Scaling Out For Impact

By Roland Harwood and Ella Weldon

There are 2.7 billion people in the world who live on less than $2.50 a day[1]. Routinely facing the world’s most complex challenges, low-income communities in emerging economies often demonstrate the greatest resourcefulness and ingenuity, because they must. Rather than seeing these communities simply as receivers of assistance, they can be approached as creators of value and innovative new solutions that are accessible and relevant to them.

One country that exemplifies this is South Africa. Twenty five years after the transition to democracy, South Africa remains one of the world’s most most economically unequal countries[2], with township and rural economies remaining substantially disconnected from economic prosperity.

Yet the resilience, ingenuity and creative innovation of those living within South Africa is immense. Enterprises grown out of townships and rural communities have huge potential for addressing obstacles to sustainable development in these areas.

We think it is time to invest in innovators and entrepreneurs who understand first-hand the challenges in their own communities, and this is the thinking behind our new project Scaling Out for Impact; a co-venture between the Technology Innovation Agency (TIA) of the Department of Science and Innovation of South Africa, and Innovate UK, part of UKRI. Scaling Out for Impact aims to support innovators and entrepreneurs working in low-income communities in South Africa through the facilitation of meaningful partnerships with UK SMEs. Co-created ideas and innovations will be guided by South African entrepreneurs who bring the understanding of what works and what’s needed in their communities, whilst drawing on the knowledge and insights from UK innovators and other supporters of Scaling Out for Impact.

We are focused on co-creating innovations around three different, yet interconnected critical challenges faced by South African communities; Circular Economy, Digitalisation and Future of HealthCare. These challenges have all come into sharper focus and urgency in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, and Scaling Out for Impact aims to contribute to a path of recovery and growth in South Africa through partnerships and innovation.


Creating relationships between innovators who don’t know each other, who come from strikingly different backgrounds and business environments is a great challenge. Yet we see this collective intelligence as a strength; the combined experiences and insights drawn from a diverse group of people can be collectively more effective than the work of any single individual or perspective. Scaling Out for Impact’s collarabotion phases, beginning in September 2020, are each designed to foster collaborations between UK and SA innovators and accelerate impact, creating opportunities to exchange knowledge and insights, and support each other’s development of leadership, and entrepreneurial skills.

If we succeed in this project, there is potential for the forging of meaningful international partnerships that can harness the best of innovation in the UK and SA to co-create ideas that can have hugely transformative impacts in South Africa, and beyond. With Covid-19 having a disproportionate impact on the global poor, it is crucial that we invest in those trying to ameliorate its socioeconomic impacts and create resilience through innovation. During a time when our interconnectedness has never been more striking, Scaling Out for Impact could represent a model for global collaboration between entrepreneurs who wish to innovate towards positive change.

Applications are now open to small and medium enterprises from the UK and South Africa. Check out the Scaling Out for Impact webpage to learn more and to apply.

Roland Harwood is the founder of Liminal. Ella Weldon is project coordinator and community developer at Liminal.

[1]  Malik, Khalid (2014), “Chapter 1: Vulnerability and human development” (PDF), Human Development Report: Sustaining Human Progress, New York: United Nations Development Programme, p. 19, ISBN 978-92-1-126368-8,

[2] Sulla,Victor; Zikhali,Precious.2018. Overcoming Poverty and Inequality in South Africa : An Assessment of Drivers, Constraints and Opportunities (English). Washington, DC: World Bank Group.