Thursday, December 6, 2012

are we all missing the real point of social franchising?

Social Franchising is seen by many as a Holy Grail or magic bullet to so many: depending who you speak with, it’s about:
  • ·      scaling your enterprise for even greater impact (Unltd)
  • ·   generating even greater impact in addressing social ills in society and communities throughout the country (various government policies and politicians)
  • ·      the way to increase the number of successful social enterprises to ‘critical mass’ (Social Firms UK)

and lots of other reasons, all of which are broadly in keeping with the sentiment that social franchising is talked about as a growth strategy for existing social enterprises to achieve more of the good they deliver.

But I’m wondering if everyone’s missed a really obvious trick here, and actually missed the point of what social franchising is actually really doing in practice: it’s a way of fast-tracking the creation of consortia within the sector without all the time and energy usually needed.

There’s lots of interest in consortia for all sorts of reasons (easier to procure larger contracts, greater purchasing power, saving costs on shared back office functions, etc), but consortia development always begins with the assumption that there are a number of existing groups who identify some common shared interest.

And surely Social Franchising offers the same things as consortia: a larger scale of linked activities through which it might (amongst other things) collectively more easily procure larger contracts, share administrative functions to reduce overhead costs, greater purchasing power,.... The difference is that the consortia that emerge in this way would do so without the need for the usual time-consuming and costly negotiations that are otherwise needed. They would also emerge more in line with current real market trends and opportunities rather than simply because “it seems to be a good idea...?

I for one would therefore like to see some dialogue happening between the various sector bodies that are currently encouraging and facilitating consortia and social franchises in completely separate ‘silos’ to each other. It may be that nothing comes of such chats, but it could perhaps unlock a new way of approaching both the development of consortia and how successful social enterprises look at how they franchise themselves...

1 comment:

  1. Adrian, I like your thinking. I agree that social franchising and consortia building have a lot in common. I think the two key differences are that most effective consortia share geography but offer differing, complimentary services. Franchises tend to be geographically dispersed and offer the same services. This is fine in negotiating UK-wide deals (cf Foodbank and Tescos), but less useful in delivering most public sector contracts which tend to be awarded regionally (e.g. Work Programme) or locally (e.g. local authority care provision). That said, there is almost certainly a lot to be gained from shared learning across the two silos.