Evaluation of Discovery’s enterprise and supplier development programme

“The Trialogue team’s methodology, input and insights were highly valuable to us during our monitoring and evaluation process. Our requirements were met immediately and the outcome of the process resulted in a detailed report with suitable recommendations, most of which we are in the process of implementing.” 

Shelley Roberts, Senior Transformation Specialist, Discovery

Small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) account for the majority of enterprises and a significant proportion of employment in both developed and developing economies. These businesses however encounter numerous challenges that inhibit their growth, including a lack of access to finance, limited human resource capacity, and weak technological capability. To help grow this sector, the South African government has promoted enterprise and supplier development (ESD) which now forms an integral part of South Africa’s national policy to create a more inclusive economy. 


Discovery is a market leader in the healthcare, long- and short-term insurance, wellness, and financial services industries. It introduced an ESD Programme ten years ago to develop a pool of high-impact entrepreneurs whose businesses are aligned to Discovery’s core business areas and objectives. The programme has since invested more than R120 million in 44 businesses through grants and loan financing.

In 2020, Discovery commissioned Trialogue to conduct an independent evaluation of its ESD programme to determine whether the programme was meeting its objectives and contributing to business growth and job creation. The overall purpose of the study was to identify lessons learnt in the implementation of the Discovery ESD programme and make recommendations to Discovery for the implementation of future ESD programmes.

The evaluation began with a meeting between Discovery and Trialogue which resulted in an inception report. The next stage was to collect and review the programme documents – from Discovery, the incubators, and the individual ESD beneficiaries, to gather a view of the implementation and performance of the programme to date. This was followed by a literature review to explore entrepreneurship, incubation and ESD in SA. During this phase, the Discovery ESD programme was also benchmarked against similar interventions. An evaluation plan was built on the insights and findings gathered from the document review. It set out the evaluation questions, specified the data requirements and was used to inform the fieldwork instruments.

The fieldwork consisted of semi-structured interviews with Discovery, as well as the managers of the implementing partners and all the direct ESD grant and loan beneficiaries. Telephonic surveys were conducted with 20 incubatees to explore their experience with the ED programmes and the impact which the programmes had in terms of their business growth and employment generation, and the sustainability of such achievements. The final phase involved the analysis, during which the Trialogue team brought together all the evidence collected in the evaluation, as well as that collected as part of ongoing monitoring of the Discovery ESD programme, to make a judgement on the design, implementation and outcomes of the intervention and to provide recommendations on opportunities for improvement.

Trialogue made a number of recommendations related to project design and clarification of objectives, changes to the programme terms of reference and improvements to monitoring, evaluation and reporting processes.