SEED-SCALE describes a comprehensive theory of social change sometimes also categorized as social development theory. SEED-SCALE can be used both to tell how to implement change and/or it can be used to analyze social change. SEED-SCALE’s distinguishing feature is its focus on human energy as the primary currency that causes people to change behaviors.
Normative thinking is that by allocating money to social programs (funding a health service, starting a micro-finance program, providing subsidies for agriculture, etc.) that intentional social action happens. SEED-SCALE does not deny the impact of budget driven projects. However, it suggests that a more available and sustainable approach is redirecting how people apply their energies. “Money is powerful because other people want it… This means, among other things, that if it is taken to be the central factor in social change initiatives, those who do not have it (including countries, including people—the people who need it most) are powerless.”
SEED-SCALE notes that human energy is a resource that is already present, already being used in every community in the world. If the community exists, it has energy. The opportunity is to use that resource more effectively. There are many types of relevant human energy: individual labor, cooperation, creativity, monitoring, learning, and the like. SEED-SCALE is an application of emergence within Complexity Theory, articulating how social change "emerges" with socio-economic development specific to each context of society, economics, and natural environment shaped by the interaction of these relationships; noting that the socio-economic product is not the result of inputs to the system (classical development thinking) but is the result of how relationships form within the system as a result of principle interaction (emergence).
SEED-SCALE builds out of the most forward economic thinking, such as former World Bank economist, Paul Collier, “change in societies at the very bottom must come primarily from within.” Professor Dani Rodrik at Harvard, frames economic growth at the scale level as a consequence of growth aggregated from the local level, growing within the existing larger framework. Local growth occurs not because of inputs from outside but because it has figured out how to occur within the local situation of policies, stimuli, and resources.
History and origins
The origins of SEED-SCALE began in UNICEF in 1992—where then Executive Director James P. Grant was seeking a more accurate understanding of how to take successful pilot projects (“seeds”) and to extend these to national level impact (“scale”). From the initial 1992 UNICEF charge two publications resulted. These publications were presented at the World Summit for Social Development, Copenhagen, March 1995.
SEED-SCALE resides within the larger field of Emergence which resides within the larger field of Complexity Theory. The thesis being that social change occurs within the complex intersection of people’s values, economic dynamics, and environmental conditions (the socio-econo-biosphere), and that to either understand or to act in that complex world, answers do not directly follow from actions; they “emerge” out of interacting relationships in almost incomprehensible ways, obvious perhaps after the fact but impossible to predict ahead of time.
Recent articulation of empowerment as basis of social change championed by Robert Chambers, who led in the development of Participatory Research and Actions (also called Participatory Rural Appraisal) (PRA) “astonished by the analytical abilities of poor people. Whether literate or not, whether children, women, or men, they showed that they could map, list, rank, score, and diagram better than professionals.” Key contributions to the thinking also came from Asset Based Community Development (ABCD)  Also the work of the Positive Deviance.
SEED is an acronym for Self Evaluation for Effective Decision-making. SCALE is an acronym for Systems for Communities to Adapt Learning and Expand.
Deep fundamental change happens because of what people do (not what they are given, not what is done to them). When people learn to make use of what they have, where they are, today—then people are moving forward to a future that they can shape according to their priorities.
A feedback loop, a revolution of rising aspirations, gets started—where people’s hopes cause them to work, then that work produces returns, those returns prompt further work, and this circle calls more people in working with their aspirations. As actions get fulfilled and cause new aspirations, what unfolds is society using what it has, for what it wants, and now calling in resources and action from outside.
- Build from Success—Don’t try to fix failures
- 3-way Partnership (Top Bottom Outside)—Two types of partnerships are needed for sustainable development. One is external, involving collaboration among community, officials, an experts. This is the basic three-way parntership. The other is internal, involving collaboration within a community to frame and act on priorities.
