Thabo Qoako, Monitoring Evaluation and Compliance Specialist at Momentum Metropolitan
All eyes were on the President’s recent cabinet reshuffle; the vast majority of which was to see who would be appointed the new Minister of Electricity; responsible for putting an end to South Africa’s loadshedding woes. But amid all the noise (and Instagram memes!), you might have missed some interesting additions to the cabinet, including a new deputy minister for the Department for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation.
For many of us, this also might have been the first time we had heard of this portfolio, but it is, in fact, a key arm of government responsible for measuring impact. Monitoring, evaluation and compliance, as a formal function, is also seen in large corporates, ensuring that the business’ vision, as well as its stakeholders, are protected. However, monitoring, evaluation and compliance, as a core function of Corporate Social Investment programmes, is something that is not really known – or seldom spoken about.
Historically, the governance of non-profit organisations has been regarded as less rigorous than that of business. In 2017, Trialogue released a Corporate Social Investment trend analysis, revealing that an estimated R137 billion had been allocated to CSI endeavours since 1997. Yet during this decade, there remains little to show for it, denoting the absence of rigorous monitoring and formal reporting structures.
Unfortunately, until recently, it was widely accepted that the sector would always be flawed; displaying a distinct lack of accountability and maturity in its processes. It’s a sector that draws people who are devoted to a specific cause; but who are often – and understandably – less passionate about the more pragmatic aspects involved in running a business.
But this is changing. Corporates are starting to realise the necessity of placing experienced professionals in key positions, ensuring that NPOs are held to the same standards as any other business – with sound governance, transparent structures and a clearly defined mandate in place.
The need for a structured Monitoring, Evaluation & Compliance (MEC) framework as part of our CSI programmes is becoming clear – and not merely to show BEE compliance, but also to measure impact.
As an example, in 2018 Momentum Metropolitan Foundation established a Monitoring, Evaluation & Compliance (MEC) portfolio, with the aim of ensuring that we make an impact in the communities we serve – one that is measurable and sustainable. Five components form part of the portfolio: Planning – ensuring that the portfolios’ programmes align with the Foundation’s overarching strategy; Monitoring – vigorous tracking of all activities, ensuring oversight of outcomes; Evaluation – programmes are assessed to gauge whether objectives were achieved; Reflection & Learning – following assessment is a moment to reflect on the learnings, ensuring that these are integrated into future programmes; and Financial Management.
In 2020, we initiated our first full evaluation of the youth employment portfolio since the launch of the Foundation’s new strategic directive, which saw us shift our focus to youth development through employment and entrepreneurship programmes. The objective was to interrogate the design of our programmes, measuring their delivery against our strategy to establish efficiencies and address challenges.
This led to us installing a new system, which we integrated into our NPO network, tracking the progress of our partners within a predetermined framework. This system allows us to draw insights and flag potential issues in real-time. We’re aware of our responsibility to stakeholders in ensuring that funds are effectively allocated and spent. We won’t initiate a programme until we are confident that our plans are sound and well-considered, with relevant solutions identified.
CSI will become ever more critical in a world with deepening need, but resources will be increasingly limited. While excessive red tape hinders progress, having clear parameters and metrics in place will help ensure that corporates remain accountable and create real value for all stakeholders; empowering organisations to make a measurable impact.