Preparing for lift off with Spring Impact

by Shelagh McLoughlin
11 May 2023
11 May 2023

Spring Impact declares on its website that it was “founded out of frustration”. While working with weaving projects in Ghana and India, founder Dan Berelowitz realised that many were making the same operational mistakes, rather than learning from what works and applying it to make a greater impact.

“There are many organisations doing incredible work to tackle societal problems, yet some of the best social innovations do not achieve impact at the scale of these problems. That’s a missed opportunity,” said Spring Impact consultant, Evie Henderson-Child, on a recent visit to Pietermaritzburg.

She had traveled to KZN with fellow consultant, Lucy O’Keeffe, to start the process of strategising with SaveAct, one of four recipients in South Africa of a full, two-year consultancy with Spring Impact. The consultancy is part of Scale Accelerator: Women’s Empowerment, Spring Impact’s fully funded programme offered to NGOs across Southern Africa who are ambitious about achieving impact at scale.

This non-profit organisation was started in 2011 after Mr Berelowitz met co-founder Michael Norton, who had expertise in swiftly franchising Childline in India. Time spent with McDonalds, the Body Shop and other social enterprises informed Mr Berelowitz about replication and how social enterprises work. After realising that no organisation was addressing the need to help non-profits achieve scale, this became Spring Impact’s focus. Twelve years later it has helped over 300 organisations around the world to scale up in various ways.

Increasing the reach of the savings methodolody has been a goal for SaveAct for several years. The need for a simple way to address poverty in South Africa is obvious, and the exponential growth of SaveAct to 110 000 members in 18 years has shown that people find that its methodology delivers.

Anton Krone, founder and executive director of SaveAct, said  the organisation has been aware for a long time that its methodology works and there is evidence to show this. “It is grounded in how people have traditionally managed money, but also brings significant enhancements: financial education, simpler ways of counting and managing transactions, improved accountability amongst members, and robust systems that assist to safeguard members’ money,” he said. “With these elements taken care of, the sky is the limit for SaveAct and its members.”

SaveAct has been working with non-profit partners since 2008, as a way of increasing scale. Partners, who have their own focus of work, introduce their people to the methodology and SaveAct assists them in setting up savings groups.

Ms Henderson-Child said the award was for organisations based in southern Africa, who have a model or solution that delivers positive social impct, some scale and women’s empowerment—and who want to take the next step.

“There are lots of savings groups in the world, but what stood out about SA was its focus on women, and what particularly stood out was the way that SGs are allowed to define their own constitution … so that groups are really in the hands of members,” she said.

Ms Henderson-Child said the key question is about sustainability at scale. “The focus of our work is how can you deliver value and impact to lots of people, over time, sustainably.”

Spring Impact brings experience in scaling up, frameworks for how to do that, help with problem solving, and, sometimes, funding. Spring Impact works with funders to design programmes and then invites organisations to work in a triangular collaboration.

For now, the focus is on strategising. This will be followed by designing a scale model for SaveAct and then implementing it.

“We need to refine the strategic work done (this week), and then build and test systems and processes,” said Henderson-Child.

“South Africa is facing hard economic times,” said Mr Krone. “The formal economy is not able to meet the challenge of widespread poverty. Women need the tools to create their own economic opportunities. For the poor, this is overwhelming in the informal economy. SaveAct’s programme is able to make the difference and enable members to take charge of their lives.”

He said SaveAct welcomes the opportunity to work with Spring Impact, “to take our work to scale such that more and more people gain access to the means to withstand shocks and take them out of poverty”.

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