Knowledge sharing and capacity building
The Zenex Foundation has a deliberate programme to build the capacity of the education ecosystem and promote learning and sharing of knowledge generated from internal and external research and evaluations.
Towards this end, the Foundation supports platforms and forums positioned to maximise the reach and increase uptake of research findings and other forms of learning. These include:
Promoting philanthropy and collaboration in the global south (IEFG and IPASA)
Promoting Philanthropy and Collaboration in the Global South: The IEFG and IPASA
The fourth United Nations Sustainable Development Goal is ensuring “inclusive and equitable quality education” and “lifelong learning opportunities for all”. This requires significant collaboration among all stakeholders. There also remains increasing pressure and urgency to address the education crisis in South Africa.
Philanthropy in education is thus growing locally and internationally, including collaborative spaces in the International Education Funders Group (IEFG) and Independent Philanthropy Association of South Africa (IPASA), where funders can learn about viable strategies to improve education and explore partnership opportunities.
Philanthropic organisations have limited capacity to reflect on how their programmes fit into the development agenda. The IEFG and IPASA, as convening bodies guiding funders, address this problem by assisting with strategic analysis, grant-making, and collective action.
The IEFG brings together Global South and North foundations. Few foundations exist in Africa. The IEFG thus seeks to recruit more philanthropies and build north-south and south-south collaboration.
The IPASA was established in 2015 as a local association of independent philanthropists and private foundations with 40 members ranging from small family-run foundations to large professionally-led foundations. The IPASA assists in maintaining independence from government and the corporate sector in terms of governance.
The IEFG has the following objectives:
- Members’ improved sustainability, and education and philanthropic sector knowledge.
- Members’ improved grant-making practices through IEFG programmes.
- Increased collaborations among grant-makers.
- Utility and adaptability of IEFG convening and communications platforms to support members in advancing strategic goals.
The IPASA objectives are:
- Assisting in building a philanthropic movement in the education sector in South Africa.
- Encouraging best practices in private grant-making locally and internationally.
- Encouraging partnerships between local and international donors, the South African government, and corporate sectors.
- Engaging with government on the importance of philanthropy in development.
- Building connections with other philanthropy networks in Africa and globally.
The IEFG’s long-term outcome is to contribute to developing a robust, networked, and strategic philanthropic field with a positive impact on education in the Global South. The intermediate member-focused outcomes include:
- Supporting new and existing members.
- Bi-weekly updates to consolidate sector knowledge and allow idea sharing.
- Extended, more inclusive member meetings, including one per year in the Global South, as well as regional meetings and webinars.
- Fostering participation in international initiatives such as the Global Partnership for Education Private Foundation Constituency.
- Networking at major international events and member-only consultations.
- Strengthening members’ collective work through working and affinity groups. In 2020, two such groups were piloted, and the Equity Taskforce is under development.
- Supporting member-led thematic and geographic groups.
- Clarifying advocacy policies.
The IPASA outcomes funded by Zenex are:
- Establishing the IPASA member education sub-sector group.
- Holding a minimum of three education sub-sector workshops each year.
- Developing an updated Knowledge Management System, including a database, thematic education networks, and grant-makers’ organisations, tools and resources.
The IPASA has the following additional outcomes:
- Three peer learning events per year allowing members to connect.
- Annual Philanthropy Symposium in October each year for members and non-members with expert panel discussions, thematic presentations, and group activities.
- Ensuring topical information is shared in newsletters and research publications.
- Supporting philanthropy research among funders in South Africa.
- Workshops held three times a year in South Africa for members and experts as well as ad-hoc meetings upon request.
- Quarterly sub-group webinars focused on critical issues, including global organisations, to share developments and trends and facilitate opportunities to interact and participate in global initiatives.
Zenex has participated in IEFG and IPASA conferences over the years to ensure philanthropic organisations take advantage of international and local opportunities and knowledge. Through its thought leadership, the Zenex Strategy 2025 aims to improve educational outcomes in South African by forming effective partnerships in the education ecosystem, with philanthropies remaining a critical partner.
