to having our work impact the system and people’s daily lives.


  • Tim: What I love about our approach is that it is graduated. It’s a far more organic style of change. It begins to build the culture of people being involved in designing their own futures and then implementing them. Ownership is all the way through the process.


  • Tues: As we are doing this particular work; it is important to be explicit that this is an iterative process and sets you up for the next iteration. In times of stress and regression, how do we remind folks that this is a different way of working. Part of our articulation can be that there is going to be a first wave and then we have to make decisions and the tendency may be to pull back. We have to keep facing forward and keep working.


  • Tues: We have another client who, over the past 18-months, has been focused on internal to their organization – what does it mean to work in this way, how do we want the organization to be working as a way to get ready to shift the very large system the organization is located within, which is a very large bureaucracy in the City of New York. After 18 months we are getting to the point where we are thinking of how do we open our eyes to the larger system and begin to think about how we would impact that. These folks have had 18 months to look inward before they begin to look outward.


  • Tim: Simultaneously to all of this happening to two of our biggest clients, The Outside itself is going through its own scaling. We started with you, me and Jen and now we are 16 people. Let’s be clear, we are not 16 people working full-time, that’s not our model. We are up to 50% of somebody’s time, with the assumption that they are doing something else in their lives that they want to be putting time into. The engagement with The Outside supports that – financially, intellectually, practically. Now, we are suddenly managing a large distributed team and trying to figure out how we maintain relationships with people who are spanning continents and how we do that over time. We also have people coming to us looking for work. A previous client has just brought the idea to us to open an office in Sweden. It’s just kinda crazy.


  • Tim: Beyond that, Bronagh has really brought to our attention climate emergency. As we grow, and we burn more and more carbon travelling to our clients, Bronagh is bringing this to our attention. How is this cooked into the model and how we turn up as we grow bigger and bigger? That is one of the reasons we want to create local teams in other parts of the world. But then maybe we need to become the cutting edge, global leader in online, remote-based systems change work because in 10 years we are going to be operating in a world of increasing crisis where travel becomes more limited.


  • Tues: What feels good about this idea of a particular issue, like climate justice, is that it feels like with the people we are bringing into the work – even if they don’t have the expertise around climate justice – they can get behind it because of what we stand for. If you’re an Outsider, and you’re committed to equity and justice, there is no resistance, there is only “okay, how do we pull up our sleeves and do this together.” The people part of the scaling is really important. As we get bigger, how do we stay together? How do we really stay together on this team, and the team continues and we push ourselves and the team reflects the world we want to see. It’s a little bit like Shared Work. Part of what keeps us together is our work with clients, but part of it is we can really rally around the idea of climate justice. There is something about this team having a gravitational pull of the work.


  • Tim: We’re all building this together. It’s kinda amazing!


Song: “Final Form,” by Sampa The Great


Quote rather than a poem: From the book “Games for Actors and Non-Actors” by Augusto Boel


“When so many certainties have become so many doubts, when so many dreams have withered on exposure to sunlight, and so many hopes have become as many deceptions—now that we are living through times and situations of great perplexity, full of doubts and uncertainties, now more than ever I believe it is time for a theatre which, at its best, will ask the right questions at the right times. Let us be democratic and ask our audiences to tell us their desires, and let us show them alternatives. Let us hope that one day—please, not too far in the future—we’ll be able to convince or force our governments, our leaders, to do the same; to ask their audiences—us—what they should do, so as to make this world a place to live and be happy in—yes, it is possible—rather than just a vast market in which we sell our goods and our souls. Let’s hope. Let’s work for it!”


Subscribe to the podcast now—in Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher or anywhere else you find podcasts. New episodes will be available every second Tuesday. If you’d like to get in touch with us about something you heard on the show, reach us at podcast@findtheoutside.com.


Find the song we played in today’s show—and every song we’ve played in previous shows—on the playlist. Just search ‘Find the Outside’ on Spotify.


Duration: 40:08

Produced by: Mark Coffin @ Sound Good Studios

Theme music: Gary Blakemore

Episode cover image: source


See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.

Share This