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Thinking systems: Small Foundation’s new strategy

While aspiring towards systems change since inception, last year Small Foundation formally applied systems thinking tools and techniques to refresh our strategy. Enlisting the expertise of School of System Change, we examined our strengths, our weaknesses, and our understanding of the systems that we work in.

We are delighted to share our conclusions here, and on our updated strategy page.

Our guiding stars

While there have been shifts in our lens and framing, the heart of Small Foundation’s focus is unchanged. Crucially, we reaffirmed the central importance of thriving micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs) as drivers of poverty eradication in rural sub-Saharan Africa. We remain focused on supporting commercially viable enterprises and the intermediaries supporting them to drive impact at scale.  We also recognise the need for urgency in this.

Our system entry points

We identified three system entry points to focus our work around:

  1. Commercially viable, sustainable models serving rural MSMEs

Our vision is that MSMEs serving the rural poor operate within and are served by a commercially viable ecosystem of intermediaries.

  1. Connected, transparent and learning ecosystems

Our vision is that the MSME ecosystem is characterised by trust and the availability of local skills, tools and services.

  1. Changing patterns of empowerment and agency in Africa

Our vision is that African expertise and capital is leveraged and the needs and potential of local MSMEs acknowledged and prioritised.

These three entry points set out the changes we believe are required to effect systems transformation. While each entry point has distinct ambitions they interconnect and reinforce each other.

To eradicate poverty, rural populations need to be served by a thriving ecosystem of bankable, investable and sustainable MSMEs. Our work will continue to focus on supporting intermediaries meeting the needs of these MSMEs with high quality and appropriate services, such as access to skills, financing, information, and tools.

Finally, in service of creating an ecosystem of MSMEs that can serve as engines of rural growth and development, we believe that local expertise must be valued and integrated into decision-making on resource allocation, particularly around investments and service provision.

Implementing our new strategy

Small Foundation looks forward to engaging directly with our partners about our new strategy, and we remain committed to these partnerships. We are grateful to our partners for their dedication to the ecosystems and communities they serve, and we look forward to continuing to collaborate with and learn from them through a more explicitly defined systems change lens.

Small Foundation will also share more about our learning as we implement our new strategy. If you do not already receive our newsletter and would like to follow along with this learning journey, please subscribe here.


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