A Story of Systems Change in the Global South: Ilifa Labantwana

New case study showcases how South African NGO, Ilifa Labantwana, has gradually unlocked systems change across the Early Childhood Development landscape

Programmatic interventions help people beat the odds. Systemic interventions can help change their odds.

Karen Pittman

The world’s most daunting social challenges are rooted in complex systems with deeply ingrained patterns and behaviours. Tackling social issues effectively often demands interventions not just at the programmatic level, but at a systems level.

In South Africa’s early childhood development (ECD) ecosystem, the odds are stacked against children from low-income families, with intergenerational cycles of poverty and inequality.

It is therefore unsurprising that there are NGOs who are invested in improving, in part or whole, the South African ECD system for the better. One of those organisations is Ilifa Labantwana (Ilifa).

Ilifa is a South African NGO established in 2007 and is working to drive systems change in ECD.

A new case study has been developed in partnership with Spring Impact and Percept Consulting to spotlight Ilifa’s approach to systems change and elevate Global South systems thinking.

The case study reflects on the tactical and theoretical approaches employed by the organisation to unlock systems change in South Africa’s ECD ecosystem. It breaks down complex systems change approaches into practical lessons and insights on a variety of tactics, including:

  • Collaborating widely and with humility
  • Recognising and centering government’s value in the system
  • Maximising funders’ system impact through collaboration
  • Embracing emergence and staying attuned to new needs and opportunities
  • Measuring systems change, rather than direct outcomes alone

The case study adds to a growing body of knowledge that supports systems change catalysts worldwide, including practitioners, funders, and policymakers, offering them practical insights to evolve and enhance their approaches and make meaningful progress towards systems change, even in highly contested spaces.

To learn more, join us for a webinar on Thursday, 23 May at 2pm GMT. To read the full case study, please visit this page. 

Join our webinar

Come along for a panel discussion on Thursday, 23 May at 2pm to learn more about the approaches and tactics that enabled Ilifa to unlock impact at a systemic level in Early Childhood Development, and uncover how these lessons can help global practitioners and funders make meaningful progress towards systems change.

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