SAIS 2, Loughborough University of London (LULDN) and mLab Southern Africa delivered a Data Collection and Analytics Framework training program for the first 12 SAIS 2 Innovation Fund grantee projects. Organised in Pretoria, South Africa, the training brought together the project coordinators from Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia to meet, network and to learn from each other. With the help of Data Collection & Analytics Framework the project teams can now produce short impact case studies on the project implementation, covering pre-, during and post-project phases. By mapping their ecosystem and capturing changes in mindsets, connections and working relations amongst various innovation role-players, the projects can establish an evidence base that showcases the potential impact of their activities on the local entrepreneurial ecosystems.
To facilitate the training, SAIS 2 collaborated with Loughborough University London, a top 10 UK university and home to some of the world’s leading researchers on design thinking, inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship ecosystems. Loughborough University has one of the UK’s largest Science and Enterprise Parks hosting a thriving community of young entrepreneurs.
The capacity building workshop took place in Pretoria, South Africa in early December 2018. The 4-day interactive workshop took place with the logistical help of MLab Southern Africa, within the Innovation Hub in Pretoria. SAIS 2 Focal Points also joined the training in order to gain insight on data collection and to bring learnings back to their home organizations.
The workshop started off with a speed dating exercise and project presentations. Before going into data collection methodologies, the participants were given a chance to reflect on the meaning of impact and value in their individual project contexts. The afternoon session focused on the concept of ecosystem mapping. Using a demographic data survey as a tool the project coordinators learned to identify the key actors in their local ecosystems and to understand their roles in relation to each other.
This session focused on analysing within a given innovation system. After the key actors of the ecosystem are identified, semi-structured and open interview techniques can be used as methods for understanding the details of ecosystem development. In addition, social network analysis serves as a way to visualize and reflect on the relationships within the ecosystem. The Project Coordinators were able to practice social network analysis using a specific software that will be available during project implementation.
The methodologies discussed during the first two days act as building blocks towards the Impact Case Study – the final demonstration of the projects’ impact on local ecosystems. The training provided the Project Coordinators with the structure and tools for building this study. Each SAIS 2 Innovation Fund grantee is expected to deliver an Impact Case Study at different stages of project implementation which in turn helps to document the ecosystem changes taking place.
The training closed with a ‘clinic session’ where the participants were able to pose their individual questions with the training facilitators and the SAIS 2 PMO. Project Coordinators were able to get further guidance on how to best start customizing the tools for their individual project purposes during the next 12-24 months.
Innovation in Africa depends on the strength of the continent's innovation and entrepreneurial ecosystems, but very little is known about them, especially in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) region. Without this knowledge, it is nearly impossible to know which interventions by governments and development organisations work and which ones do not.
Developed by the Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS 2) and Loughborough University London, Impact in Networks and Ecosystems serves to provide a timely reference and framework for reporting on the impact of innovation initiatives.
Initially aimed at creating the evidence base for SAIS 2-supported projects in Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia, the presented methods provide a standardised means to gather and study network and ecosystem data and build impact case studies within a little-known area of innovation intervention in the SADC Region and, if applied elsewhere, beyond.