LEGO Foundation partnership with UCT to support ECD interventions in South Africa

2 Feb 2016 - 11:00

Although Early Childhood Development is clearly a national policy imperative in South Africa, currently there is no comprehensive approach for a national outcomes-based intervention in ECD. Instead, according to researchers at the UCT Graduate School of Business' Bertha Centre for Social Innovation, "services for pre-school aged children are provided by a mix of publicly and privately funded providers at various stages of professionalism and capability."

In 2015, the LEGO Foundation concluded a partnership with the Bertha Centre to support the development of a social impact bond model, with a view to increasing focus on- and funding for ECD programmes in South Africa.

Social Impact Bonds, pioneered by Social Finance UK, represent a relatively new funding model for social innovation in South Africa.

Private investors provide funding upfront to cover the costs of programmes that are implemented by specialised service providers. Investors receive a repayment and return on their investment from an outcomes funder - usually government or a donor agency - but only if independently verified evidence shows that the programmes have been successful in delivering the pre-agreed outcomes. Accordingly, Impact Bonds can assist governments and donors in risk-free or risk-mitigated exploration and expansion of effective early intervention and preventative programmes.

UCT's Bertha Centre, in partnership with Social Finance UK, has been working towards the development of a Social Impact Bond ecosystem in South Africa.

An Early Childhood Development Social Impact Bond would provide a way of financing the upfront investment required for ECD, with public sector and donor investment only being made once the agreed, targeted, outcomes are achieved.

The model has the potential to drive innovation and focus public sector investment on the most effective programmes and this way, encourage investment at scale.

The LEGO Foundation, based in Billund, Denmark, focuses its work on projects targeted at children aged 0-12, with a special emphasis on early childhood - the stage when children develop most rapidly. The Foundation operates under the premise that investments in quality early learning programmes ensure solid foundations for children's future potential as learners, and for their health and abilities.

The Foundation's aim is to ensure that learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged lifelong learners, and South Africa is one of its geographic priorities. In addition to their support of the ECD Social Impact Bond, they are partners to a number of other projects including UCT's Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL Africa), which is engaged in monitoring and evaluation of the impact of Early Childhood Development interventions in the Kwazulu Natal Province.