“It is almost never about the money.”
This phrase often gets used on the investment side of the innovation ecosystem. Naturally, capital and other forms of funding play a crucial role in a new venture’s success, but it is commonplace to see innovators get tunnel vision on the issue of shortcomings in finances when there are shortages in knowledge and skills that could potentially have a fatal impact on a new business.
Being entrepreneurial and being an innovator are skill sets that require a deeper understanding of what makes a business work. Due to a limited number of training opportunities in the SADC Region, these skills must often be learned the hard way, which also means the lessons are usually learned in retrospect, too late – after a venture has failed.
For this reason, SAIS 2 does not only run its Innovation Fund to offer grants to promising projects. Funded projects are required to attend a series of events in its Proactive Support Programme (PSP).
Thinking Beyond Money
As the name suggests, this support programme proactively offers skills and knowledge to SAIS 2-funded projects, ensuring that they can reach the goals set out in their funding agreements and that the project will be sustainable past the funding period’s end.
The subjects covered vary and are often driven by demand, determined by what the various funded projects require to succeed.
PSP 3: Inclusive Innovation Programme
The PSP 3 course focuses on the subject of inclusive innovation. For this course, SAIS 2 has partnered with the BOP Innovation Center, which has a team of experts who offer lessons, tips, and experiences in inclusive innovation over the course’s duration, teaching participants the fundamentals of designing and delivering impactful solutions targeted at serving the needs of socially or economically excluded populations.
The programme starts off with hosting the funded projects focusing on inclusive innovation for a two-day on-site workshop in one of SAIS 2’s partner countries. After that, the course continues online through seven modules delivered over fourteen weeks. The workshop participants also receive one-on-one coaching from independent inclusive innovation specialists chosen for their expertise and experience. The coaches are assigned to each project according to where they are based and the technical relevance of their knowledge. Each coach supports their assigned course participants with their module assignments pro bono, offering guidance on business elements that are crucial for projects to make their inclusive innovation activities successful. The coaching aims to build relationships between coaches and training participants, allowing for longer-term support mechanisms to form.
Once the projects have finished the PSP3 course, they are given the opportunity to present themselves at the SAIS 2 Inclusive Innovation Showcase.
This year’s PSP 3 workshop will be held in Namibia on 12 and 13 February.
PSP 2: Accelerator Programme for Entrepreneurs and Innovation Intermediaries
This part of the programme is held in partnership with Impact Amplifier and focuses on investment readiness. PSP 2 business development workshops are tailored to the participants’ needs, which is determined by means of a survey of the participants ahead of each event.
The overall aim of this course is to improve the participants’ growth strategies, enable them to reach new markets and funding opportunities and, in the case of innovation intermediaries, to provide them with knowledge they can transfer to members of their own networks. Coaching and support on project management are also given when needed or required.
The most recent PSP 2 event was held in November 2019, with the next one being planned at the moment.
PSP 1: Training on Data Collection and Analytics Framework
Part of the requirements for the funded projects is to track and submit a report on the impacts made by the project during the funding period. SAIS 2 therefore partnered with Loughborough University London (LULDN) to develop a standard method in which data is gathered and reported in the form of short and long impact reports.
PSP 1 is a course facilitated by Loughborough University London that guides all new funded projects through this process. The syllabus covers the type of information to be gathered, potential sources for this data, how to process and conceptualise this data, and how to structure the reports.
The latest PSP 1 event was held in November 2019, and culminated in the launch of SAIS 2’s second cohort of funded projects.