Think Future Breakaway Sessions

Innovative Financing – Accessing Capital for Good

Participants in this session explored ways of diversifyng financing mechanisms in the Early Childhood Development space.

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So you want to change the world? The good news: there are many organizations and individuals with access to large pools of capital that want to invest in people who want to change the world. The bad news: the field of innovative finance for social change is still nascent, can be difficult to navigate and not every type of capital will be right for you.

This session explored the different funding options and business models available.


Session Champions

Aunnie Patton Power: Founder, Intelligent Impact

Jamie Martin: Founder, Injini EdTech Incubator

Ashley Becker & Shikha Goyal: Omidyar Network

Making Business Future-Fit 

This session sought to answer the question, “What the Business Sector needs in order to consider the Early Childhood Care and Education services ecosystem as a space of interest?” 

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The Making Business Future-Fit, dealt specifically with creating value propositions that get business behind the business of Early Childhood Care and Education. ECCE.

Making good investments at the right time is fundamentally good for business, says Founding Director of Innovation Edge, Sonja Giese, and the same principle holds true for the development of the human brain: “There is no other time in the life of a human being when an investment in human capital will have as great – or as lasting – a return as the first six years after conception. Yet, we continue to invest significantly more per capita in primary, secondary and tertiary education than we do in these formative years. In short, we are investing too late and too little in our human capital.”

What’s the role of business? The business sector offers unique competencies that are desperately needed, but remain largely untapped, says Giese. Innovation Edge challenged businesses to think bigger and bolder, to combine profit with purpose. “At Think Future, we showed innovative examples and best practices that illustrated how social impact can be baked into business, rather than simply bolted on.”

“There is a power in partnerships that we have not fully tapped into and which needs to be explored. There is nothing stopping business from integrating ECD initiatives into our processes – we have so many resources we could draw on but we haven’t looked at this through the lens of ECD”, added Elizabeth Maepa, Independent Director on the Board of First Rand. 

Norman Mbazima, Anglo American SA Deputy Chairperson, highlighted that in order to ‘sell’ ECD to other players, such as business, it is important to frame it so that everyone ‘gets shared value out of it’.

Other Making Business Future-Fit session speakers included Vuyo Jack, Empowerdex; Nyeleti Magadze, Hollard; Ian Gourley; Barrows Design and Manufacturing; Norman Mbazima, Anglo American SA; Elizabeth Maepa, First Rand Foundation and N


Session Champions

Vuyo Jack: Empowerdex

Nyeleti Magadze: Hollard

Ian Gourley: Barrows Design and Manufacturing (PTY) Ltd

Megan Blair: Earlybird Educare@Work

Nicola Galombik: Yellowwoods

Norman Mbazima: Anglo American SA

Elizabeth Maepa: First Rand


Just Do It – Creating an Enabling Ecosystem for Social Entrepreneurship

This session featured a selection of entrepreneurs sharing their views on what’s needed to create a more enabling environment for social entrepreneurship to thrive. 

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Resilience, Imagination, Ingenuity …. these are the characteristics we seek to nurture in all young children. These are the same characteristics that define successful entrepreneurs. How do we build an ecosystem that nurtures social entrepreneurship?

Four dynamic social entrepreneurs, driven by passion and purpose, shared their personal journeys of success and failure, highlighting the essential ingredients of an enabling ecosystem.  

Session Champions

Matsi Modise: Managing Director, Simodisa

Kopano Matlwa Mabaso: Author, Spilt Milk and Coconut

Tracey Chambers: Founder, The Clothing Bank

Afzal Habib: Co-Founder, Kidogo Early Years, Nairobi

Nisha Ligon: Ubongo


Customer Expectations in a Digital World 

Customer expectations are transcending traditional industry boundaries. This session explored some of the ways in which increased access to technology is shaping customer expectations of services, and what this means for early care and education.

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If we see parents and caregivers, teachers and even children themselves as customers within the early education space, we must understand how they expect to be engaged and what their “New Norm” is.

