Focus Area

Early Security and Safety

Innovation Lever

Existing Product, Platform or Service


Proof of Concept



Impande (previously known as the Network Action Group) is a non-profit organisation (NPO) focused on collecting and using data to drive change in marginalised communities in South Africa’s Eastern Cape and Kwazulu-Natal regions. Over the past 20 years, Impande has developed a network of 700 early childhood development (ECD) services and worked with grassroots organisations to build approximately 60 classrooms, support 300 teachers and enable access to more than R15 million worth of ECD subsidies from the government.

The Problem

On the 18th of March, the South African Department of Social Development (DSD) ordered the closure of all ECD centres (registered or unregistered) in order to prevent the spread and acceleration of Covid-19 infections. Since 2019, Impande has worked in partnership with Zero2Five Trust to administer nutritional support to children who attend 160 ECD centres in the Bizana Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape, which are not funded by the government. This area was prioritised based on its high poverty levels, as well as reports of malnutrition and stunting.

Following DSD’s decision to close centres, Impande’s key concern was that children would no longer be able to access meals through ECD centres; and that it would be likely that children would experience neglect or abuse without having anyone to identify it or report it to.

The Response

Impande’s immediate response was to set up food distribution systems to combat the sudden loss of access to meals for young children. In order to ensure safe distribution and avoid crowding or looting, the team’s strategy was to deliver supplies to ECD centres that in turn distribute fortified breakfast, rice and soya meals and soap to parents. Various partners have helped increase the quantities of nutritional support, thus ensuring that food is provided for children who normally attend the ECD centres as well as their families.

In light of the national lockdown regulations, Impande also focused their activities on services that can be delivered remotely. The Innovation Edge rapid response funding is being used to support the implementation of these remote service offerings, including:

A virtual communication network to provide information in rural communities

The Impande team had started to test their ability to reach ECD centres using WhatsApp. They had 300 ECD centres sign-up to receive Whatsapp broadcast messages from Impande in the first two weeks following the lockdown (end March) and as of 10 May had reached a total of 225 ECD centres in the Ugu district and 147 in Bizana through WhatsApp. These centres account for approximately 60% of all centres in the region. Along with impressive reach, there have been high levels of engagement and interaction – too much for one social worker to manage. Given the increasing demand, Impande has engaged (a technology based public benefit organisation) to set up a full WhatsApp virtual ECD network and helpdesk. Leveraging a tool such as allows the team to have personal, guided conversations via Whatsapp at scale.

Enhancing and coordinating a child protection monitoring network to replace the support previously provided by ECD services and schools

Using their network of 7 specialised community-based child protection organisations, the ECD practitioners of 700 ECD centres and 20 youth interns, Impande has recruited child protection champions who have experience working on the ground and are responsible for reporting problems, which may include neglect, abuse, lack of nutrition and lack of access to water.

Once a child protection organisation, youth intern or ECD protection champion identifies a suspected case of neglect, abuse or poor nutrition and sanitation, a WhatsApp message is immediately sent to the team’s social workers, who then follow up with the reporting individual with a phone call to assess the severity of the case. From this assessment, the social worker determines whether the matter can be dealt with by a child protection organisation or needs to be referred to child welfare, police services or a healthcare professional.

Why we invested

Through previous collaborations with Innovation Edge, Impande has proven to be a strong team that is capable of supporting and strengthening the communities within their network. The funding provided by Innovation Edge will allow the team to increase their operational capacity, thus allowing them to expand their reach and impact. Their team have also demonstrated a strong sense of adaptability and willingness to serve their community even under difficult circumstances.

The Project Team

Brian Ligget has 10 years of experience working with rural community-based organisations in KZN. An undergraduate in Human Geography and postgraduate in rural development led him to pioneer the Impande office and programmes over the last 9 years.

Duduzile Mkhizeis a programme manager at Impande, and has 5 years NGO management experience in policy and systems, youth development and child protection. Previously, Dudu was a social worker at DSD with specialisations in victim empowerment and court processes. She sits on the Ugu rights of a child forum and has extensive links with DSD in KZN and the EC.