Planning, managing and evaluating csi initiatives
There is no denying that for those in corporate and NGO spheres alike, the contemporary social investment sector In Africa is fraught with a wide range of challenges and complexities. It is not difficult to understand why grantmakers, social investors and social innovators often become discouraged or overwhelmed by the sheer number of micro- and macrofactors to be taken into consideration either when setting up a new initiative or when managing an existing project. But help is at hand.
The development and roll-out of feasible, scalable, sustainable and, where necessary, replicable CSI programmes is an enormous undertaking for any company or organisation. In addition, assessing why and how a current programme may be succeeding (right now) or failing (either suddenly or incrementally) can be an equally complex, and often also a costly exercise.
Identifying focus areas that align with your company’s brand, values and ethos, creating true social value, setting up a strategic framework for project design and management, allocating resources, setting up budgets, managing and communicating with stakeholders, liaising with government, collating data, doing relevant reporting and above all, making a meaningful difference equates to lot of logistical balls to juggle.
The encouraging news is that it is achievable. It can be done. Social investors can get it right. Meaningful systemic change and transformative impact are possible. Successful, compliant interventions that are able to bring about real, measurable change in the lives of Africans can be created and implemented. And they should be.
So how does one do it?
The short answer is by instituting sector-based best practices – practices grounded on years of research and experience. Starting now. Doing so is in fact an imperative. Because if we fail to, we are quite simply wasting our time, our human resources and our (already strained) other resources.
Consultants, strategists and key players in the global CSI arena may not yet have all the answers, and thanks to continuous political upheavals, environmental degradation and political and social instability on the continent, the playing field is certainly anything but stable. No one would argue otherwise.
That said, for those committed to improving the lives of individuals across Africa, there is certainly enough help and expertise available to move in the right direction. User-friendly, step-by-step tools and guidelines exist that can assist, educate and empower those in the sector in need of support and practical guidance.
In 2017, having collated 20 years’ worth of research and experience, Next Generation Consultants launched three books that we hope will serve as benchmark manuals for the development sector. These guides combine the distillation of multiple case studies, theoretical resources and on site, hands-on work with over 5 000 professionals at some of the largest development institutions, social investors, corporate funders and government organisations on the African continent, working in multiple key developmental focus areas.We believe these books can make a huge difference to social investors and aid them greatly, and the feedback to date reinforces this view.
The Grantmaking Guide
The guide aims to strengthen and improve processes. It contains a series of user-friendly tools, tips and guidelines that can assist practitioners to adopt and apply best practices all along the value chain from planning to implementation to assessment.
The tools provided include forms, checklists, templates and questionnaires for the entire range and scope of CSI roll-out, including strategy development, communication, budgeting, reporting, monitoring and evaluation. These tools are of particular use to those structuring or restructuring foundations, trusts, CSI divisions, projects and programmes because they are easy to understand, thorough and designed to be aligned with global thinking and trends.
The Grantmaking Guide is also realistic about adopting a shared value approach in that it takes into consideration a growing worldwide trend in the development sector to align company community/social development objectives with overall business/investor objectives – ensuring better overall outcomes for all stakeholders.
The Grantmaking Guide adds value to your social investment and development operations in numerous ways, including:
- Offering an in-depth overview of why projects fail and how to change this.
- Providing clear, easy-to follow definitions of development sector terminology throughout the text and in a comprehensive glossary which can equip and educate us, ensuring that we all speak the same language.
- Recommending how to best select investment portfolios, focus areas, programmes and partnerships that align with business/investor objectives and company values.
- Illustrating how to identify and manage risk factors, develop appropriate strategies and implement and manage resources, operations and budgets.
- Laying out practical steps on how to remain transparent, compliant and how to apply due diligence/governance to CSI operations.
- Providing tools that assist in the appropriate monitoring and evaluation of your CSI interventions.
The monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment guide
Monitoring, evaluation and learning (MEL) are imperative parts of the social investment and development process, as without them, we cannot gain a holistic overview of how change occurs in a social context through our interventions, and we cannot assess what we are doing right and/or wrong.
It is a fact that we can only improve the performance of current and future strategies and programmes if we know how to collect and analyse data and stakeholder feedback correctly. We also need to know what data is relevant and how to collect, collate and report back in a cost-effective manner. We need to be able to show development partners, government, investors and community stakeholders that we are using resources effectively. And if we are not, we need to be held accountable – and use the insights we gain through our assessment process to improve our work.
This guide has been designed to show one exactly how to best do this. Organisations that measure and assess are better able to adapt programmes to changing circumstances, and to do so faster and more effectively. Such organisations also tend to make better resource allocation decisions. As with The Grantmaking Guide, this book contains a series of tools and templates that can be used to ensure due process and best practices throughout the management and measurement process.
The guide takes one through the following steps:
- An overview of why impact measurement is a crucial component of any CSI initiative.
- The basics and fundamentals of measurement schematics, including theories of change and logic model frameworks.
- How to best gather, manage and collate data and information for your specific programme.
- How to measure impact and return on investment.
- How to set up performance management and measurement systems (includes tools, lists and templates to guide one through the entire process).
- How to develop monitoring, evaluation and impact reports.
Investment Impact Index™
It is being constantly refined as the development industry evolves, but currently consists of a comprehensive library of more than 7 000 qualitative and quantitative indicators and the identification and development of more than 25 dimensions of impact and return on investment that can be applied to assess more comprehensively development programmes.
Applying Next Generation’s III™ methodology assists CSI stakeholders to:
- plan better for positive outcomes
- implement programmes more effectively
- successfully bring initiatives to scale
- facilitate greater stakeholder accountability
- support improved stakeholder communication
- guide appropriate allocation of (scarce) resources
This III™ is a comprehensive, insightful and integrated impact assessment model and invaluable tool for the development sector. It is also a free resource.