How we work

IDEMS has lofty ambitions as defined by its vision and mission. Previous collaborations have demonstrated the potential benefits that well constructed principles bring. Our staffing principles serve to both define and communicate a set of values and responsibilities common to our members. All our principles can offer practical guidance for decision making and we endeavour to consider them at all times.

As a community interest company we aim to work in a thoughtful and socially responsible way as described in the following sections:

Community Interest Company

IDEMS is legally registered in the UK as a Community Interest Company. This structure enables us to be defined by the communities we serve while doing business commercially. Serving a community gives us a sense of purpose beyond our own self interest as individuals or even as a company.

The communities we serve relate to the three main areas of the company: development, education and the mathematical sciences.

  • Development activities aim to benefit people living below the poverty line.
  • Education activities aim to benefit students across all academic levels.
  • Mathematical science activities aim to benefit practitioners and users of the mathematical sciences.

Many of the company’s activities relate to more than one of these areas.


IDEMS is a not-for-profit limited by guarantee company. Our not-for-profit status means that profits cannot be passed to individuals and must be retained within the company for growth and expansion or used for social impact projects and donations to our designated charities.

Social Enterprise UK

IDEMS is a member of Social Enterprise UK and we are keen to engage in the social enterprise community and support the social enterprise movement, within the UK and internationally. Where possible, we support the “buy social” movement and we actively look for ways to support fellow social enterprises.

Fundamentally profitable

IDEMS is a profitable not-for-profit recognising that we can only grow to achieve our ambitions by embracing the entrepreneurial side of being a social enterprise. As such our day to day working practices focus on build a dynamic and competitive team, which enables our ambitious growth-driven decision making.  

To guide us as we take on the complexities of our day to day work, the company aims to follow a principled approach as presented in Principles-Focused Evaluation. These principles are a living reflection the companies beliefs, priorities and approaches. While they will continue to evolve over time, they are intended to be used explicitly to help guide the company towards coherent decision making.

Current company principles are:

Scalable impact

This principle is central to the company vision. It pushes thinking to go beyond just finding individual solutions towards understanding how those solutions can be replicated.

  • Viral scaling. This principle relates to how the company aims to achieve impact at scale. It can be interpreted as focusing on initiatives that have the potential spread naturally.
  • Sustainable development. This principle touches on the desire for longevity. It forces the company to think beyond any given intervention and to always plan for continued development post-intervention.
  • Capacity building. This principle defines the heart of company implementation. It manifests itself through the company mentor-ship programme as well as the implementation approach of specific projects.

Options by context

This principle is part of core company thinking. It requires context to be considered when proposing options or interventions, in particular it precludes the search for single or blanket solutions.

  • Open by default. This principle affects both the inputs and output of the company. It implies the need for a justification not to ‘go open’ as the default is to be open. In particular when a valid justification exists then no negative judgement is given to being ‘closed’.
  • Local innovation. This principle is something the company believes in and wants to support. It can empower communities both for today and the future while enabling interventions to adapt.
  • Continually evolving. This principle provides a world view for the company. It fights against complacency and stimulates innovation.

Systems thinking

This principle affects how the company tackles problems. It encourages building an understanding of how any company activity relates to and fits into the bigger picture.

  • Embracing diversity. This principle expresses the company’s approach to complex problems. It emphasises the value placed on diversity in building stable solutions. 
  • Trans disciplinary. This principle defines the role of subject experts in company activities. It forces subject experts out of their comfort zone by engaging beyond their expertise and discipline.
  • Holistic interventions. This principle applies to company activities. It leads to an expectation that any interventions consider all angles and implications of implementation.

Inherently inclusive

This principle applies to the company ethos. It builds from the founders’ appreciation of diversity and challenges the company to eliminate discrimination in all its forms.

  • Collaborative by nature. This principle forces the company to always look beyond itself. It encourages people to think beyond themselves within the company and about building partnerships for the company.
  • Enabling opportunity. This principle describes the company’s relationship to its staff. It challenges the company to aim beyond equal opportunity by creating opportunities.
  • Consciously ethical. This principle represents the company’s conscience. It encourages an effort to be made to think through any decision which has potential ethical implications.

Informed decision making

This principle indicates the company’s deliberate effort to include divers forms of information, while measuring their uncertainty, as part of decision making processes. It intends to support balanced consideration of options while reducing our susceptibility to misinformation.

  • Evidence-based. This principle highlights the importance the company attaches to rigorous evidence. It explains the presence of academic rigour and integrity in all aspects of the company’s work.
  • Developing research. This principle is born from our experiences being involved in research for development. It recognises the active need to develop new research methodologies that make use of new data opportunities that are increasing availability. 
  • Critically assessed. This principle conveys the company’s positive attitude towards being peer reviewed. It expresses an appreciation for criticism, which enables reflection leading to opportunities for learning.

