Systems lens

© Philippe LISSAC. Fondation Grameen Crédit Agricole, partner of the Council on Smallholder Agricultural Finance.

Small Foundation is only one actor engaged within the vast and complex micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSME) ecosystem in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA). Through collaboration, we seek to understand that ecosystem, the changes required for it to sustainably thrive, and what role we can most impactfully play.

In practice

In collaboration with the School of System Change (SoSC), in 2021 Small Foundation undertook a strategy refresh to more formally apply the principles of systemic thinking to our mission, vision, goal, and values. We defined the changes we believe are necessary to disrupt the SSA business ecosystem, and where we and our partners are best placed to contribute. This led us to focus our work through three system entry points:

  1. Commercially viable, sustainable models serving rural MSMEs
  2. Connected, transparent and learning ecosystem.
  3. Changing patterns of empowerment and agency in Africa

Our work has always oriented towards system change, which is why we have always sought to apply our support in ways that are highly leveraged, catalytic, and innovative towards collaborating with visionary partners that work to effect change across the ecosystem.


Investing in mission-aligned intermediaries, supporting research and ecosystem-building initiatives, such as impact networks, and amplifying the voices of our partners are ways Small Foundation directly impacts the MSME ecosystem in SSA.

We hope that by sharing our work and learnings, we will contribute to those creating the dynamic, empowered, commercially viable MSME ecosystem in SSA that is improving local livelihoods and economies.