A breakout session at The Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2019, under the theme ‘Collaboration in education’, unpacked the workings of national pooled funding initiatives – the National Education Collaboration Trust (NECT) and the Public Health Enhancement Fund (PHEF).
The NECT facilitates cross-sector collaboration to improve education outcomes
The NECT was established in response to the call by the National Development Plan (NDP) for increased collaboration among stakeholders to improve education outcomes. It is dedicated to strengthening partnerships within civil society and between civil society and government in order to achieve South Africa’s national goals for basic education. It strives both to support and to influence the agenda for reform of education.
The NECT’s members include government, private sector, unions and non-profit organisations (NPO), all of whom are represented on the board. Over the last five years, the NECT has mobilised over R1 billion – 60% from government and 40% from the private sector. The fact that the NECT is anchored in the NDP gives them a very powerful convening authority – they are able to speak with one voice representative of their members. Furthermore, while it is often difficult for the private sector to directly fund government, the NECT provides a vehicle for the private sector to collaborate and co-fund initiatives with government.
The NECT’s model is to research and undertake pilot projects, then to implement those projects at a district and provincial level, and finally to handover the projects that are working to government to be delivered at scale. A key aspect of the NECT’s success is that they have succeeded in embedding their initiative within government structures.
The PHEF collects funds to help enhance human capacity in the health sector
The PHEF was established in 2013 and consists of 22 member companies. It is a vehicle to collectively amass funds for public sector training initiatives – building human capacity for health – established through engagement with the minister of health. Members include a broad range of participants from hospital groups and clinics, medical scheme administrators, the pharmaceutical sector, distribution companies and pharmaceutical retailers. Companies become members through a subscription contribution, based on a proportion of their profits – this results in equity in power.
The PHEF does not currently receive government funding. However, its operating model does allow for government funding in the future. The PHEF sees its engagement with government as a vital step in building trust between government and the private health sector. Engagement with government takes place twice a year through the social compact forum with the minister of health. This forum is the decision-making body, providing strategic direction, and consists of the 22 affiliated CEOs and the minister. The forum is unique in that it brings together competitors to collectively achieve common impact. The PHEF is therefore the implementation and funding arm of the social compact forum.
The engagement with the minister and the corporate collective through the forum ensures that discussions are focused on this particular health issue: building the capacity of health professionals – meetings with individual companies would likely result in the discussion of specific regulatory issues pertaining to that company, rather than the specific PHEF agenda.
Pooled funding guards against duplicate efforts
The concept of national pooled funding is an essential tool to enable corporates to avoid building a parallel system to government. Parallel systems, instead of strengthening government, effectively weaken government by creating dependency on an unsustainably funded system. Companies need to work together on social development initiatives with a planned transition to government, to ensure the sustainability of the initiative. This can be done by undertaking pilot projects, learning lessons along the way, and then handing over the effective projects to government for them to deliver at scale.
IMAGE: Fltr-James Keevy (JET Education Services), Nimrod Mbele (NECT), Dr Mandi Mzimba (PHEF) and Giles Gillett (New Leaders Foundation)
Article written by Damian Watson
Photo taken by Cobus Oosthuizen