Franchising comes to the social impact sector

A new initiative is calling for nominations of successful social impact organisations that could be scaled up, through franchising, to reach greater numbers of people

The world’s first social franchising accelerator will be established in South Africa this January, in a move that is expected to help meet the needs of greater numbers of poor and vulnerable people through scaling up proven solutions.

Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the initiative is a unique academic-NGO-private sector partnership between the UCT Graduate School of Business Bertha Centre for Social Innovation and Entrepreneurship, the International Centre for Social Franchising (ICSF), and Franchising Plus.

Former President Bill Clinton aptly noted “Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The frustration is that we can’t seem to replicate (those solutions) anywhere else”.

Social franchising is a powerful way to scale up projects that are helping to solve social and environmental problems. Using the tools of commercial franchising, which have proven to be highly effective in growing businesses, creating local ownership and economic wealth, the idea behind the Accelerator is to take successful social impact organisations, whether they be NGOs or social enterprises and create the systems and support necessary to replicate these effectively.

The Social Franchising Accelerator will initially take three South African social impact organisations under its wing, and is calling for a first round of nominations of successful and proven projects that are in a good position to be scaled up.

According to Dan Berelowitz, CEO of the International Centre for Social Franchising, the Accelerator has the potential to lead the way globally in terms of developing hands on expertise related to social franchising, and learning whether such support can help to scale social innovations dramatically.

“By combining the best of the private sector and social sector practice on two continents, we are well-placed to ensure that positive social impacts can be multiplied so that greater numbers of people benefit from models that already working well,” said Anita du Toit, Franchise Consultant and Partner at Franchising Plus.

Dr François Bonnici, Director of the Bertha Centre at UCT says “Instead of reinventing the wheel and wasting scarce resources, social franchising enables successful social impact organisations to reach greater numbers of beneficiaries far more quickly than would be possible if they were to expand on a wholly owned or branched basis as it makes use of social franchisees’ resources and local knowledge.”

The goal for the first year of the Accelerator is to work with the three pilot organisations and create sustainable social franchise systems and launch pilot franchisees in three new geographical locations for each, enabling them to collectively reach at least 500 new beneficiaries within this time.

“These numbers are based on realistic projections grounded in the experience of ICSF, but we also know that the impact of social franchising can be exponential over time,” said Dr Bonnici.

Child Line India, for example, which started in Mumbai 14 years ago, has – through a franchise system that ICSF co-founder and Bertha Centre Fellow Michael Norton helped to develop – been replicated 415 times. It now operates in 172 cities across India and has received over 21 million calls from vulnerable children.

In addition to offering one-to-one in-depth franchising support, the Accelerator will also offer one-to-many training, funding and mentoring to create a comprehensive package of support to enable impact enterprises to franchise and scale up their social impact sustainably.

Learning from this programme will be captured and replicated in a practical way in other contexts and countries around the world by the ICSF.

“We know that there are already a great number of social impact organisations in South Africa making a tremendous contribution and many of them are ripe for expansion, but the lack of expertise and support meant that there was nowhere to signpost them too,” said Bonnici. “We hope that the Accelerator can start to change this. Working smarter we hope to find ways to accelerate the impact of those whose work really counts and benefit ever greater numbers of people in need.”

To nominate a social impact organisation that is primed to scale up through franchising, please contact: berthacentre@gsb.uct.ac.za by 15 February 2014. 

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