SmartStart is a new social franchise for early learning that’s designed to reach national scale. It’s our dream to see children in South Africa benefit from early learning and give their growing brains the opportunity to succeed at school and in life. To turn this vision into a reality, we’re beginning with the poorest 40% of 3-4 year olds. We seek to engage with and support early learning practitioners across the country. We also aim to strengthen communities and parents’ appreciation of the importance of creating quality learning opportunities in the early years of a child’s life. And even more importantly, we want to demonstrate that a positive future for our children – and our country – is highly achievable.
Although SmartStart draws on the system of commercial franchising, in order to drive demand and increase the simplicity of scale-up, we are a non-profit, non-commercial franchise.
Why Social Franchising
A smart model
Social franchising is being used the world over as a game-changing strategy to deliver essential services across a range of sectors to communities. It's a useful mechanism for scaling up a structured programme, comprising standardised materials, training, support and monitoring. In other words, social franchising is a good model for SmartStart to use and here are a few reasons why:
It can deliver a learning programme at scale by organising small independent providers into larger units.
It can yield returns to scale in investment in physical capital, supply chains, advertising, and worker training and supervision.
It can ensure a consistent quality of learning through standardised processes and materials.
It unites all parties with a common, powerful vision.
It encourages an interchange of knowledge between members.
Play is important for healthy brain development. It reduces stress, improves working memory and makes children more socially competent. Learning through play forms the heart of the SmartStart programme. This programme provides practitioners with a daily routine that gives children ample opportunity for free play in a language-rich environment that encourages interactive storytelling and the development of self-regulation. What’s more, the programme has been created with the South African context in mind and includes a low-cost SmartStart play kit, training and free access to additional activities and learning ideas. SmartStart will also establish new playgroups across the country, as well as invite enthusiastic child-minders into our franchise network.
While social in nature, regular SmartStart club meetings will encourage improved practice through peer support and reflection. And because SmartStart is built on a social franchise model, practitioners and parents will get the support, insights and motivation they need every step of the way.
Making an Impact
Touching young lives – near and wide
The SmartStart hub forms the engine of the social franchise framework and is responsible for generating low-cost standardised materials, effective recruitment and training, annual accreditation of practitioners and quality assurance. Working through a network of locally based Regional Franchisors (typically existing NGOs), the SmartStart social franchise will deliver a quality programme at scale.
Scientific recruitment and selection will help SmartStart find the right practitioners, while training empowers local franchisees to start and run exceptional programmes for young children. Franchisees will be supported by local clubs and coaches to drive quality across the country, reaching thousands of children, no matter how remote their location.
Our target for 2025 is to support quality early learning for 1 million children annually.
Gold stars all the way
The systems for ensuring quality are critical to any social development programme. And this is where the franchise model really plays to its strength. Because the framework is built on the concept of replication, it means that the entire network follows the same principles, methodologies and set of tools.
To this end, SmartStart is developing and testing simple and affordable systems of quality assurance that ensure best practice across the many different role-players, which include checks to evaluate the performance of the practitioners, in addition to assessing the impact that SmartStart is having on the individual child. What’s more, quality delivery is strengthened through a system of clubs and peer-to-peer monitoring and support. It’s an organic process that keeps standards high and encourages continual improvement.