Support for the IPASA and IEFG promote Zenex’s goals by improving their capacity to undertake knowledge-sharing activities, allowing more voices to advocate for improved education opportunities. The knowledge sharing platform also allows Zenex to influence the sharing of evidence through evaluation and research at the global level.
Supporting capacity building of a voluntary association (NASCEE)
The National Association of Social Change Entities in Education (NASCEE)
The NASCEE is a registered association of non-profit organisations (NPOs) in education formed in 2019. In keeping with the Zenex Strategy 2025, the NASCEE is supported to boost projects in capacity building and knowledge management.
The NASCEE is an umbrella organisation bringing together South Africa’s education sector NPOs to coordinate, collaborate, and thereby achieve much more. Zenex helped found the NASCEE from the conception phase and plays an advocacy role, while providing ongoing thought leadership.
Until the NASCEE was formed, the voice of education NPOs was largely fragmented and unheard. National consultation processes relied on a chosen few NPO partners. The majority of NPOs were unable to participate, especially small community organisations. NPOs also struggle to meet all the demands of making a real impact, funding and expanding their operations, building internal capacity, and working collaboratively within the education ecosystem. The NASCEE seeks to overcome these barriers to social change in education.
The organisation has immense potential to contribute to large-scale change in the sector by boosting NPO capacity and building networks, knowledge and best practices. The membership base is growing and includes NPOs, researchers, consultants, and donors as they see the strategic value of the NASCEE.
In supporting the NASCEE, Zenex’s thought leadership strategy seeks to empower the NPO sector by leveraging:
- Opportunities for knowledge sharing;
- Capacity-building of partners; and
- Advocacy on critical education matters.
Over the 2020-22 period, the NASCEE is to implement three projects with Zenex’s support as follows:
- Education Sector NPO Bootcamp: Internship programme for young Black researchers focused on specific COVID-19 themes and led by experienced researchers. The themes relate to understanding the effects of the pandemic on NPOs, adapting to the challenging circumstances, financial consequences, and donor relationships. The project commenced in October 2020.
- Building Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Capacity: A series of practical M&E training workshops targeting 90 NPO staff members. The training covers six modules presented over two years. A blended learning approach is used, combined with rigorous participant evaluation. The trainees will be able to contribute to their organisations by measuring performance, highlighting areas for improvement and growth, and improving reporting and accountability to meet donor requirements.
- Bi-annual Conference: An online NASCEE Conference was held in October 2020 on the theme of “Collaborating for Change” with 200 participants. In future, the conference seeks to engage 300-400 participants and will be face-to-face if possible.
The three above-mentioned NASCEE projects have the following specific outcomes:
- Training 25 young Black researchers, drafting five research documents on the work of NPOs under COVID-19, and providing insights and trends to guide future work.
- Training 90 M&E practitioners to boost NPO capacity and improve their ability to design, monitor and evaluate their work, ensure long-term sustainability for their organisation, and meet funder requirements.
- The conference will provide a platform for knowledge sharing on issues affecting education and sector NPOs, feedback and discussion opportunities, and networking.
NASCEE broadly focuses on:
- Promoting organisational capacity and boosting the development of NPOs.
- Building meaningful, inclusive collaborations with government, including by ending the isolation of volunteers and NPOs that have been unable to contribute in the past.
- Ensuring the private sector and other stakeholders work with a wider pool of implementers, providing noteworthy projects with enough funding and taking advantage of valuable opportunities.
- Reducing competitiveness and increasing cooperation among NPOs.
- Curbing barriers to progress caused by NPOs’ continual struggle to survive and to meet multiple demands.
- Creating and sustaining networks with donors, ensuring implementers and other partners can find and connect with them.
With over 10,000 registered education NPOs in South Africa, there are remarkable opportunities to make sustainable positive social change in the education sector. Continued support and funding for the NASCEE will strengthen these NPOs, and overcome barriers to their progress through meaningful, inclusive collaboration and coordination. The ultimate goal of the NASCEE is to create a dynamic, capacitated, and connected education ecosystem.
