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R1 million up for grabs for non-profits as MTN rewards effective M&E

The call is out for South Africa’s non-profit sector to enter the MTN Awards for Social Change before the end of July 2022, providing NPOs that can showcase excellence in monitoring and evaluation (M&E) practices with an opportunity to win a share of R1 million rand. The hotly contested annual awards programme, launched in 2019 by the MTN Foundation and sustainability consultancy, Trialogue, recognises and rewards non-profits that are able to provide measurable evidence of the positive difference they are making, while encouraging better M&E processes and facilitating learning and information-sharing among NPOs.

“Effective monitoring and evaluation typically makes for a more efficient, transparent and targeted programme, which enables NPOs to use resources more strategically and deliver greater impact,” says Kusile Mtunzi-Hairwadzi, general manager of the MTN SA Foundation. “Tracking and measuring, reviewing, and evaluating results effectively can lead to better outcomes for the communities that NPOs serve. This has been particularly relevant during the pandemic where M&E has been used to re-evaluate needs and organisational priorities.”

Registered NPOs are invited to enter a project or programme that has been running for at least two years and has some level of associated M&E practice. Entries are shortlisted by Trialogue and 20 organisations are put forward for final selection by a panel of independent judges. Each winner in the large, medium and small-sized NPO categories receives R300 000, with an additional bonus prize of R100 000 awarded to an NGO that demonstrates the best evidence of advanced M&E practice. The winners will be announced at the launch of the Trialogue Business in Society Handbook in November 2022 and will be profiled in the 2022 edition of the Handbook. 

According to Trialogue Director, Cathy Duff, the first year of the competition saw 70 NPOs enter, with entries more than doubling to 143 in 2020 and then reducing slightly in 2021. “We’re hoping to see many more quality entries this year and really encourage the non-profit sector to take advantage of this opportunity. Besides the considerable monetary reward, it provides excellent exposure for the NPO to potential funders. It is also a valuable learning experience, as non-profits are exposed to M&E practices and principles through the application process,” says Duff. “It’s good to see that more NPOs are taking M&E seriously and incorporating it into their programmes. Now is the time to engage with others and have this recognised.”

The range of categories caters for all sizes of NPOs, with entries varying greatly in terms of M&E capacity, knowledge and skills, says judge Asgar Bhikoo, an M&E specialist. “Some organisations with well-developed, long-standing projects can show very little evidence of M&E, while some smaller NPOs are able to clearly articulate project outputs and outcomes.”

Former winners demonstrated what judges look out for. Last year, Save the Children South Africa won in the large NPO category for the District-Based Teacher Recruitment Strategy Project. “The programme is designed to address a clear need and is based on strong consultation and research,” says judge Feryal Domingo, director of operations at Inyathelo: The South African Institute for Advancement. “It has clear objectives and activities and is supported by a detailed theory of change. The organisation uses its M&E data well, within and outside the organisation, and shows an understanding of the need for continuous learning at an organisational and programme level.”

Isiqalo Foundation Trust, known as Waves for Change, won both the medium NPO category and the bonus of R100 000 in 2021. The organisation provides mental health support to vulnerable youth living in unstable communities through a Surf Therapy programme. “Winning this award and receiving feedback was a great opportunity for us to reflect on our M&E practices, identify gaps and strengthen them,” says Tania Bailey of Waves for Change. “We truly believe that this award came as a result of working on community of practices, both locally and internationally, in the sectors of mental health and sports for development.”

Domingo says Waves of Change had well-resourced M&E that is used internally and externally. “The bonus was awarded to Waves of Change based on factors including having a documented theory of change; considering the potential negative, unintended consequences that could arise from a programme; and being cognisant of the ethical considerations that come with conducting M&E with vulnerable groups.”

CEO of 2020 winner JumpStart, Stephen Mahony, says the award gave the organisation an incentive to sit down and reflect thoroughly on M&E, and to find ways to improve its programmes. “All stakeholders can make informed decisions because of good M&E, which is embedded in the DNA of the company. It’s so exciting to see all our hard work – and one of our core values – echoed in this award. This recognition spurs us on. We believe firmly that monitoring and measuring what you do comes before deciding what you do.”

Duff says that the MTN Awards for Social Change continue to motivate NPOs to improve their M&E and consequently improve outcomes for communities. “We are grateful to MTN for supporting NPOs as they harness the power of effective M&E practices to guide and improve impact in the communities they serve. Every NPO that can show a good approach to M&E and measurable impact through projects should enter and be part of this valuable process.”

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