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Social franchising

Social franchising is one approach to growing an organisation. It brings a number of benefits such as distributed risk and financing. But it can only work if operations can be codified under enforceable rules. Without codification, it is difficult to ensure quality and continuity as the organisation expands. One of the main tensions is between the need on the one hand, for codification from the centre, and on the other, the need for flexibility at the periphery which is often necessary to meet specifically local needs. One successful social franchise is the School for Social Entrepreneurs which uses an action learning model in which participants in small groups study their own actions and experiences in order to learn and improve their capacities. The original school is based in London. There are now a further seven schools in the network - Fife, Aston, East Midlands, Cornwall, Ireland, Liverpool and Sydney, Australia. Each school is run by an independent organisation which is responsible (with support from the centre) for its own financial sustainability and programme delivery. They pay the SSE a flat annual fee of £10,000 (plus VAT) for the entire franchise package, and a license agreement is signed with each. The package includes a Best Practice Guide made up of Quality Standards and Learning Resources. Members of the Network are also provided with a range of supports which include branding, web and technical support, policy work, media and PR and internal/external evaluations. While the franchisees are responsible for fundraising, they get considerable support from the centre. Funding comes from a range of sources including local, regional, national government, charitable trusts, philanthropists and commercial sponsors. Whilst participants are asked to contribute towards the cost of the programme, most places are subsidised to ensure diversity amongst participants. To date, over 360 SSE Fellows have completed programmes across the country.

(See Ahlert, D., et al. ‘Social Franchising: a way of systematic replication to increase social impact’. Berlin: Association of German Foundations, 2008; Tracey, P. and Jarvis, O. ‘An Enterprising Failure: Why a promising social franchise collapsed’, Stanford Social Innovation Review. Spring, pp. 66-70, 2006 and; Yamada, K. ‘One Scoop, Two Bottom Lines: Nonprofits are buying Ben & Jerry’s franchises to help train at-risk youth’, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Summer, 2003.)