Public education campaigns (COVID-19 Public Communication Campaign)
COVID-19 Public Communication Campaign: Returning to School Safely
The COVID-19 Public Communications Campaign increased awareness of the novel coronavirus and strategies to cope through trusted sources. The Campaign sought to shape attitudes and behaviours positively to allow schooling to continue safely and as soon as possible. The Campaign was divided into two projects, each focusing on different target audiences:
- Targeted School Community Communication Programme for teachers, school governing bodies and management using a range of communication platforms.
- Sikhaba iCOVID Public Radio Campaign to raise awareness among the broader public. The information was continually repurposed and shared across a variety of platforms to reach millions of South Africans.
The two-pronged Campaign ran nationwide from July to October 2020, in partnership with Grounded Media, the SABC, a range of education sector associations, and others. Zenex served as Campaign fund manager and on the Steering Committee. Working closely together, funders and partners leveraged all resources and expertise to drive and improve the Campaign continually and meet beneficiaries’ needs in multiple ways.
Under the pandemic conditions, parents felt anxious about the education deficit their children were experiencing and their inadequacy in homeschooling their children. They also feared for their children’s safety when they returned to school. School staff likewise felt unsure of how to proceed. In creating the Campaign, Zenex and partners paid close attention to these concerns and the scientific evidence.
The Targeted School Community Communication Programme helped the school community deal with various COVID-19 issues, particularly psycho-social support under stressful conditions. An editorial team of education experts, a media production team, and teachers, school managers and parents sharing their experiences were actively involved.
The goal of the Sikhaba iCOVID Public Radio Campaign was to ensure South Africans had access to COVID-19 information, especially those without digital devices and not speaking English.
Targeted School Community Communication Programme objectives:
- Promote and share best health, safety and educational practices using easily accessible media.
- Create an interactive platform to support teachers intensively under challenging circumstances.
- Provide information and support to school management teams on managing COVID-19 cases.
Sikhaba iCOVID Public Radio Campaign objectives:
- Build public solidarity and combat isolation with targeted communication from trusted sources through mainstream media.
- Reinforce prevention and healthcare messages.
- Share helpful information on social and education-related problems, among others.
- Have experts reassure and respond to questions from the public.
Targeted School Community Communication Programme outcomes:
- Shared and reinforced behaviour changes and COVID-19 protocols, such as what to do when staff or learners test positive.
- Maximised the use of multiple platforms, such as talk radio, social media, and instant messaging, to support the school community.
- Created a website with a Q&A section, education resources, and rapid feedback.
- Boosted the morale of teachers, learners and parents, and shared success stories.
Sikhaba iCOVID Public Radio Campaign outcomes:
- Designed, rapidly launched, and continually improved a programme based on the Social and Behaviour Change Communication (SBCC) strategy. This ensured the programme worked effectively in the long term.
- After a successful 13-week run, extended the campaign for an additional 13 weeks.
- Broadcast on 30 radio stations in 12 languages. The content included a COVID-19 dashboard, Q&A expert sessions, and motivational messages from leaders and frontline workers.
- Reached at least 20 million people. The full impact is unknown as the information was widely shared and repurposed. The total number of people reached is likely higher.
- Independent teams of experts and researchers working with government and NGOs ensured the information shared was accurate and timely.
Zenex and partners responded rapidly to the demands of the COVID-19 pandemic, uniting to make the best use of available resources and expertise through the two-pronged Public Communication Campaign. The Campaign focused on promoting a safe return to school as well as having a broader positive impact on the general public.
Popular, accessible media was used to promote preventive measures, solidarity, personal responsibility and compassion among millions of South Africans. Various accessible platforms were used to acknowledge and address the needs and concerns of schools, learners and parents. The Campaign was highly successful in remaining responsive to needs on the ground, meaningfully assisting the target audience, and optimising the use of funding.
The Foundation also supports programme intended to support the education ecosystem. These include: