A unique and scalable approach to transforming the lives of children and their families in rural areas of Africa.

ICS, mother of ICS-SP, uses a unique, whole family approach to improve well-being of vulnerable children, youth and their parents in rural areas of Africa. At the core of our approach are economic strengthening, Skilful Parenting and social support. A sustainable increase in income together with special attention for parenting knowledge, skills and confidence brings major change in family functioning and child wellbeing. Our approach is characterized by a combination of public, private and non-profit efforts to achieve a scalable model for rural areas of Africa.

The backbone of ICS' economic strengthening activities in East Africa are it's social enterprises Agrics and Alizetics. Agrics sells quality agricultural inputs on credit to smallholder farmers, trains the smallholders on modern agronomic practices and offers additional services like traction for improved land preparation. Alizetics provides a transparent market for their produce. The combination of agronomic products and services and market linkage has a positive impact on smallholder farmers’ yield and income.

ICS-SP works with the same farmers on Skilful Parenting; a 12-week, group-based parenting programme designed for, and evaluated in, rural areas of Africa. The programme aims to increase parental competence, well-being and social support as well as children’s development and wellbeing. Under guidance of a local facilitator, trained and certified by ICS-SP, parents and caregivers with children aged 0-18 come together on a weekly basis to gain knowledge and skills, reflect on their role and parenting style, and share their daily parenting experiences and dilemmas. Agespecific aspects are discussed throughout all modules, including a children’s development and needs during the early years. The group sessions are complemented with community awareness-raising events and serve as a basis for local government to work with parents on health, birth registration, education, etc.

The evidence

Both the Skilful Parenting programme and the Agrics business model have been rigorously evaluated and have demonstrated strong evidence of improving outcomes for vulnerable parents and their children. An evaluation of the Skilful Parenting programme in Kenya by the University of Utrecht found that parents feel more competent and experience a more positive communication and relation with their spouse and children after participation in Skilful Parenting. In addition, parents report a reduction in harsh discipline and an increased use of positive discipline methods. The University of Utrecht concludes that the positive effects of Skilful Parenting can be understood by the way it is grounded in local culture and local definitions of parenting, its participatory approach and the focus on the parent as an agent of change.

A pilot cluster RCT process and outcome evaluation by the University of Oxford, and a local research institute is underway in Tanzania to evaluate the impact of Skilful Parenting combined with Agribusiness and Skillful Parenting and Agribusiness separately on reducing the risk of child maltreatment and improving child wellbeing, with a specific focus on ECD outcomes. Results will be ready by the end of 2016.

Our ambition: Realizing scale and operational excellence

Over the past four years, ICS has worked to establish a viable model of sustainable agribusinesses and a context-specific parenting programme that come together at community level. Agrics has grown from a mere 1,000 smallholder clients to over 32,000 in 2016. In those same areas ICS-SP has reached over 15,000 parents with Skilful Parenting and advocated with local and national authorities to include parenting support as an integral part of social services.

ICS' priority for the coming years is taking the whole family approach to scale in Africa while maintaining quality and operational excellence. ICS is going to scale up in collaboration with its local entities in Africa - ICS-SP, Agrics and Alizetics - aiming to reach 100,000 small-holder farming families by 2018 with the combined model of Skilful Parenting and agribusiness in East Africa. Building on the success of a pilot project in 2015 in which government social workers were trained and supported to deliver Skilful Parenting, we will further expand our collaboration with governments to include Skilful Parenting services as an integral part of social services. In addition, ICS will explore possibilities to move into other parts of (Anglophone) African countries by seeking new partnerships with social businesses and/or NGOs with an economic strengthening programme.

Agrics is attracting financing from impact investors to accommodate this growth while ICS is working with both governments and donors to fund the scale-up of Skilful Parenting. In addition, we offer training and consultancy to organisations and social businesses around the world to incorporate Skilful Parenting in their programming. When looking at the horizon we envision part of Agrics’ profit to be used for Skilful Parenting implementation.