Call for Collaboration: Expanding and Upscaling Early Childhood Services and Support in South Africa

Ilifa Labantwana
Please note: this opportunity closing date has passed and may not be available any more.
Opportunity closing date: 
Thursday, 19 September, 2013
Opportunity type: 

Ilifa Labantwana is seeking expressions of interest from organisations wishing to participate in a process of identifying and developing a workable social franchising model for the replication and scaling up of Early Childhood Development (ECD) in South Africa.
Ilifa and its donor partners (the DG Murray Trust, ELMA Philanthropies and UBS Optimus) have been exploring the possibility of using a ‘social franchising’ model to increase access to quality ECD services and support in South Africa. Towards this end, we have conducted research and stakeholder consultation around the applicability of the social franchising approach to ECD provision in South Africa.
We believe that a successful social franchising model could potentially change the way ECD services are rolled out in South Africa, to the benefit of millions of vulnerable South African children, their families and communities, and the country as a whole. What we need to do now is to pool our collective resources, information, experience and expertise to meet the challenge we face. Our goal is to collectively imagine an ideal system of ECD services and support for South Africa, and to envision and implement a comprehensive and continuous programme of ECD provision, across a variety of delivery modes and a range of age groups.
For the first stage of this process, we are seeking to collaborate with organisations who are willing to contribute insights and information about the ‘package’ of ECD services and support that they currently offer. We want you to become part of a collective of ECD thought leaders who will pool their knowledge and jointly curate a powerful resource that we can all have access to. From there, we aim to create a social franchising framework whereby all participants are able to use the full gamut of services, support and infrastructure we develop, under their own brand[1].

What is Social Franchising?
Social franchising (a combination of social marketing and commercial franchising) is a concept that is rapidly achieving global recognition, with a number of impressive innovations in Latin America. In Africa, there are two inspiring prototypes in the formal schooling system, the Bridge International Academies in Kenya and the Omega Schools in Ghana. These projects offer important lessons on what the social franchising approach can and can’t offer.
What appeals to us about the social franchising approach, is that it would ensure a greater standardisation of the range of ECD services currently offered by the State and civil society, as well as a more systemised approach to how we offer these. Whatever the outcome of our deliberations, the following key features are expected to be part of it:

  • An integrated ECD package that is age appropriate[2] and comprises the key ingredients for quality ECD. (These ingredients were recently formailsed in Ilifa’s Essential Package of ECD Services and Support) and consist of (1) Nutritional support, (2) Primary Level Maternal and Child Health Interventions, (3) Social Services, (4) Support for Primary Caregivers, and (5) Stimulation for Early Learning.)[3]
  • A strategy to provide quality ECD services and support to the 1.5 million vulnerable South African children aged 0-4 who currently lack access to it, in order to give these children a better start in life and improve their chances of succeeding at school.
  • The targeted expansion of ECD services to the poorest, most disadvantaged and most vulnerable communities in the country.
  • The programmatic scaling up of existing efforts to fulfil three key objectives:
    • To agree on, standardise and adopt specific content for age-appropriate versions of an Essential Package of services and support, so that all children receive all components of this package;
    • To establish the management and organisational infrastructure required to operate in a consistent manner across organisations and delivery modes, thus creating economies of scale for the provision of a quality ECD at the lowest cost, and to engineer a monitoring and evaluation (M&E) system to ensure effectiveness and accountability;
    • To mobilise additional financing for ECD both from public and private sources, and to develop innovative financing schemes.

