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I quit my job for an idea.
Maybe not the most rational thing to do with a new baby in the house, but the compulsion to make it real was too strong and the lure of solving some of the worlds so-called intractable problems irresistible.
Enter social franchising. At its simplest, social franchising is analogous to the highly successful commercial franchising seen all over the world: Body Shop, Subway or McDonald’s. The critical difference between commercial and social franchising is that rather than creating profits for shareholders, the latter delivers benefits to society. Before we dismiss a so called one size fits all approach, the so-called ‘McDonalisation’ of the social sector, we should ask: if it means swifter set up of higher quality programmes that meet a social need, tailored to those who need them, who could complain?
It allows the core of a proven idea to be replicated while adapting other details to fit the local community’s needs. The central franchise records their processes so that franchisees can adopt the approach while being given support in establishing themselves. The result is the creation of a successful enterprise much faster, with reduced risk and proven quality.
I would not have quit my job without a few promising examples of social franchising already delivering results. Foodbank’s 200 and more UK franchisees now take over 160,000 people out of emergency food poverty each year, Childline has franchised across India to 215 cities and there are a growing number of successful social franchises for health all over the globe.
So I set up the International Centre for Social Franchising. Putting ideas into action, building knowledge and an informed network is why the ICSF exists. All our research will be driven by the principle of creating real, proved solutions to real problems. Core to social franchising is the desire to avoid duplicating effort and waste limited resources reinventing the wheel, so we will take what works and use it. That goes for people too; we will work through a network of members and partners, using the best people to deliver our projects aiming to match the scale of solutions to the size of problems.
We set up the ICSF just 6 short months ago. So far I am delighted to report signs are good. In the UK we have been working with Big Society Capital, a new £600m fund to invest in social businesses exploring the possibility of investing into social franchising in the UK, we will be replicating one of Oxfam’s best partners over the next three months, and we are helping GSK replicate innovative healthcare solutions from India to Africa. Michael Norton my co-founder of the ICSF and I have brought together an excellent board and the network of businesses, social enterprises and NGOs interested is growing daily.
I quit my job because I recognised this was an idea whose time had come. Like my son, who is now taking baby steps, the ICSF is taking first bold entrepreneurial steps too.
Very best wishes,
Chief Executive and Co-founder
The International Centre for Social Franchising