A social franchise case study

By Heather Parker

HIPPY SA, or Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-school Youngsters in South Africa,
is an interesting illustration of the process around social benefit and scalability.


The organisation started in Israel in 1969 and focuses on three to five-year-old children, their parents and the broader home environment. The core philosophy is that parents need to be supported in their critical role as a child’s first teacher. But HIPPY also aims to build social cohesion, as it works to equip youngsters with the cognitive, motor, social and behavioural skills they need on entering school.

How does it work?

Families enroll in a two-year programme the year before formal schooling begins. Home tutors come in to role-play and work through HIPPY activities with parents and kids – these tutors are trained and paid employees, but also local parents and former programme participants themselves. First-year activities focus on supporting pre-literacy and pre-numeracy skills. Second year activities take learning and development even further.

Hippy in numbers

  • The organisation has been active in South Africa for over 20 years.
  • It claims to have served more than 18 000 vulnerable families across South Africa through its home visitor network.
  • It operates in Israel, South Africa, America, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Argentina and several countries in Europe.

How is it spread?

While partner-based implementation is the route followed by HIPPY in other parts of the world, social franchising is key to the development strategy in South Africa.

In a study brief published by the DGMT Confluence of Ideas and Practice portal, which explains the process that led to the adoption of the social franchising model, HIPPY SA makes it clear that it was motivated by the tension between social need and diminishing funding. How could it reach more families without inflating management costs at the same time?

“The demands of daily supervisory management are high when working with community-based care-workers of varying degrees of professionalisation,” the brief explains. “It can only be undertaken by a community-based organisation that is physically present in the location where the programme is delivered.”

So social franchising can allow an organisation’s micro and macro needs to be addressed. The big, central managing unit will focus on quality, scale, general adherence and other macro-level dynamics, while individual “franchises” will provide micro attention and the ears on the ground presence the central unit can’t.

The balancing acts along the way

Franchising generally involves moving an already existing concept into a new geographical area or community. Therefore, many social franchises – including HIPPY SA – have had to find a balance between several conflicting needs.


This refers to the need to develop an implementation model that accounts for culturally and geographically varying contexts, and allows for appropriate innovation and adaptationwithout diluting or skewing the core HIPPY elements.


The organisation must have fair and useful monitoring and evaluation protocols, yet remain transparent and user-friendly for the vastly differing skill bases of the partner organisations.


This is a delicate balancing act with which many in the non-profit space struggle. “We had to identify appropriate implementation partners with enough local footprint and community credibility, while at the same time presenting sufficient governance and management controls to assure the licence-holder that the brand would remain reliable,” the HIPPY brief explains.

The conclusion?

Over several years and many iterations, HIPPY SA determined – largely by a process of elimination – which outcomes were non-negotiable, and which were nice-to-have. Then they worked backwards to develop a codified programme implementation process.

Still, there were some painful and expensive missteps involving over-promising, under-planning and initially underestimating the importance of legal minutiae. Importantly, “we failed to adequately appreciate the impact that scaling up would have on our internal capacity.”

Nevertheless, HIPPY SA concludes that social franchising can and does make idiosyncratic operations – which by definition are dependent on the motivation and experience of individuals – scalable into something that is both systematic and replicable.

Plus, it answers a fundamental need: “There is simply not enough money,” says National Coordinator for the African Social Entrepreneurs Network, Marcus Coetzee. “The developmental need way outstrips the money supply. So this is both an expedient and a logical answer.”

There is simply not enough money… The developmental need way outstrips the money supply. So [social franchising] is both an expedient and a logical answer. – Marcus Coetzee, National Coordinator, African Social Entrepreneurs Network

Inside | Heather Parker


Heather Parker is a journalist, editor, UCT MBA-graduate and lover of her home city, Cape Town. She’s also the Legacy Officer in the World Design Capital 2014 team at the City of Cape Town. The team is working with the City to identify and further develop design-thinking culture within City structures. Heather clearly loves her job.


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