The FirstRand Foundation is one of the oldest clients in Tshikululu’s stable. In 2013, due to FirstRand’s performance as a group, the Foundation’s annual available funds began growing substantially.

Tshikululu, in partnership with FirstRand, devised an entirely innovative way of carrying out social investment through its Systemic Social Investment approach.

In 2015, the FirstRand Empowerment Foundation launched into full operational mode, which exponentially increased the amount of funding available to the group’s social investment. Despite the obvious successes of the Foundation in the past, trustees were concerned that the Foundation was not affecting the desired changes sought by the trustees and that the Foundation had the capability to further enable large-scale improvements.

This provided a unique opportunity for Tshikululu and FirstRand to dramatically change the Foundations’ approach to social investment. Tshikululu understood that if the trustees wanted to see large scale change, then they had to implement extensive changes.

Through in-depth research and stakeholder input, Tshikululu and FirstRand developed a new approach to social investment called Systemic Social Investment (SSI).

At its core, SSI focuses on finding meaningful leverage points to drive systemic change on a large-scale in South Africa.

To design the SSI, a complete analysis of the initial operations of the Foundation to date had to be conducted. This analysis led to the difficult, but necessary decision to narrow the areas of support to ensure greater focus and maximum impact. The exiting of the identified programmes was implemented through an extensive exit strategy, followed by a series of ‘deep dive’ research projects to better understand the potential systemic impact of the Foundation. Parallel to determining the Foundations’ focus, an overarching strategic framework was designed and refined. Built on a central statement of strategic intent, aligned to the Trust Deeds and the company’s value proposition, the new SSI impact framework consisted of four core building blocks, namely Values, Pillars of Success, Cross-cutting Priorities, and the Investment Continuum.

SSI focuses on a strategic investor approach to social investment, rather than the norms of traditional grant making. Partners are required to solve problems in unique and innovative ways, often meaning that investments are of a ‘high-risk’ nature. However, this approach sees the investor, represented by Tshikululu and the trustees, having a more intense involvement than in traditional grant making. Meetings between the partners are regular, and the investor may sit on the board or on various strategic sub-committees in order to assist wherever possible. Although SSI is a risk-taking approach, critical due diligence and monitoring and evaluation lie at the forefront of investments made. 

The development of Systemic Social Investment is not a ‘quick-fix’ investment but it is worth the extensive research and time taken to develop.  

In the case of FirstRand, since first being mentioned six years ago,  Systemic Social Investment is making real strides in systemic impact in South Africa.

Since 2013, Tshikululu has conceptualized, programme managed and implemented a number of SSI initiatives aimed at changing the sectors within which its clients operate.