This is the syllabus for an executive course on evaluating impact investing in Africa. It is designed for professionals in finance and investment, business management and acceleration, social enterprise, social innovation, development, philanthropy, public policy, university research and program evaluation.
The impact investing field is defined as the range of products, services and actors that intentionally seek a social or environmental impact as well as a financial return in the deployment of capital. This capital is used by investees – businesses, NGOs, co-operatives, and others – to deliver products and services to individuals, households and communities in order to improve their economic and social conditions.
The modules for the course are organized around three broad themes—building the field of impact investing, measuring the success of impact investments, and understanding the special issues emanating from the African context—all of which can, and should, be mutually reinforcing processes. While impact investing in Africa today is characterized by much dynamism and innovation, its scale remains relatively modest, and locally-owed funds are still fewer and smaller than foreign ones. Likewise, there is an array of methods and tools to assess the outputs of individual impact investments, but less in examining medium- and longer term outcomes and impacts, both intended and unintended. This course aims to enable participants to explore and understand these issues, as they build new skills and knowledge.
The course was developed through a three-year collaborative project involving the CLEAR Centre for Anglophone Africa at the University of the Witwatersrand, GreaterCapital, the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration, the Venture Capital Trust Fund, the Institute for Policy Alternatives, and E.T. Jackson and Associates. Funding for the project was provided by the Evaluation Office of The Rockefeller Foundation, the International Development Research Centre, and the CLEAR Centre. The modules on which the course is based were tested in workshops in Johannesburg and Accra. Instructors and facilitators in these workshops included H.E. Dr. Sulley Gariba (Chair of both workshops), Dr. Edward Jackson, Mr. Karim Harji, Dr. Laila Smith, Ms. Hamdiya Ismaila, Mr. Godfred Amewu, Dr. Charles Amoatey, Mr. Neissan Besharati, Ms. Refilwe Mokoena and Dr. Martha Melesse.
The 24 modules of the course are organized in three parts. The first part of the course focuses on building the field of impact investing. This begins with consideration of the impact investing industry in sub-Saharan Africa in the context of the global industry, which currently manages nearly $80 billion in assets held by foundations, private equity funds, banks, development finance institutions and non- profits. Modules examine the various actors in the industry, the structure and strategies of impact- oriented funds and how to track their social performance, the importance of institutional investors for scaling the industry, investee businesses designed to generate social impact, and ways and means of building robust, African-owned ecosystems to promote the growth and effectiveness of impact investing.
The second part of the course focuses on the theme of measuring success, and examines strategies and tools for evaluating individual impact investments, portfolios and programs. Using a combination of international and African experiences, and drawing on the work of development evaluators and impact analysts alike, modules cover the broad menu of methods and tools available, the use of theory of change, the application of standards in the evaluation process, and the issue of assessing and reporting on additionality.
The third part of the course focuses on special topics. These topics include modules on gender equality, development impact bonds, managing negative and unintended outcomes, initiatives for conflict settings and emergencies, a case study of impact evaluation, job quality, mission preservation at exit, tools for assessing household impacts, and the link between impact investing and the Sustainable Development Goals.
The educational approach taken in this course is first, to provide participants with best-practice international knowledge on field-building and evaluation in impact investing. Second, local instructors and speakers present leading-edge analysis and experiences from Africa. And third, through small-group work, participants own ideas are mobilized to create new knowledge to meet African challenges and opportunities. This approach demands that course instructors not only master the international and African content of the modules, the instructors must also be skilled facilitators. Encouraging productive group work by participants, animating plenary sessions where the groups report on their ideas, and summarizing and recording that new knowledge, are all tasks to be undertaken by the instructors. The instructors may wish to engage assistants to help with these tasks.
This approach, clearly, is rooted in a model of face-to-face learning. However, that does not preclude adapting these modules for online or distance learning, through webinars or other means. In fact, it is possible to employ the same content, speakers (by video) and readings for each module, but revise the exercise so that it can be carried out by online participant groups. Experience suggests that the mandates and outputs of such online group exercises must be very clear, precise and contained if they are not to trigger successive rounds of comments and create for both instructors and participants an unmanageable workload. Nonetheless, it is very possible to adapt this course to online delivery for executive or graduate education purposes.
To further develop content for this course, we encourage the generation of African case studies, tools and analytic pieces on evaluating impact investing, by Africans involved in finance, business, development and the academy. A call for submissions would set out the particular requirements of the course and the general structure of new content. The call would be posted on the sites of relevant networks and as well as sent to a list of likely contributors known to the course proponents already. Our proposal is that a suite of prizes (cash and non-cash) be established for the five best knowledge contributions each year, as determined by a committee of African leaders in impact investing and evaluation. These materials would then be edited and formatted, and made available on an open-source basis to institutions delivering the course.
Another important element in moving the course forward to implementation across Africa is the training of trainers to deliver it. Our suggestion here is for the lead institutions to organize an annual training of trainers (TOT) workshop over three days to learn about the content and learning strategies associated with the course and to integrate new, local material and speakers into its delivery. It is proposed to begin with carefully selected TOT participants from South Africa, Ghana, Kenya and other countries. The TOT workshop itself would be adapted each year based on the experience of the previous years.