“Scale up” has been on the minds of those around me lately and after a conversation this week with a philanthropic advisor who had questions about using cost- and cost-benefit analysis, I crafted the following text to help frame the issues at hand:
If one project reaches 100 girls at a cost of $1.00 per girl, while a second project reaches 1,000 girls at the cost of $1.10 per child, funders, policymakers, or program managers might be tempted to declare the first project more “efficient.” However, such a decision would prioritize “efficiency” over coverage, and 900 less girls would be reached. Investors must decide then if the opportunity costs of reaching more girls are greater than $.10 per girl.
On the other hand, investors must also consider whether to prioritize coverage over quality. Perhaps the project serving 100 girls is very intensive and long-term, for example reaching and rehabilitating girls that have been part of the sex trade, while the project serving 1,000 girls provides a single workshop on reproductive and sexual health. Fundamentally changing the lives of a few girls might have a more significant long-term impact than helping many more girls with a more “shallow” or one-off activity.
Thoughts? Feedback on my explanation?