None of us could have ever predicted the onslaught of COVID-19 or imagined the devastation it would bring to our world, as well as the ever-lasting impact it will have on our daily lives. Now more than ever, we need to measure and manage the impact.
Helping companies to do just that is Relativ Impact, an impact solutions provider that supports purpose-driven organisations and investors on their journeys to achieve significant impact. Recognising the need and importance of impact management and measurement, the company decided to adopt a revolutionary framework, developed by UK-based Impact Management Project (IMP), to its South African clients. The IMP was founded and facilitates relationships between more than 2000 leading investors including the Ford Foundation, W.K. Kellog Foundation, UBS, PWC, Bank of America, Barclays, BlackRock and, UK Aid.
A first for Africa
Relativ went one step further by identifying its first unique case study in local non-profit organisation, GROW Educare Centres. This collaboration provided an opportunity to test the IMP framework tool for the first time in a social enterprise context in Africa. The tool was used to review the impact of the GROW model, which provides a comprehensive package of support to Early Childhood Development (ECD) centres in South Africa.
This IMP framework is the product of a global consensus on a common language relating to impact that can be used to describe, communicate, measure and report on positive social, economic, and environmental outcomes derived from investments, in addition to financial returns. This IMP framework has grown in its influence and practice in recent years and is now used extensively with investors and investment managers in the US, Europe and UK.
“Impact measurement and management is not a new concept for the South African business community. However, now, with the IMP framework, investors have an effective tool that allows them to compare companies’ impact, align their purpose, and give them the platform to report on how they are intentionally making a positive difference to people and planet,” said Dr. Colin Habberton from Relativ Impact.
Colin adds, “In addition to assisting enterprises to understand the impact they have on people and the planet, the framework is also a powerful decision-making tool that guides businesses to make conscious and compliant decisions towards sustainable impact, in unison with being profit-driven.”
Unique collaboration for social enterprise sector
Quality ECD is one of South Africa’s biggest challenges as many education centres in marginalised communities across the country are simply not sufficiently equipped, adequately resourced, professionally managed or supported to ensure that the young children in their care receive a quality education. Early learning is critical to a child’s educational, social and emotional development.
GROW is setting a new standard for early learning in developing communities through its proven social-franchise model. The comprehensive programme equips female centre owners to run a financially sustainable small business that provides quality ECD services. The GROW network currently has 43 educare centres situated across Cape Town, Johannesburg, Durban and Pietermaritzburg that helps over 1720 children grow and learn every day while supporting more than 220 jobs in education.
Knowing that no other case studies within the social enterprise sector existed outside of Europe, GROW was thrilled to partner with Relativ Impact on this journey. “Applying the IMP framework allowed us to stress-test our theory of change and evaluate our impact,” said Tracey Chambers, CEO of GROW Educare Centres.
Case study highlights and relevance
By using the IMP framework’s comprehensive and qualitative measurement approach, which has not yet been used in the standard practice of Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E), GROW was able to benefit from a thorough assessment of their current and historical data.
The study revealed how GROW had impacted the ECD sector in the Western Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng provinces over the past five years (2014-2019) and how it balances economic outcomes (jobs and poverty eradication) with social outcomes (education and safety of children).
The GROW model has proven distinctive impact and effectiveness and if scaled, will have even greater impact which is aligned with the organisation’s vision to become the largest chain of five-star ECD centres in the country serving disadvantaged communities.
Using the IMP’s five dimensions, the framework also outlined specified outcomes that reflects how GROW has contributed towards solutions to the pre-existing systemic problems within South Africa’s ECD sector. Four impact areas were measured and reviewed in this instance, which included: (1) improved child learning outcomes, (2) quality ECD services and learning environments, (3) financially sustainable ECD centres and (4) increased income for ECD sector / decent pay.
Significance for the African impact investment ecosystem
“By participating in this case study, we have helped validate a toolkit that can help other organisations and industry representatives such as CSI and foundation managers review and evaluate performance. Impact reporting is crucial to assessing investment opportunities into social enterprises,” added Chambers.
As the IMP framework requires intensive data analysis, the exercise also highlighted the importance of extensive accurate and timely data collection and reporting of project inputs, outputs and outcomes by social enterprises. GROW is well positioned to deliver on this requirement thanks to the recent launch of its comprehensive App suite which was developed by the advisory firm, The Cobalt Partners. The app suite allows ECD owners and teachers to manage their business and classrooms from the palm of their hand. Features include learner enrolment, attendance trackers, learner assessments, budgeting and bookkeeping, access to standard policies and procedures, and teacher training material.
“Overall the GROW case study sets a new standard for the social enterprise industry within South Africa and the African continent on how to measure impact and report on the relevance of the work that they do in contributing to sustainable social change, as well as the progress that is being made to a business’s stakeholder ecosystem,” concluded Dr. Habberton.
Relativ Impact will be hosting a free webinar to showcase the effectiveness of the IMP framework including GROW Educare Centres as its first case study South Africa.