The success of scaling out depends on a clear understanding of the factors that affect adoption of grain legumes and account for the dynamism of those factors across heterogeneous contexts of sub-Saharan Africa. We reviewed literature on adoption of grain legumes and other technologies in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries. Our review enabled us to define broad factors affecting different components of the scaling out programme of N2Africa and the scales at which those factors were important. We identified three strategies for managing those factors in the N2Africa scaling out programme: (i) testing different technologies and practices; (ii) evaluating the performance of different technologies in different contexts; and (iii) monitoring factors that are difficult to predict.We incorporated the review lessons in a design to appropriately target and evaluate technologies in multiple contexts across scales from that of the farm to whole countries. Our implementation of this design has only been partially successful because of competing reasons for selecting activity sites. Nevertheless, we observe that grain legume species have been successfully targeted for multiple biophysical environments across sub-Saharan Africa, and to social and economic contexts within countries. Rhizobium inoculant and legume specific fertiliser blends have also been targeted to specific contexts, although not in all countries. Relatively fewer input and output marketing models have been tested due to public–private partnerships, which are a key mechanism for dissemination in the N2Africa project.