GEF Support to Scaling up Impact

Scaling up is not new to the GEF and in the last decade, all GEF focal areas have been shifting from site-level pilot projects towards projects or programs implemented at higher scales. Based on a review of focal area strategies and interviews with the GEF partnership, the GEF has gradually shifted its focus from pilots to scaled-up interventions over the last 25 years. In part, this is because the GEF partnership has built up a much better understanding of what interventions work based on the portfolio of demonstration projects implemented during GEF's early phases. As a more targeted response to the need to achieve impact at scale, the GEF introduced the Integrated Approach Pilots in GEF-6 and the Impact Programs in GEF-7, which have just begun implementation. However, the conditions under which scaling up has been successful or unsuccessful, and the processes by which impacts are scaled up, have not been systematically assessed. In addition, based on interview responses, there appears to be a varied understanding of scaling up across the partnership and how it is achieved in operational terms.

This evaluation draws on the previous experiences of the GEF in scaling up to better understand and draw lessons on the processes through which scaling up occurs and the conditions under which it is effectively achieved. The IEO has been tracking scaling up as one indicator of progress towards impact, reporting its prevalence in the GEF portfolio in the overall performance studies. Moreover, recent evaluations contributing to OPS6, such as those on transformational change and GEF's support for legal and regulatory frameworks, note the importance of the scaling up process in achieving larger-scale impact. This is the first evaluation to systematically assess the scaling up process in depth, and the influencing factors and conditions. Using a purposive sampling approach, the evaluation conducted quantitative and qualitative analyses on both successful and less successful cases of GEF support to scaling up. Information was extracted from document reviews, interviews, and field visits to three countries. The evaluation provides lessons for the GEF in future support for scaling up throughout its portfolio, and for the GEF-7 Impact Programs in particular.

Key findings of evaluation

  • The Global Environment Facility's (GEF's) focus on scaling is more explicit than in many other international development institutions. But like other institutions, the GEF's vision for scaling-up is not consistently clear in operational guidance across its portfolio.
  • GEF support to scaling-up activities has varied widely in terms of grant amount, implementation period, and project modality. Overall, GEF-supported initiatives typically last longer than five years and leverage higher cofinancing ratios at the scaling-up stage.
  • Cases generally reported a higher magnitude of environmental outcomes per dollar per year during scale-up versus piloting. The extent of scaling could not be measured in one case because common environmental indicators were lacking between pilot and scaling projects.
  • The GEF has contributed to postproject continuation of scaled-up activities by catalyzing sustainable financing sources and strengthening institutional capacities. Political and economic changes pose risks to long-term sustainability of scaling-up activities.
  • The GEF's comparative advantage lies in supporting pilots that demonstrate positive benefits and establishing enabling conditions for scale-up. These strengths attract support from other actors that then provide funding for full scale-up.
  • The GEF partnership benefits from its Agencies having different comparative advantages in different modes of scaling.


  • Even though the GEF 2020 strategy and programming directions set a clear vision and goal to scale up global environmental benefits, operational guidance for scale-up is not consistently clear across all programs and projects.
  • The GEF uses multiple modes—replication, mainstreaming, and linking—to scale up interventions that generate global environmental benefits, drawing on the comparative advantages of GEF partners.
  • The extent of GEF support to scale-up and the rate at which outcomes are scaled vary by focal area, but typically take place over more than five years and generate higher outcomes per GEF dollar per year during the scaling-up stage. Indicators used between the pilot and scaling-up stages were not always consistent, limiting the ability to track progress.
  • The GEF has supported scaling-up by establishing enabling conditions, choosing the appropriate influencers and institutions to work with, and leveraging contextual conditions at the right time.
  • GEF support has catalyzed the scaling-up process by demonstrating evidence of intervention benefits at the pilot stage. Systematic learning mechanisms for scaling-up were not supported in most early GEF projects, but about half of approved GEF-7 projects address learning more systematically.

Evaluation Learnings

Supporting Documents

Evaluation Reports

Council Documents

GEF Council Meeting 56

Information Documents