Trialogue and the MTN Foundation encourage good monitoring and evaluation (M&E) practices through the annual MTN Awards for Social Change.

The MTN Foundation awarded a total of R1-million in prize money to three deserving non-profit organisations (NPOs) at the Trialogue Business in Society Virtual Conference (22-24 June). These coveted awards are made to NPOs that demonstrate excellent monitoring and evaluation in their social projects.

The winners were announced on 24 June and each winner in the large, medium-sized and small NPO category received R300 000.

  1. In the large NPO category – Save the Children South Africa for the District-Based Teacher Recruitment Strategy Project
  2. In the medium-sized NPO category – Isiqalo Foundation Trust t/a Waves for Change for Surf Therapy
  3. In the small NPO category – School of Hard Knocks for SOHK for Schools

An additional bonus prize of R100 000 was awarded to the Isiqalo Foundation Trust for Surf Therapy as it demonstrated the best evidence of advanced M&E practice.

Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, general manager of the MTN SA Foundation, said that MTN supports these awards to encourage better M&E in the non-profit sector. “Good monitoring and evaluation typically makes for a more efficient and targeted programme, which enables NPOs to use resources more strategically and deliver greater impact,” said Mtunzi-Hairwadzi.

Trialogue director Cathy Duff said 55 NPOs entered the competition this year, with 20 being shortlisted by Trialogue. The three judges – Zulaikha Brey, divisional manager of M&E at Trialogue; Asgar Bhikoo, an M&E specialist at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation; and Feryal Domingo, director of operations at Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement – reviewed and scored the shortlisted candidates and selected the winners.

Judges Bhikoo and Domingo commented that entries had varied in terms of M&E capacity, knowledge and skills – some organisations

with well-developed, long-standing projects showed very little evidence of M&E while some small NPOs were able to clearly articulate project outputs and outcomes. This was contrary to what was observed in previous years, and highlights the need for capacity building, the judges said. They added that in some cases M&E has been used to re-evaluate needs and organisational priorities, which has made NPOs more adaptable and resilient, particularly during the pandemic.

“In terms of areas for improvement, we found that a number of organisations are working in the same space – by working together, they could gain from learning and best practice, which would bring about improved M&E with significant cost savings,” Bhikoo said.

 

Save the Children South Africa for the District-Based Teacher Recruitment Strategy Project (Large NPO winner)

Save the Children South Africa aims to give every child a healthy start in life, protection from harm, and the opportunity to learn. The project, run in partnership with the national Department of Basic Education, allows student teachers to gain classroom experience alongside the theoretical grounding through their Bachelor of Education degrees at UNISA and North-West University. It aims to address challenges in the quantity and quality of teachers in underserved rural areas.

“The winning programme is designed to address a clear need and is based on strong consultation and research,” Domingo said. “It has clear objectives and activities and is supported by a detailed theory of change. The organisation uses its M&E data well, within and outside the organisation, and shows an understanding of the need for continuous learning at an organisational and programme level.”

 

Isiqalo Foundation Trust t/a Waves for Change for Surf Therapy (Medium NPO winner and winner of the bonus R100 000)

Isiqalo provides mental health support to vulnerable youth living in unstable communities. The Surf Therapy programme provides them with access to safe spaces, caring mentors, and a weekly surfing session to help cope with stress and build healing relationships. Of the children who have completed the programme, 96% report feeling happier, 93% feel more confident, 94% feel safer and have learnt to do new things like swimming, and 83% calm down when they feel sad, angry or scared.

“The winning intervention is well designed and has well-resourced M&E that is used internally to improve on its services. Externally, M&E is used to participate in learning communities, with like-minded organisations and stakeholders, while also working with tertiary institutions to publish key learnings in peer-reviewed journals,” said Domingo. “We felt that the NPO has explored experiential design and investigated the use of creative qualitative approaches such as photovoice to get a true feel for the impact of its programme.”

Isiqalo also won the bonus award for having the best evidence of advanced M&E. This included factors like having a documented theory of change; considering the potential negative, unintended consequences that could arise from a programme; and being cognisant of the ethical considerations that come with conducted M&E with vulnerable groups.

 

School of Hard Knocks for SOHK for Schools (Small NPO winner)

The School of Hard Knocks uses rugby, a research-based curriculum and in-depth mentoring to improve the physical and mental well-being of young people in underserved communities in Cape Town. In terms of results, some 81% of the youngsters enrolled in the programme feel they are better able to cope when things go wrong and 100% say they are able to manage their emotions. A full 93% of alumni have been placed in employment, education or training after exiting the programme.

“The winning organisation used research, evaluation findings and the insights of partner organisations to set up value-based M&E systems and processes – it was really very impressive,” said Domingo. “School of Hard Knocks embedded both monitoring of outputs and evaluation of outcomes in its effort to account for impact and seek opportunities to increase its effectiveness.”

Duff said that the MTN Awards for Social Change continue to motivate NPOs to improve their M&E and consequently improve outcomes for communities. “We are grateful to MTN for once again supporting NPOs as they strive for more effective and transparent M&E, which leads to a more efficient use of resources and better decision-making,” she said. “The pandemic has forced NPOs to become even more resourceful – but these awards help them to improve on their M&E processes and systems.” The awards were first launched in 2019, with the aim of facilitating learning and information-sharing among NPOs.

The Trialogue Business in Society Virtual Conference was presented in partnership with: Absa, Momentum Metropolitan Foundation, MTN SA Foundation, Rand Water Foundation, Vodacom, Capitec Foundation, SibanyeStillwater and Volkswagen South Africa.