Customer expectations are being defined by their experiences of digital services and social media, such as MPesa, Uber, WhatsApp, Facebook. How do we use this knowledge to design early childhood care and education services and systems with our customer in mind? What does this mean for how we communicate with parents, how we upskill teachers, how we manage administrative and payment systems, how we report on children’s progress…. ?

This session used design thinking techniques to begin unpacking and solving for two key customer journeys (parents / caregivers and ECD practitioners) including personas, journey mapping and prioritization.

Session Champions

Wayne Hull: Managing Director, Accenture Digital for South and Sub-Saharan Africa

Siyasanga Maqhutyana: Accenture

Handhelds as a Handup – Beyond 160 Characters

Participants in this session spent time exploring ways in which mobile phones can be used as positive disruptors for Early Childhood Care and Education.

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Mobile access has long been acknowledged as a major disruptor in many fields. The increasing adoption of smartphones in under resourced communities is now providing the opportunity to leverage that access in a powerful and impactful way for early childhood care and education. 

Beyond 160 characters: images, emoji, video, audio, GPS locations, contacts, personalization. Real-time analytics on end-user reach, engagement, and outcomes. Instant responses to time-sensitive questions using the latest machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques. These are the new building blocks for innovation in digital services for early childhood development. 

This interactive co-design workshop brought together the smartest minds to re-imagine the potential of disruptive messaging in the early childhood development sector and explored how this can be applied to enhance impact at scale. 

Session Champions

Gustav Praekelt: Founder and Chairman, the Africa-based Praekelt Group

Let’s Talk about Scale

The Early Childhood Care and Education services ecosystem needs new, bold innovations to happen quickly and at scale. Easier said than done? 

Childhood by Design Living Lab

This Living Lab saw participants enthusiastically harnessing the power of ideas and creativity to co-imagine everyday places being transformed into engaging spaces.

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A Living Lab sparks the creation and movement of ideas to improve outcomes for our youngest children and their families. This Living Lab breakaway session  addressed the challenge of using design to reimagine everyday spaces as engaging spaces for all young children.

Focused on the end-user (children and parents) and using human-centered design principles, participants developed new ideas for better aligned, collective action between the early childhood field, the arts, design, placemaking, and architecture.

Questions this session considered included:

How can artists and other creatives help create better everyday places for children and families?

How can we leverage architecture, urban design, rural resign and placemaking with what we know about how place and the built environment impact young children and their families to improve outcomes?

How can cities and neighborhoods take account of children in their planning?

How do we create places that encourage all people to value the culture of childhood and to prioritize the experience of growing up?

Session Champion

Joe Waters: Co-founder and CEO, Capita

Designing Social Movements

Dave Duarte, Founder of Treeshake and #iamtheCODE Ambassador ran an impromptu workshop on designing social movements.

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Dave started off by sharing some key information to understand and consider when designing social movements:-

  • Social movements are created to change a perception; influence a decision or policy and/or to build a habit.
  • When developing the narrative, remember that you are not the hero, but rather the mentor
  • A movement is a platform for change

He went on to define some of the characteristics shared by good campaigns:-

  • They use the element of surprise either in concept or impact – you only get one chance! 
  • They spread quickly and at scale
  • The campaign drivers find the right influencers or tastemakers – people who have disproportionate influence
  • They build communities of participation
  • They have a solid Theory of Change that takes into account the benefit; solution and challenge

And finally, he shared his easy to follow 3-step campaign building technique:-

1. Define your mission by answering these 3 questions

What is the purpose of your campaign?

What are the values your campaign seeks to highlight?

What is the message you’d like to share with your audience?

2. Then move on to focusing on the people you’ll be targeting

Who makes up your community of participation?

Who is your ultimate audience?

Who are the influencers/collaborators?

3. Develop your campaign content

Define your topic, which must be of interest to your audience

What’s the concept for delivering your campaign? Which platforms will you use?

What does conversion look like? Make sure you design a call to action to help you measure the success.

For more on Dave’s work, please visit his website.