Midline evaluation of South Africa Jobs Fund
Unemployment has remained at 25% in South Africa in recent years, and is particularly severe among young adults. In response, the South Africa Jobs Fund was created; it is the world’s largest challenge fund, committing Rand 9 billion to fund innovative models of job creation. However, the Jobs Fund is also a vehicle to identify particularly innovative models of job creation and encourage both the scale-up and replication of models identified as successful, thereby multiplying its impact.
We were asked by the National Treasury to conduct a midline evaluation of the Jobs Fund with the objective of understanding progress since an earlier formative evaluation that we conducted. In particular, the National Treasury wanted to understand the relevance, efficiency, effectiveness, impact and sustainability of the Fund in achieving its twin objectives of job creation and encouraging the replication of successful job creation models.
The Jobs Fund was conceived as a vehicle for identifying solutions to a number of structural problems affecting the South African economy including: rigid labour markets; high barriers to entry in many markets; labour supply having inadequate or incorrect characteristics relative to demand; spatial inequality; and too few participants in the informal economy.
In response, the Jobs Fund provides funding for:
- Enterprise development - for investments in new business models, product development, local procurement, marketing support, equipment upgrading or enterprise franchising designed to broaden access to economic opportunities and job creation;
- Infrastructure development - for local infrastructure investment projects, local market business hub facilities, critical transport and communication links and upgrading of infrastructure services;
- Support for work seekers - for programmes with a particular focus on unemployed youth such as job search projects, training activities and support for career guidance and placement;
Institutional capacity building - for projects aimed at strengthening institutions through which jobs are created, including internship and mentorship programmes.
We adopted a Theory Based Evaluation (TBE) approach to meet the evaluation objectives. This began with a series of workshops with the Jobs Fund to collaboratively define a Theory of Change (ToC) that sought to fully articulate how the inputs and activities of the Fund translated into expected outcomes and impact. The collaborative articulation of the ToC allowed the TBE to be informed by Contribution Analysis principles to give structure to the evaluation process. The evaluation included various components including:
- A process evaluation that reviewed and assessed any changes to procedures and processes that had occurred in the Fund since OPM’s earlier formative evaluation (which had made a number of significant recommendations in this regard), and benchmarked the Fund against proven successful methods.
- A Value for Money (VfM) assessment that sought to understand the VfM offering of the Jobs Fund, evaluating the performance of the fund against the four 'E’s of economy, efficiency, effectiveness and equity.
- An assessment of impact and sustainability of impact, which was based on a mixture of secondary research (using third party evaluations conducted on various funded projects), primary qualitative research with the Jobs Fund and related stakeholders, and a set of case studies of selected projects chosen purposively to reflect a range of different sectors and experiences.
The midline evaluation provides crucial information about the impact and the performance of the Jobs Fund, at a stage when the Fund is approximately halfway through implementation. The evaluation supports the accountability of the Fund to its funders (the Government of South Africa), as well as providing a series of recommendations to improve the functioning of the Fund and potential reprioritising of its focus in the remaining years of implementation.
To facilitate the refinement, understanding and uptake of recommendations made in the report, the evaluation team conducted a series of workshops at all levels of the Fund itself, including leadership, management and back-office and front-line workers.