Breadth or depth - which should take pride of place?

I’ve often been part of conversations in the for purpose sector about depth vs breadth. In other words, should we focus on highly impactful, intensive interventions delivered to few beneficiaries, or interventions with positive influence (at varying degrees) delivered to many?

Generally speaking, the more challenging the issue to be solved is, or the greater the need, the more hands-on and intensive the intervention should be. That’s where ‘depth’ comes into play. By nature, in-depth interventions require a greater investment due to the higher level of resources needed to address the challenge and the small number of people being serviced.  

From a for purpose organisation perspective, in-depth interventions require a large amount of fundraising for few people to be impacted. It can be a challenging funding ask. But (and it is a major but) the impact can be absolutely transformative. Imagine a young person who decides to quit high school, later relies on Centrelink support, keeps having difficult relationships in their lives and making unfulfilling decisions. Now, imagine a young person who thinks they can do anything they set their mind to, completes high school to go onto further education and realise their career dreams, and shares this new positive attitude with their family, peers, future children, etc. The multiplying factor of this newfound perspective on life and sense of identity is endless. The investment is worth every penny.

If we take the ‘breadth’ side of the equation, it’s about having a positive influence on many (or in some instances, all) beneficiaries we wish to impact. In order to be able to work with the masses, the delivery of the solution has to be scalable. And scalability requires simplicity, cost-effectiveness, but also impact (why exist if you’re not bringing value and answering needs?). The change experienced is likely to be lesser, but it’s significant. 

So which one is best - depth or breadth? My argument goes to both. Imagine being able to potentially move the needle for so many young people (who, let’s face it, have had a pretty tough time over the last 18 months) and completely change the trajectory of those who need it most. The answer speaks for itself.

Kim Larochelle

Kim joined The Helmsman Project as a volunteer when it first started delivering programs in 2013. In January 2014, she became one of the organisation's first two employees and is now CEO. She has had the privilege, along with the team, to witness and support The Helmsman Project's growth.

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