Impact in networks and ecosystems: building case studies that make a difference




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Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS)



Peer reviewed


This toolkit aims to support the building up of case studies that show the impact of project activities aiming to promote innovation and entrepreneurship. The case studies respond to the challenge of understanding what kinds of interventions work in the Southern African region, where, and why. The toolkit has a specific focus on entrepreneurial ecosystems and proposes a method of mapping out the actors and their relationships over time. The aim is to understand the changes that take place in the ecosystems. These changes are seen to be indicators of impact as increased connectivity and activity in ecosystems are key enablers of innovation. Innovations usually happen together with matching social and institutional adjustments, facilitating the translation of inventions into new or improved products and services. Similarly, the processes supporting entrepreneurship are guided by policies implemented in the common framework provided by innovation systems. Overall, policies related to systems of innovation are by nature networking policies applied throughout the socioeconomic framework of society to pool scarce resources and make various sectors work in coordination with each other. Most participating SAIS countries already have some kinds of identifiable systems of innovation in place both on national and regional levels, but the lack of appropriate institutions, policies, financial instruments, human resources, and support systems, together with underdeveloped markets, create inefficiencies and gaps in systemic cooperation and collaboration. In other words, we do not always know what works and what does not. On another level, engaging users and intermediaries at the local level and driving the development of local innovation ecosystems within which local culture, especially in urban settings, has evident impact on how collaboration and competition is both seen and done. In this complex environment, organisations supporting entrepreneurship and innovation often find it difficult to create or apply relevant knowledge and appropriate networking tools, approaches, and methods needed to put their processes to work for broader developmental goals. To further enable these organisations’ work, it is necessary to understand what works and why in a given environment. Enhanced local and regional cooperation promoted by SAIS Innovation Fund projects can generate new data on this little-explored area in Southern Africa. Data-driven knowledge on entrepreneurship and innovation support best practices as well as effective and efficient management of entrepreneurial ecosystems can support replication and inform policymaking, leading thus to a wider impact than just that of the immediate reported projects and initiatives.


open access


Ecosystems, Networks, Innovation ecosystems, Entrepreneurial ecosystems, Impact case, Southern Africa


Koria, M., Meriton, R., Telalbasic, I., Kolade, O., Ahmed, K.H.H., Lindy, I., Tibazarwa, F. (2020) Impact in networks and ecosystems: building case studies that make a difference. Windhoek: Southern Africa Innovation Support Programme (SAIS).


Research Institute

Centre for Enterprise and Innovation (CEI)