SmartStart is taking affordable high quality early learning to tens of thousands of children across South Africa. We provide a systems solution to the challenge of delivering early learning at scale. Our social franchise model enables us to harness the experience of our implementing partners who license and support a network of early learning practitioners to deliver the same evidence-based program and daily routine. SmartStart is not only ensuring that children have the right foundations in place to succeed at school and beyond, it is also supporting skills development and micro-enterprise, enabling more women to work

In South Africa, there are nearly six million children aged between birth and four years old. The majority of these children live in poverty. For them, access to effective early learning opportunities will have a lasting impact. Research shows that children who start primary school with certain skills and behaviors in place are likely to do better at school. However, the extent to which they develop these essential skills depends a great deal on whether or not they have access to certain types of experiences and interactions. Too often, children living in poverty are deprived of the early learning opportunities that will equip them to create a brighter future for themselves.
The early years are a unique developmental window. If this opportunity is missed, society and government pay the price many times over during a child’s life course, whether through grade repetition and school drop-out, unemployment, poor health, or increased crime. More importantly, there is an individual cost in terms of personal wellbeing and wasted potential.

The SmartStart social franchise model is the first of its kind in South Africa. Social franchising increases the likelihood of positive social impact by providing standardized training, processes, and resources to support quality delivery. Centralized data management enables robust monitoring and a continuous internal learning loop. SmartStart runs the franchise, contracting with Franchisors and providing them with training and technical assistance. SmartStart is responsible for the program design and materials, and for training SmartStarters. We also define the licensing and quality assurance systems and supply policies and tools that enable model fidelity and efficient delivery. Importantly, SmartStart helps to activate demand through public information campaigns and promoting a visible and trusted brand.

Our Franchisors are existing NGOs. Franchisors recruit, license, and support early learning practitioners (known as SmartStarters) in particular geographic areas, targeted based on child numbers and existing latent demand. Franchisors also employ Coaches who run the network of SmartStart Clubs and oversee quality assurance.
SmartStarters are independent early learning providers. They are both community services and micro-enterprises, generating an income through government subsidies and stipends and parent fees. SmartStarters are carefully selected using a ‘matching’ process and must complete training and licensing processes. They are provided with operational resources and play materials and receive direct support and coaching through the SmartStart Clubs.

Through the social franchise model, SmartStart is creating a national network of SmartStarters who are passionate about children and passionate about early learning.

Contact Person

Grace Matlhape

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