Recently, I was listening to an interview with James Rebanks about regenerative agriculture. James is a farmer in a long standing farming family in the Lake District, here in the UK. For years his family had a small scale farm, with local breeds, and so on. Then post second world war, they grew substantially in size. With inputs like fertilizer and so on the crop yield grew. As they acquired more land, they required more and more machinery and infrastructure. However, then over time the food prices dropped and their profit margins disappeared. When his father passed away, the farm was losing money because the input cost was too high.
Over time, James and his wife discovered by changing the way they farm, they could make the farm sustainable again. Sustainable financially and ecologically. The industrial model of farming they had adopted post war was killing the earth and their way of life. However, by doing things differently at a smaller scale, they could reduce their inputs to very little, produce better quality products, and restore the life of the farm.
Scale is idolised. Most of us have bought into the bigger is better myth. Digital transformation is no different. Charities are no different. And yet, I begin to wonder if there is a sweet spot we can find. Not so small that the only way a charity survives is purely on volunteer and goodwill. And not massive so the ‘input’ bureaucracy cost of organising and running it is so high that the ‘product’ quality is low. Somewhere in between where the projects implemented are of high quality, locally run and contextualised, by organisations that are sustainable.
Where is this sweet spot? How do we find it?