When we launched SmartStart, we had a few reasons for wanting to use a social franchise model. One was to help us create consistent quality in our early learning programme. Another was to unite franchisees through a shared and powerful vision.
What we didn’t realise, was just how quickly our SmartStarters would internalise this vision and make it their own.
In May this year (one year after the start of SmartStart), we hosted our first ‘SmartStarters Unite’ event in the City of Joburg (CoJ). Over 60 SmartStarters from across CoJ joined us at our offices in Parktown North. Although our SmartStarters meet monthly in their respective clubs, this was a chance for us all to see the incredible work that clubs are doing, to share learnings and success stories, to celebrate achievements and to grow the sense of pride and belonging in the work we do.
Since this was our first event of this nature, we also decided to have a little fun with it. We turned the day into one large SmartStart programme following the daily routine.
For small group time, SmartStarters broke up into groups and shared best practices and learnings. Then we had planning time, where we ran a Programme Quality Assurance (PQA) exercise that demonstrated how the PQA is conducted. We also had a few good laughs making aeroplanes out of ice cream sticks during play time – and certainly got very creative!
Finally, we finished the day with story time, where we heard from the lovely Nomzamo Mbatha, who you might know from Isibaya fame. A natural storyteller, she shared her experiences around the power of stories and how she always loved hearing and telling them while she was growing up.
Just as our SmartStart children learn through play, the day was a good reminder for us all of just how effective this approach is. We saw first-hand how it easily breaks down barriers, and how it encourages interaction, enthusiasm and collaboration.
We were also blown away by the spirit of collaboration, resourcefulness and belonging that was so evident amongst this group of franchisees. SmartStarters from certain clubs had come dressed in matching, branded t-shirts that they had commissioned and paid for. Others shared how they had set up monthly stokvels to raise funds to buy educational toys for their groups. Or had organised free first aid and fire safety training for their clubs. All of this through their own initiative.
Overall, the day was a great success. Simo Ledwaba, one of our SmartStarters from Doornkop in Soweto, had this to say:
“SmartStarters Unite was a great day for us to meet and interact with other SmartStarters from across Jo’burg. It was great to hear how other members are running the programme and clubs in their areas. I learnt a lot on how to keep my club excited and come up with new ideas. I was very happy to have met new people who are all working towards a better South Africa. We are all looking forward to the next SmartStarter Unite event, and sharing progress stories from when we last met.”
We look forward to hosting many more ‘SmartStarters Unite’ get-togethers.