Impacting grand challenges

Grand challenges are complex development problems which are intractable to simple direct interventions, sometimes these are described as ‘wicked problems’ in international development. Based on current understanding of how to impact such challenges the company encourages the following broad approaches:

  • Accepting complexity. This excludes the possibility of looking for silver bullet solutions and quick fixes, it leads to a more multifaceted trans-disciplinary approach to interventions.
  • Building incrementally. Interventions need to be thought as steps along a path. They should, wherever possible, build from previous experience and create further opportunities.
  • Explicitly coherent. Accepting the time it takes to build solutions to such complex challenges it is essential to have clear communications of the underlying thought process and principles to enable consistency.

Mission and social mission

Working collaboratively with diverse partners to enable the evolution of innovations which can impact lives all over the world.

As a social enterprise IDEMS is also guided by its social mission. The social mission splits into three major components:

  • Development. Enabling innovations to flourish to improve quality of life.
  • Education. Impacting professional and academic outcomes of education systems even in difficult environments.
  • Mathematical sciences. Contribute to the strengthening of the mathematical sciences both as a discipline and a tool for social change.

IDEMS staffing model aims to apply the same model to all contributors whatever their level of expertise and wherever in the world they are based.


The staffing model builds on the following principles:

  • Individual initiative. The company aims to build a culture which supports individual initiative wherever possible. This extends beyond professional initiative to encapsulate the nature of the workplace.
  • Collective responsibility. Collective responsibility will extend beyond collaboration on projects and include collective action to support employee wellbeing.
  • Satisfying need not greed. The company aims at recruiting and retaining staff whose primary motivations go beyond financial gain. Following our academic heritage salary packages will be benchmarked on local university scales wherever this is sensible.
  • Respecting diversity. The company aims to empower a diverse pool of staff to realise their individual and collective potential. The company and its staff members recognise the tensions, complexity and challenges diversity can bring and are willing to make these compromises, appreciating the value of diversity.

Staff types

The staffing model is intended to apply equally across five major staff types:

  • Full/part time employees
  • Partner staff members who are subcontracted
  • Self-employed associates
  • Interns
  • Volunteers

Full and part time staff are by default benchmarked on a university scale. For the UK we are consulting the Oxford University pay scales.

Enabling working environment

Whenever possible IDEMS will instil a flexible working environment that incentivises staff to define their own working routine. The goal is to give individuals independence on each of:

  • Choice of workplace be it from an office, home or even remote access while travelling.
  • Choice of working hours will wherever possible be left to the individual, not just when but also how many.
  • Choice of vacation will also be open including number of days although a minimum of 28 a year is recommended.

This extreme flexibility is intended to enable staff to manage their own productivity. The price is one of responsibility whereby staff are expected to be highly conscious and dedicated to their responsibilities ensuring that their choices do not excessively impact the company.

A profitable not-for-profit

IDEMS is a profitable not-for-profit social enterprise.

  • Profitability is paramount in our working practices to ensure the growth and dynamism of our team.
  • Our not-for-profit status relates to our legal structures which state that profits can only be passed on to serve our social mission or reinvested back into the company.

In particular, IDEMS is asset locked to the charity Supporting African Maths Initiatives (SAMI), ensuring the not-for-profit status. However, SAMI has no decision making power within IDEMS, ensuring our ability to prioritise entrepreneurship and strategic business investment.

Sustainable business model

The sustainability of IDEMS as a social enterprise comes from its profitability as a business. IDEMS has been profitable each year since we began trading in 2018. Initially, this was largely through a business model centred around the provision of human services and in particular, its consultancy work. Currently, although consultancy work remains a central part of the business model, IDEMS growth is driven by the creation of public goods, such as open source software. In future, in addition to providing human services and creating public goods, we anticipate a growing demand for us to provide digital services to our partners.

The provision of human services

We provide human services, which we define as services which are primarily provided as time spent by our staff. Examples include consultancy services and running and designing training courses. Through our consultancy services we provide expertise in technology, education and the mathematical sciences in support of international research and development projects.

Human services are generally offered at commercial rates with the potential for us to offer a contribution in kind to projects which high social impact. Many of our service contracts are defined based on deliverables, but for transparency they are usually quantified by either an estimated or actual amount of time spent by our staff. Our rates sheet describes and explains our daily costing rates, for us and our collaborators.

The creation of public goods

We aim to create impactful products. To achieve impact, we strongly believe that our products must be open and freely available to everyone, with no restrictions or costs whatsoever. Creating public goods incurs costs to the business, and these may be funded through the services we offer or our own investment, so the availability and source of funds will dictate the public goods we can create. Examples of the public goods that we develop include opensource software and open educational resources.

Public goods are relatable to human services. For example, the creation of an open source product may be funded as a human service based on the estimated time needed for development or we may offer human services in relation to a public good, for example, customisation, technical support or training.

Offering digital services

We are starting to be asked to provide digital services for our partners and we are beginning to conceptualise how these might fit into our principles as part of a more complete aspirational business model.

One of our company principles is to be open by default. This includes transparency in reporting and accounting. In our annual reports we aim to reflect openly on our activities and challenges and we publish full accounts annually.

Year 4: January 2021 – December 2021

Year 3: February 2020 – December 2020

Year 2: January 2019 – January 2020

Year 1: January 2018 – January 2019