- Decide from Evidence—Power Money Dogma not reliable answers
- Behavior Change is Goal—Prescribed outputs can be faked
Discussions of the four principles are at:
- Buckminster Fuller Institute
- Future Generations
- Develop Leadership = Create Local Coordinating Committee
- Starting Point & Resources = Identify Your Community Successes
- Obtain Relevant Education = Visit Successes Elsewhere, Adapt and Adopt
- Fit your local situation (ecology, economy, & culture) = Self-evaluation survey
- Determine direction & partners = Make a work plan
- Coordinate resources & time = Gather community participation
- Readjust community momentum = To strengthen four principles
Criteria for evaluation
- EQUITY=Are more community members involved this time?
- SUSTAINABILITY=Three types exist: environmental, economic, values/culture
- HOLISM=Is life improving in a balanced way
- INTERDEPENDENCE=What is balance in community between inflows and outflows
- ITERATION=Get job done, next time do it better
Stages of scale
The scaling up process is a feedback loop of rising quality of life that then draws a rising number of participants into it. As more people become involved, their energy stimulates demand for further rising quality of life (typically moving cross sectors such as from health to income generation). Then the rising quality of life draws in more people. The cycle goes on of numerical growth feeding qualitative so long as there is an enabling environment for such of policies and learning that draws on local resource base or distant resources that can be accessed from locales.
- Numerical Expansion = SCALE One (Stimulating Community Awareness, Learning, and Energy)
- Rising sophistication and quality of life = SCALE Squared (Self-help Centers for Action Learning and Experimentation)
- Expanding the Enabling Environment = SCALE Cubed (Synthesis of Collaboration, Adaptive Learning, and Extension)
Future Generations Graduate School (FGGS) 2015 class, on a residential in India learned on the practical applicability of the SEED Scale in Sevagram (Feb. 09-March 12, 2014). It is an empowering concept that can grow to scale any initiative in the local community whose benefits are long lasting.This is an alternative development paradigm. The different economic development models which have been existing have all but shown their limits. SEED scale appears to be a good alternative for African countries.
- Daniel C. Taylor, Carl E. Taylor, Jesse O. Taylor, ‘’Empowerment on an Unstable Planet: From Seeds of Human Energy to a Scale of Global Change’’ (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012) p.xiv
- Daniel C. Taylor, Carl E. Taylor, Jesse O. Taylor, ‘’'Empowerment on an Unstable Planet: From Seeds of Human Energy to a Scale of Global Change’’' (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012)
- Paul Collier,‘’The Bottom Billion: Why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it’’(Oxford UK: Oxford University Press, 2007) p.xi
- Dani Rodrik, ‘’One Economics, Many Recipes: Globalization, Institutions, and Economic Growth’’ (Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007)
- Daniel Taylor and Carl E. Taylor Community Based Sustainable Human Development—Going to Scale with Self-reliant Social Development (New York: UNICEF, 1995).
- Carl E. Taylor. Aditi Desai, and Daniel Taylor “Partnership for Social Development—A Casebook” The Independent Task Force on Community Action for Social Development (Franklin, WV, Future Generations, and Johns Hopkins University Department of International Health, 1995)
- John Holland, ‘’Emergence: From chaos to order’’ (New York: Basic Books, 1998) p. 224-227.
- Robert Chambers, ‘’Whose Reality Counts, Putting the Last First’’ (London: Intermediate Technology Development Group Publishing, 2000, p.xvii
- Gary Paul Green and Anna Haines, Asset Based Community Development, 2nd Edition’’ (Thousand Oaks CA: Sage Publications 2008).
- Richard Pascale, Jerry Sternin, and Monique Sternin ‘’The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems’’ (Boston, MA: Harvard Business Press, 2010)
- Daniel C. Taylor, Carl E. Taylor, Jesse O. Taylor, ‘’Empowerment on an Unstable Planet: From Seeds of Human Energy to a Scale of Global Change’’ (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012)
- Daniel Taylor and Carl E. Taylor, ‘’Just and Lasting Change: When communities own their futures’’ (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2002)
- Carl E. Taylor. Aditi Desai, and Daniel Taylor ‘’Partnership for Social Development—A Casebook’’ The Independent Task Force on Community Action for Social Development (Franklin, WV, Future Generations, and Johns Hopkins University Department of International Health, 1995)
- Daniel Taylor and Carl E. Taylor Community Based Sustainable Human Development—Going to Scale with Self-reliant Social Development (New York: UNICEF, 1995)