Advancing the Science of Scaling

Griffin Applied Economics Incubator Annual Conference

NEW DATES: June 16-17, 2021

In light of COVID-19, we have postponed this event until 2021.

About the Conference


In recent years, citizens and lawmakers have become increasingly enthusiastic about the adoption of evidence-based programs and policies. We have evidence of countless interventions that positively impact peoples’ lives. And yet, when expanded, they have not always delivered the dramatic societal impacts predicted. This phenomenon exists in many fields, including early childhood.   

Does this mean that we can only expect to achieve positive impact on a small scale? Not at all. Instead, we must acknowledge what is missing: a proper understanding of how, why, and when promising results can be delivered at scale. In June 2021, the Griffin Applied Economics Incubator and the TMW Center for Early Learning + Public Health will host a two-day conference at the University of Chicago to generate that understanding among a diverse group of researchers, funders, policymakers, and early childhood practitioners.

The future of effective, evidence-based programs and policies in early childhood—and the success of our collective efforts to generate positive, equitable outcomes for all children—depend on all stakeholders working together to understand and address the challenges of scaling. This convening will be an important step in that direction.

Register to attend!

If you have received an invitation,* be sure to register to reserve your spot at the conference! Deadline to register is May 6, 2021.


Dates: June 16 (8:15 am) – June 17 (1:45 pm), 2021. 

Location: International House, University of Chicago, 1414 E 59th St, Chicago, IL 60637

Cost: $75. Price includes a copy of “The Scale-up Effect in Early Childhood and Public Policy” book.

Lodging: Rooms will be available at a number of local hotels at special conference rates. We are in the process of updating these arrangements to reflect the new conference dates. Please check the accommodations page for details.

Parking: While street parking in the area surrounding the venue is free, spots fill up very early in the morning. We recommend using public transportation/ride-share, arriving early, or parking in the visitor garage at 5501 S Ellis Ave. The rate is $28/day and the garage is a 20-minute walk from the venue. The 59th St. Metra station is a two-minute walk from the venue.

Event is by invitation only. Regretfully, invitations are not transferrable. If you would like to suggest an adittional invitee, please email Liz Sablich at Additional invitations may be extended if space allows.


For speaker titles and bios, please see complete speaker list.

Wednesday, June 16

8:15 am
Registration + Breakfast


9:00 am
Welcome Remarks


Dana Suskind 

9:15 am
Keynote Address: The Challenge of Scaling


Michael A. Nutter discusses the challenges and opportunities he encountered with regards to scaling evidence-based programs and policies during his tenure as Mayor of Philadelphia. 

10:00 am
Framing the Day


Dana Suskind

10:15 am
10:30 AM
Innovative Approaches to Scaling at the City & State Levels

Hear from early childhood education leaders about how their cities and states are striving to serve the needs of kids and families at scale—and the challenges they’re facing.

  • Dwane Chappelle
  • Ross Hunter
11:30 AM


Pick-up your lunch and return to Assembly Hall!

12:00 PM
Lunch presentation: Applying Economics to Understand Scaling


John List explains how economics can provide a theoretical lens to deepen our understanding of scaling and presents a new mathematical model that identifies the elements of the “scale-up effect.

1:15 – 2:15 PM
Breakout Sessions on the Threats to Scalability


These sessions will offer a deep dive into two of the four threats to scalability identified by Prof. List. Choose one to attend.

A. Inference – Zacharias Maniadis

B. General Equilibrium and Spillover Effects – Dean Karlan

2:30 – 3:30 PM
Breakout Sessions on the Threats to Scalability


These sessions will offer a deep dive into the other two of four threats to scalability identified by Prof. List. Choose one to attend.

A. Properties of the Population – Larry L. Orr

B. Properties of the Situation – EB Caron

 3:30 PM


4:00 – 5:15 PM
Evidence of the “Scale-up Effect” in the Real World


A panel of experts will discuss the ways they have encountered the elements of the “scale-up effect” in implementing and scaling ambitious programs.

  • Sophia Pappas
  • Norbert Schady
  • Meryl Barofsky
  • Lauren Supplee 
5:15 – 6:45 PM
Cocktail Reception + Poster Session


Join us for a cocktail reception and poster session highlighting research funded by the Griffin Applied Economics Incubator’s Innovation Fund.

Thursday, June 17

9:00 AM
Welcome Back


9:15 – 10:30 am
Breakout Sessions: Enabling Scaling


These sessions will feature panels of experts discussing the external factors that are critical to successful scaling. Scaling does not occur in a vacuum or in a laboratory, and these sessions will help identify ways to maximize the likelihood of scaling success in the real world. Choose one to attend.

A. Political Feasibility – Theresa Hawley, Cynthia Osborne, and Katherine Baicker

B. Integrated Systems + Cross-sectoral Collaboratio – John Borrero, Sherri Killins Stewart, Carlise King, Chris Strausz-Clark, and Elliott Regenstein

C. Workforce + Organizational Capacity – Geoffrey Nagle, Yasmina Vinci, and Diana Rauner

10:45 am – 12:00 pm
Breakout Sessions: Moving our Fields Forward


All stakeholders in the early childhood education community, the science community, and the policy community have a role to play in mitigating the scale-up effect and maximizing the promise of evidence-based policy. These sessions will feature leaders from each field discussing what they plan to do moving forward. Choose one to attend.

A. Researchers – Kelly Hallberg, Stephen Raudenbush, and Bentley Ponder 

B. Funders – Speakers TBA

C. Practitioners and Administrators – Chris Bishop, Kai-Ama Hamer, Ralph Smith, and John Easton 

12:00 – 12:30 PM


Pick-up your lunch and return to Assembly Hall!

12:30 – 1:30 PM
Lunch Keynote


1:30 – 1:45 pm
Closing Remarks


John List


Meet Our Speakers

Michael A. Nutter
Michael A. Nutter

Former Mayor City of Philadelphia; David N. Dinkins Professor of Professional Practice in Urban and Public Affairs

Katherine Baicker
Katherine Baicker

Dean, Harris School of Public Policy, University of Chicago

Yasmina Vinci
Yasmina Vinci

Executive Director, National Head Start Association

Ross Hunter
Ross Hunter

Secretary of the Washington Department of Children, Youth, and Families

Diana Rauner
Diana Rauner

President, The Ounce of Prevention Fund

Dwane Chappelle
Dwane Chappelle

Director, Seattle Department of Education and Early Learning

And dozens more!