Rather than starting with a technical definition, you can probably get a feel of what a social franchise is by looking at a few names of social franchise enterprises: Seniors Helping Seniors (U.S), Barka Foundation for Mutual Help (Poland), Co-Wheels Car Club (U.K)., Unjani Clinics (South Africa). These social franchises are increasingly addressing social and environmental problems throughout the world.
I recently came across an article in the Harvard Business Review which featured Education for Employment (EFE), a collection of training franchises that operates in many countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA). The article describes the model of social franchising used by the company and discusses why this business model works in times of uncertainty.
I define alternative business models as those which focus on meeting the needs of the people who work in them and who are served by them. Although there is a huge variety of social franchises, most of these fall within the above definition. We are used to charities and foundations that rely on grants using many of the scaling practices of franchising, but the idea of social franchising usually focuses on social enterprises and social cooperatives.
EFE is an international non-profit organization whose goal is to provide education for employment in the MENA region; where there is an average 25% unemployment rate for young people. The international EFE provides the materials, resources and some of the financial backing that help local educators set up training centers. These centers serve recent college graduates, underserved youth and women in many countries in the region. These local organizations provide job placement assistance, teach students job search skills, and/or help students create their own businesses.
In many Middle Eastern and North African countries, governmental run programs in employment education are non-existent or have been disrupted by political unrest. EFE centers have been able to stay open during uncertain times and are successful using scaling methods common to many franchises. I will be examining EFE in further blog articles, but for today I will focus on the definition of social franchising.
It is difficult to explain social franchising because it varies so much between different organizations. Sometimes the franchises are for-profit companies, sometimes non-profit, often they are similar to what we know as B-corporations. Social franchising differs from many other types of franchising in that it specifically focuses on the needs, cultures and particular characteristics of the locality of the franchise.
The European Social Franchising Network describes the six qualities they argue must be present for an organization to be considered a social franchise. These qualities are:
- A social franchisor – the independent organization that replicates its social enterprise model
- At least one social franchisee that has been established by the franchisor
- A common brand under which the franchisees operate
- Sharing of knowledge among the members
- A plan for how the businesses will be sustained and the reciprocal rights and obligations between the parties.
- Both the franchisor and the franchisees must be social enterprises and share the same values
In the next couple of articles, we’ll be looking at some exciting social franchises that are addressing social problems and social needs all over the world.
What are some of the social programs and organizations that you think would benefit people if they could be replicated in different parts of the U.S. or the world? How do you think they could operate and who would they benefit? Leave your comments. Let’s discuss this.