Innovation Challenges.

Mental Health Innovation Challenge


Children Who Have Supportive Secure Attachments With A Caring Adult Spend Their Childhoods Building Brain Pathways That Allow For The Self-Control, Critical Thinking And Healthy Decision-Making Skills That Build A Prosperous Future.

We are on the lookout to fund courageous people with creative concepts and scalable interventions that seek to improve the mental health of 0-6 year old children and those who care for them.

Selected investment applicants will be supported to pitch their solutions to the Innovation Edge Investment Committee. Successful social entrepreneurs or organisations will receive up to R1.3 million in funding. In addition, they’ll also be provided with strategic coaching, operational support and connections to social capital. The deadline for submissions is 15 December 2022.

CLICK HERE for the detailed briefing document.

You may want to know…

Investment criteria for the Innovation Challenge
  • The solution must be focused on Caregivers, ECD Practitioners, Child and Youthcare workers (CYCW) as well as Community Healthcare Workers (CHW) who all have specific roles to play to buffer the harmful effects of toxic stress and set the foundations for lifelong good mental health.
  • The venture must primarily benefit children in low-income families
    The applicant must have a capable and committed co-founding team of at least 2 co-founders.
  • The venture must be innovative in that they find a new way of doing things, use an existing solution for a different purpose, or extend an existing solution to a different target audience in order to solve the problem.
  • The venture must have evidenced early traction either in the early childhood sector or a similar adjacent sector.
  • The venture must be in a position to demonstrate future sustainability and growth beyond investment from Innovation Edge.
What characteristics does Innovation Edge look for in investees?

We believe that innovative solutions to early childhood challenges can come from anyone, anywhere.

Investees might be seasoned or beginner entrepreneurs. They might be launching or leading a startup. They might be employed in a business or non-profit and see the opportunity for their organisation to develop or grow an innovative product or service. They might be situated in an innovation lab in an academic institution. They might even be a student fresh out of a learning institution.

  • We look for mission-aligned investees who are:
  • Highly motivated, capable and determined
  • Collaborative and accountable
  • Open to coaching and have a growth mindset
  • Able to think creatively and be adaptable
Who or what does Innovation Edge NOT fund?
  • We do not currently fund ventures outside of South Africa
  • We’re unable to support ventures that are not sustainable post Innovation Edge funding
  • We will not invest in ventures that do not directly or indirectly impact the lives of children between the ages of 0 – 6 (this period includes pregnancy)
Does Innovation Edge invest in for-profit and non-profit ventures?

Yes. Our financial support (amount and instrument) is fit for purpose, tailored to the needs and profile of both for-profit and non-profit ventures. Our return expectations are driven by our impact-first approach. This means that we will make investments in impactful ventures that do not generate a financial return; that require a below-market financial return; and/or where returns are as yet unproven.

What non-financial support do investees receive?

We have a learning mindset with a high tolerance for trial and error. Our customised venture support is both pragmatic and strategic and includes access to a team of experts to help you:

  • Understand and navigate the early childhood development ecosystem
  • Test your assumptions and validate your solution in an iterative way
  • Build and test prototypes
  • Design strategies for customer acquisition, engagement and retention
  • Plan for sustainability and scale, including building a fit-for-purpose business model and team
  • Demonstrate social and financial return potential
  • Define and articulate your value proposition
  • Connect to potential follow-on funders

Recently closed Innovation Challenges

Fatherhood Innovation Challenge

Fatherhood Campaign, a call to fund social entrepreneurs and organisations with creative concepts and interventions that seek to scale the meaningful participation of fathers and father figures from the earliest years of their child’s life.

Early Literacy Innovation Challenge

This was a call for bold solutions that aim to improve preschool teachers’ support of early literacy development for 4-6 year olds in South Africa’s impoverished communities.

Social entrepreneurs with a proven track record of implementation within any sector were invited to respond to this call and apply for funding for their product, service or venture.

Selected applicants will be supported to pitch their solutions to the Innovation Edge Investment Committee in September 2022. Successful social entrepreneurs will join the Innovation Edge Investee Community and receive fit-for-purpose (amount and financial instrument) funding, customised venture building support and connections to social capital.

More coming soon

Coming soon

About The Early Literacy Challenge In South African.

South Africa’s biggest measure of early childhood, the Thrive by Five Index, released in April 2022, found that almost half (49%) of 4-5 year olds from the poorest households did not meet the Emergent Literacy and Language standards for their age.  

These children are more likely to struggle to learn to read and write when they start school, which will not only affect their education outcomes across all subjects but also influence their likelihood of completing secondary schooling and going on to do meaningful work. The problem extends beyond formal education - language is also a fundamental part of social interaction, and therefore of socioemotional wellbeing. 

In order to improve the early literacy and language skills of South African preschoolers, we need to find effective and creative ways of training, supporting and providing resources to their teachers.  

Imagine if preschool teachers in South Africa’s low-income communities were supported and equipped to enable language and literacy development in ways that are appropriate for young children.

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Funding Opportunities

Employment Opportunities

Find short and long-term employment opportunities within Innovation Edge and our networks.

 Click here for NGOPulse Vacancies.

ECD Resources

Access the latest reports and insights from the early childhood sector.

Download the 2020 South African Child Gauge here.

Read the 2019 South African Early Childhood Review here.