While running a nonprofit that supported projects in India and Ghana, ICSF’s founder and CEO, Dan Berelowitz, noticed that the very similar projects he was supporting, which provided women with a livelihood through basket weaving, were all making the same operational mistakes – limiting their impact. He became frustrated that they were using precious capacity and resources that should be changing lives to reinvent the wheel, rather than learning from what works and changing lives.

On the Clore Social Leadership Programme Dan had the opportunity to spend time with Foodbank, a social franchise helping people living in food poverty in the UK and was impressed by how rapidly it was scaling. When meeting with co-founder Michael Norton in 2011, who rapidly franchised Childline India, they made the decision to set up the nonprofit ICSF.

Basket weaving project

Dan then spent time with McDonalds, the Body Shop and some great social franchises, understanding what makes replication and social franchising work, producing this report. He noticed two key things. Firstly, many social organisations are great at starting up and proving a model, but few have the skills to scale up. Secondly, he couldn’t find anyone globally really willing to engage with the detail, which is what makes replication and social franchising work.

ICSF began working with Oxfam and Big Society Capital to investigate the potential of investment into social franchising and wrote this report. Working with partners it became clear that while social franchising had the most exciting potential as a route to scale for many, it was one strategy on a spectrum of replication. To properly address each ICSF partner on their own terms, ICSF’s specialism broadened to encompass all forms of replication.

The team in 2015

Today ICSF is a global leader in social replication with a team of over 20 passionate professionals. ICSF has offices in London, San Francisco, Melbourne and has the honour of working with extraordinary partners to make a real and lasting difference in a range of countries including US, UK, Australia, Zambia, Tanzania, South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, Senegal, Mauritius, India, Pakistan, Jordan, Myanmar, Mexico, Columbia, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.

The team in 2016