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Board Chair Nanne Boonstra was about to learn the details of a scaling strategy proposal for Mothers of Rotterdam, a fledgling social service program that helped the city’s disadvantaged pregnant women.

Boonstra’s employer, a venture philanthropy foundation that was funding the program, was interested in whether it was feasible to scale the pilot program throughout Rotterdam. Other stakeholders hoped the program might be replicated elsewhere in the Netherlands or even within other European countries.

Boonstra knew that some stakeholders were concerned about scaling too early—before research determined if the program was effective and for whom.

He hoped that the consulting firm hired to design the scaling strategy would be able to answer the board’s many questions about how best to move forward. How do you turn an innovative start-up program into a structured professional program without losing the passion and energy that comes from its founders? How do you go from a start-up to a more structured, formalized organization? Is the program’s inventor the right person to scale the program? How long does a program need to run to determine whether it is effective? Is it necessary/advisable to scale the program in Rotterdam first, and focus on replicating the program in other cities afterwards or can this happen in parallel? Is there a risk of other cities trying to copy the program without guidance from the Rotterdam staff and “not getting it right”?

The case goes on to unfold the story of Mothers of Rotterdam—an entrepreneurial social service program based in the Netherlands—from its inception through the board of directors meeting. The program’s stakeholders, eager to broaden the impact of Mothers of Rotterdam, grapple with how the program can best be scaled up. Of significance is the role of the organization’s charismatic founder, Barend Rombout, who is credited with driving the program’s successful—if unorthodox—approach to social service delivery.

Learning Objectives:
The case is designed to facilitate a live, in-class discussion about how to assess the viability of scaling a fledgling social service program and the role an entrepreneurial founder can or should play in driving a program's growth and expansion

Other Details

Teaching Plan:
Available with Educator Access
Case Author:
Laura Winig
Faculty Lead:
Julie Boatwright Wilson
Pages (incl. exhibits):
The Netherlands
Funding Source:
Bernard Van Leer Foundation