Let's Talk about Creative Alternative Economies

Suzanne Stormon's Explorations of Creative Alternatives

Archive for the category “Alternative Economies”

What Is Social Franchising And Why Is It Important?

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.

“We Think Local” Campaign Launches in Northern Nevada

I was visiting with Dave Asher of the Reno-Sparks Local Business Co-op today. That man certainly has a lot going on and I’ll be telling you about it in upcoming blogs. But one of the most new exciting projects he’s been involved in is the “We Think Local” Campaign that is launching tomorrow.

The campaign was started by the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada (EDAWN), the Northern Nevada Development Authority (NNDA), the City of Reno, the City of Sparks, Washoe County, The Chamber and the Reno-Sparks Local Business Co-op.

We can’t sit back and wait for the global economy to turn around.  Most economists agree that supporting local business is a key to increasing employment and community livability. To be a part of this exciting new direction, organizations and/or individuals are signing resolutions similar to the following.

I agree to, whenever possible:

  • Purchase goods or services from local vendors and suppliers, and when needed, from on-line companies with a presence within the State of Nevada. Purchase from companies that hire local employees.
  • Contract with companies that have a local presence.
  • Hire local – Our region’s talent base is robust and diverse.
  • Eat locally produced food when available – support growers, local distributors, and locally owned food establishments. This also helps cut down on travel and carbon emissions.
  • Support our local non-profits – They support us.
  • Serve or otherwise engage and invest in our local community as a citizen and a volunteer.

Go to www.edawn.org/wethinklocal to sign the resolution and find out more. When you do, let us know here. What do you think? How do you plan to support local business? Let’s start the conversation.

My Buy Local Day

Wednesday is my usual shopping and outside chores day but I wanted to get some research for my blog done before I left home. Luckily, I’m focusing on local alternative economies for the next week or two and my first couple of blogs will be on buy local campaigns. When we buy from local businesses we keep much more money in the local economy and that contributes job growth and the quality of life in our towns. I went to the Reno-Sparks Buy Local Business Co-op website and came across the Local Business Directory for Reno-Sparks.

As I read the directory, it occurred to me I could have a Buy Local Day and get the post researched while doing my shopping.  First I needed to have breakfast. The directory had lots of listings for local restaurants. I picked Jack’s Café in Sparks. I always order something I wouldn’t cook at home, so I had chorizo and eggs. It was a huge meal so I only ate about a third of it and kept the rest for later.

Next was the Great Basin Food Co-op.  Their new store is spacious, colorful and filled with beautiful food and personal care items. They support local farmers and most of their meat and vegetables come from farms within a couple of hundred miles of Reno. You don’t have to be a member to shop there, but I renewed my membership. I’ve volunteered there before and met a lot of nice people. If I find the time, I’ll go back for eight hours a month to get discounts on special orders. I bought vegetables and lip balm and moved on.

There were some things on my list I couldn’t find at the Co-op, so I headed over to Scolari’s. This locally owned grocery chain carries more locally produced food on its shelves than other chains. I saw locally produced sausages, honey and even some salad dressing from Winnemucca.

I encourage all of you to have a Buy Local Day no matter where you live. Try to go somewhere you haven’t been before. Let me know how it goes. What is your favorite local business?

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