An Opportunity – and a Challenge
The ECD sector in South Africa finds itself at an important crossroads. For decades the main providers of ECD services to children under five have been civil society organisations. These organisations - mainly NGOs and CBOs - have worked under difficult circumstances in poor, isolated and vulnerable communities to provide training and support to ECD practitioners and caregivers. In many cases, these organisations have relied on the efforts of enterprising individuals who have seen the need and responded with all the energy and resourcefulness at their command. The result of this collective effort is a network of services and support that now extends into some of the most remote and underdeveloped corners of the country. Despite these commendable efforts, however, there are inherent limitations arising from the size and location of these organisations, their capacity and resources, and the reach that it has been possible for them to achieve.
As is demonstrated by Ilifa’s recently commissioned research into NGOs and CBOs providing ECD training [4], the challenge is too great for civil society organisations to meet on their own. Official policy and budgetary support in the context of a broader, unifying agenda, is what we need now. Fortunately, we are now seeing the necessary political support, with the government more than doubling its allocation for ECD access over the past three years. This represents a major opportunity - and a daunting challenge - for our sector.
The challenge is that we are not geared for scale-up. The systems are not in place to implement an Essential Package of early childhood services and support to every child in the country. Unlike the provision of schooling or health care, we do not have a national scaffold in place to fund, train and support ECD practitioners in home-visiting programmes, community playgroups and early learning facilities. We know that we need to start planning to develop every young child in every district in the country, but this is far easier said than done. Tried and tested programmes of learning and teaching, quality benchmarked and assured, need to be in place. And we also need to ensure that there is sufficient public demand for these services.
Mobilising our Intellectual Capital
Over many decades, South African ECD NGOs have invested huge amounts of time, energy and resources into designing, piloting, implementing and refining programmes for practitioner development, child development and caregiver support. These span a variety of home, community and site-based settings and amount to a valuable repository of experience and know-how. In addition, a wide variety of very useful training materials and other resources have been developed. Collectively, this constitutes the intellectual capital of the ECD sector in South Africa.Were it to be effectively mobilised and invested in a large-scale ECD provisioning programme, this intellectual capital could realise great returns, empowering millions of children to succeed in life and to become productive members of society. In addition, participating ECD organisations would benefit from being part of a larger community of ideas and sharing.
There are many ways in which we can respond to the opportunities and challenges of providing scaled-up ECD services. One way is to leave it to others - government, the private sector or new role players - to decide how this gets done. Another way is to bring what we have to the table, to share it, and to use all the experience, influence and pride in what we have created so far, to contribute to something that is bigger than our individual efforts. This may require a letting go of our individual ideas, but it will enable the creation of a common pool of ideas and resources that we can all have access to. In the process, we will all be enriched, better resourced and further enabled to pursue our objectives as individual organisations. Most importantly, we will all have the opportunity to contribute to the provision of enhanced access to quality ECD services and support for impoverished and vulnerable children.
Deadline for submissions: 19 September 2013
Format for your Expression of Interest

Your Expression of Interest should not be longer than 3-4 pages, and should include a written agreement to the pooling of information in return for being able to use all the pooled information in a ‘social franchise’ under your own brand.

Your Expression of Interest should include the following components:

  • A brief description of your programme and its objectives;
  • Which programme category or categories it falls into (See Appendix A: Programme Areas);
  • Who benefits (e.g. pregnant mothers, mothers, caregivers, children 0-2 years, children 2-4 years, children 4-6 years);
  • Who implements the programme (specifying skills, qualifications, training and experience);
  • How the programme is implemented;
  • A list of existing materials and resources to support programme implementation;
  • whether the programme has been evaluated, whether this was an external or internal evaluation, who evaluated it and when; and
  • The number of programme beneficiaries over the last four years (numbers should be provided for 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013).

Once applications have been received, the process will be as follows:

  • Applications will be assessed according to their responses to the above questions, and how these fit with the package components and age criteria laid out in Appendix A. In particular we are looking for proposals that demonstrate some level of integration across age groups and programme categories;
  • Successful applicants will participate in a broader capacity-building and training programme aimed at understanding and developing social franchising models;
  • Successful applicants will be able to apply for funding for the further development of their programme materials and resources for social franchising purposes.

For any further information or questions, please contact:

Appendix A: Programme Areas

Age groups Programmes: pre-natal to 2 years Programmes: 2 years to 4 years Programmes: 4 years to 6 years
Programme categories  
Perinatal support Child health and nutrition Early learning interventions
Maternal and child health and nutrition Caregiver support groups and psychosocial support Toy libraries
Caregiver support groups and psychosocial support Parenting education Parenting education
Parenting education ECD centres: learning programmes, site enrichment, registration processes Child health and nutrition
Social service access and support Early learning interventions Social service access and support
  Toy libraries  
  Social service access and support  
For more about about Ilifa Labantwana, refer to


[1] See Appendix A below for an outline of potential programme categories and services.
[2] Ilifa's proposed age groups are: 0-2, 2-4, 3-6.
[3] See The Essential Package: Early Childhood Services and Support for Vulnerable Children in South Africa. Ilifa Labantwana, Cape Town, 2013.
[4] Report on a Survey
of NonProfit Organisations Providing Training For ECD Programmes and Services (birth to four years). Ilifa Technical Report Series #1. Ilifa labantwana, Cape Town, August 2013.

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