Growing Bigger Better: Lessons from Experience Corps’ Expansion in Five Cities

Resource type: Evaluation

Public/ Private Ventures |

This report documents the expansion initiative of a volunteer tutoring program in low-income schools, examines the program’s impact, and offers lessons for expanding successfully while maintaining service quality and securing the resources needed to sustain growth.Experience Corps is a grantee of The Atlantic Philanthropies.

June 2008, 55 pages

“Going to scale” often entails replicating a program in new locations, but it can also involve efforts to expand a program’s reach in existing locations, enabling it to have a greater effect on communities already being served. This was the case with Experience Corps, a Civic Ventures program that enlists older adults as volunteers to help strengthen literacy and other skills of elementary school students in low-income neighborhoods. Beginning in 2001, with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and The Atlantic Philanthropies, Experience Corps embarked on a four-year initiative to expand in five cities. P/PV examined the five sites’ efforts to increase the size of their volunteer pool and expand to additional schools, manage their larger and more complex programs, and raise sufficient funds to meet annual goals and sustain growth.

Growing Bigger Better considers how the sites’ initial readiness to expand, the organizational resources they possessed, and the receptivity of the external environment (i.e., the local school districts) shaped the sites’ progress. The report reflects on whether and how the local sites, and the program as a whole, benefited from the expansion effort, drawing out lessons that are relevant to other programs considering expansion. It concludes that while “program expansion is a major undertaking, … the Experience Corps expansion initiative clearly demonstrates how programs can become stronger, more energized and even more innovative through carefully planned and managed growth, and thus extend the benefits of their services to larger numbers of individuals and communities.”

Growing Bigger Better: Lessons from Experience Corps’ Expansion in Five Cities Executive Summary

by Lauren J. Kotloff with Linda Jucovy 
June 2008, 8 pages

This summary presents key findings from the full report, Growing Bigger Better, which examines the Experience Corps program’s four-year expansion initiative. The summary briefly considers whether and how the local sites, and the program as a whole, benefited from the expansion effort and presents lessons that are relevant to other programs considering expansion.