Parenting Support Strategy Developer


SmartStart is a social franchise which aims to expand access to quality, affordable early learning opportunities for young children in South Africa, starting with the poorest 40%. Within ten years, it aims to be reaching one million 3 and 4 year old children per year. Currently less than half of South Africa’s 3 and 4 year olds are exposed to quality early learning outside the home. SmartStart is driving a country-wide network of licensed facilitators equipped to implement a high-quality, standardised early learning programme. By 2020 SmartStart will have 100 000 children in its programmes. To achieve this goal, SmartStart activates and supports a growing network of trained and licensed practitioners (SmartStarters) who implement the same evidence-based programme. SmartStart provides an adaptable daily routine for 3 and 4 year-olds, which can be delivered in playgroups, home and community-based ECD programmes and ECD classrooms. The programme is supported by operational resources and play materials, licensing and quality assurance processes, and a network of ‘Clubs’ that provide peer support. SmartStart is taking quality and affordable early learning opportunities to tens of thousands of children across South Africa, with currently nearly 4000 SmartStarters delivering quality early learning programmes to over 30 000 children.

SmartStart seeks to appoint an Early learning and parenting support strategy developer to be based in Johannesburg.

Employment type: Full-time

Start date: Immediate if possible – February 2020

Reports to: Early Learning Programme Lead

Developing early learning content and activities:
Research and develop locally appropriate programme activities and materials which link clearly to SmartStart’s key outcomes for children, including those which draw on indigenous knowledge, practices and culture
Develop and curate activities and blogs to drive early learning and effective parenting activities on all our communication challenges
Research and gather learnings and effective approaches from the field to inform the most effective and relevant content for SmartStarters
Keep abreast of relevant developments in research and good practice in the early learning field
Ensure that all training materials are aligned to our early learning approach

To improve and continue to develop the SmartStart parent offering and support programme:
Conduct in field research to assess and redesign SmartStart’s parenting sessions and work, including exploring approaches which draw on indigenous knowledge, practices and culture.
Keep up to date on research in the field of parent support and effective methods for reaching and supporting parents
To ensure all activities are effective in supporting more effective home learning environments, supporting parents and developing strong SmartStarter-parent partnerships

To support the design, development and roll out of the SmartStart parent campaign:
Participate in design and development of SmartStart parent campaign and communications strategy
To develop associated content and activities to support the initial campaign
To provide ongoing input and content for the campaign and SmartStart communications
To conduct field research and evaluation of the campaign for ongoing improvement and effectiveness, and integrate learnings into all aspects of SmartStart offering

Accountable for:
The quality of early learning and parenting content
Ensuring that content and messages are based on evidence-based approaches and will be effective in achieving the SmartStart outcomes for children
Consolidating learning from field and making appropriate updates in response to learning
Supporting all departments of SmartStart with relevant and appropriate content and reviewing early learning and parenting content when requested

Measures of success:
All SmartStart early learning and parent content is well constructed, evidence based and effective in achieving our proposed outcomes
All content is accessible and relevant to our SmartStarters and the parents we work with
Effective parenting campaign that addresses real behavior change in the areas in which we are targeting
Effective Management and delivery of parent campaign

Demonstrable commitment to early learning and SmartStart’s vision
A minimum of a bachelor’s degree in a related field
Extensive experience (at least 5 years) in the early learning field, including good understanding of current research and emerging good practice.
Have demonstrable knowledge and insights on our target market (caregivers living below the upperbase poverty line)
Experience of behavior change management (either programmatic or campaigns), preferably in the context of parents/families.
Excellent written communication skills, including substantial experience of preparing clear and engaging written materials for a range of audiences.
Experience of designing accessible and engaging early learning activities and materials.
Demonstrable ability to conduct field and desk-top research to inform outputs and have a research/ customer orientated mindset to manage feedback (both formally and informally).
Strong work management skills, including the ability to ensure work programmes are delivered on time and in line with agreed budget and objectives.
Strong team-playing skills and evidence of success in maintaining effective relationships across professional, sectoral and operational boundaries and lead and own their own results
Understanding of equal opportunity and non-discrimination policies and practices and the ability to implement these values in the course of the work.
Candidates should also be in possession of a valid driving licence.
SmartStart’s work culture is one of collaboration, responsiveness to learnings and context and ability to work in a diverse and agile team under substantial time pressure and have a critical eye for innovation and cost-effective solutions. A person who aligns to this and our values is a critical deciding factor.

S/he will also work closely with brand and communications team in support of all the early learning parenting messaging that is developed. S/he will conduct infield qualitative research and review on current parenting support and what is working effectively and what can be improved in the SmartStart delivery. This in field experience should inform continuous updates and improvements of all our early learning and parenting content and approach where necessary.

This a full-time post and would preferably be based in Johannesburg. However strong candidates from other areas will be considered dependent on requirements for travel. They will be required to travel around South Africa to the various SmartStart sites, doing field research with parents and assessing programme delivery on site, although the majority of current work would be in JHB. Starting date as soon as possible.

Please send CV and covering letter (which addresses each requirement in the person specification and indicating salary expectations) to: [email protected]

Please title the subject of your email: early learning and parenting strategy specialist.

For more about SmartStart, refer to