True North | Approach
True North is a non-profit organisation that is pioneering Early Childhood Development (ECD) initiatives within marginalised communities.
Early Childhood Development, South Africa, Enterprise Development, Vrygrond, Overcome Heights
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Our Approach

True North seeks to create a sustainable ECD strategy for the 5000 children who live in Vrygrond and adjoining Overcome Heights.  It is also our desire to ensure that this strategy is documented, tested and refined in a way that is replicable within other communities. The road towards quality ECD facilities for all requires a strategic framework that caters for both an in-centre and out-of-centre approach, which can be defined as follows:

The in-centre (IC) strategy is focused upon developing a new generation of school ready children by supporting crèches within vulnerable and disadvantaged communities, transforming them into professional and well managed registered facilities which provide a high standard of education, nutritious meals and other essential basic needs.

The out-of-centre (OOC) strategy equips parents or caregivers to create a home schooling environment for up to 6 children per “school”, encouraging the support of children in their journey towards becoming school ready.  Given the shortage of land and resources that typify marginalised communities, True North is endeavouring to be instrumental in developing minimum standards for this type of care within the South African context.

Photograph taken in Overcome Heights by Jonas Peterson

Key Principles

We have been privileged to experientially learn and grow our understanding of ECD as a multi-faceted discipline.   The complexities are many, and any program that attempts to be holistic in nature would require the careful consideration of the all the “moving parts”.  Whilst remaining firmly rooted within Vrygrond, we are encouraged by the model which is emerging from our work — one that we believe could ultimately be scaled and replicated, yet is flexible and resilient enough to accommodate the inherent unpredictability that characterises the field we have chosen to serve in.

It is our belief that to implement and have a sustainable community impact, the  7 principles depicted via the diagram below are foundational and need to precede implementation of any program or development project. It is important to note that, whilst presented linearly, processes often happen in parallel, and not necessarily in chronological order:

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Following the initial needs assessment, a community wide implementation plan can be drawn up using the below implementation strategy circle. In each section the need for Training, In-School Support, Equipment and Connections will be determined and planned for, to ensure short and long term outcomes are met.

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The Strategic Implementation of a program rest upon foundational pillars which require smarts (functional expertise) as well as heart (healthy relationships).  We have summarised this approach simply as train, support, equip connect:


Provide Training - both educational and relational - to all participants, including teachers.


Provide on-site mentoring and support to all stakeholders.


Provide resources including educational and other through our Community Currency (CC).


Facilitate connections so as to ensure all stakeholders are aware of, able to access and seek their own opportunities.

Monitoring and Evaluation

True North has a clear and concise monitoring and evaluation strategy (M&E Framework) informed by our Theory of Change model. This document specifies True North’s clear and measurable inputs, outputs and outcomes and subsequent M&E framework. Our data tools include the Revised Early Childhood Development Environment Rating Scale (ECERS-R), Session Notes and Intake, Assessment and Feedback tools.

The ECERS-R scale consists of 43 items organized into 7 subscales:

  • Space and Furnishings
  • Personal Care Routines
  • Language-Reasoning
  • Activities
  • Interactions
  • Program Structure
  • Parents and Staff