Innovation Edge, a grant and investment fund focused on unconventional ideas that find solutions to early childhood care and education (ECCE) challenges in under-resourced communities, this week hosted the Think Future conference. The event brought together 230 change makers from 20 different countries to explore and co-create action around five of the critical ingredients needed by today’s children to succeed in tomorrow’s world. The ultimate aim being to find innovative and scalable solutions to enabling children from all communities to have the type of experiences that help them realise their full potential in the world they are going to live in.
Sonja Giese, Executive Director of Innovation Edge, says that Think Future was conceptualised to bring together thinkers and leaders with diverse interests and expertise, to contribute to the development of innovations in ECCE.” Talks included calls to action to reframe the current approach to ECCE in South Africa and to explore different and innovative pathways to scaling programmes, products and services. Breakaway Session speakers included Gustav Praekelt: Founder and Chairman, the Africa-based Praekelt Group. His interactive co-design workshop explored the potential of disruptive messaging in the early childhood development sector and explored how this can be applied to enhance impact at scale.
A breakaway session, entitled Making Business Future-Fit, dealt specifically with creating value propositions that get business behind the business of ECD. Making good investments at the right time is fundamentally good for business, says Giese, and the same principle holds true for the development of the human brain: “There is no other time in the life of a human being when an investment in human capital will have as great – or as lasting – a return as the first six years after conception. Yet, we continue to invest significantly more per capita in primary, secondary and tertiary education than we do in these formative years. In short, we are investing too late and too little in our human capital.”
What’s the role of business? The business sector offers unique competencies that are desperately needed, but remain largely untapped, says Giese. Innovation Edge challenged businesses to think bigger and bolder, to combine profit with purpose.
“At Think Future, we showed innovative examples and best practices that illustrated how social impact can be baked into business, rather than simply bolted on.”
“There is a power in partnerships that we have not fully tapped into and which needs to be explored. There is nothing stopping business from integrating ECD initiatives into our processes – we have so many resources we could draw on but we haven’t looked at this through the lens of ECD”,
added Elizabeth Maepa, Independent Director on the Board of First Rand.
Norman Mbazima, Anglo American SA Deputy Chairperson, highlighted that in order to ‘sell’ ECD to other players, such as business, it is important to frame it so that everyone ‘gets shared value out of it’. Other Making Business Future-Fit session speakers included Vuyo Jack, Empowerdex; Nyeleti Magadze, Hollard; Ian Gourley; Barrows Design and Manufacturing; Norman Mbazima, Anglo American SA; Elizabeth Maepa, First Rand Foundation and Nicola Galombik, Yellowwoods.
Giese says, “Most young children in developing countries do not have access to quality ECD during their critical first few years of life. This means that their foundations for early education have not been established and they begin their formal schooling at a disadvantage. The achievement gap between them and their better off peers widens over time, showing that learning curves are already established by the time children get to school.
For positive socio-economic growth on a national level, all children must be equipped to learn by the time that they start school. For us, this means taking an innovative approach to creating effective ecosystems and targeted initiatives within the ECD space.”