Social franchising (to KFC or not to KFC)

Social and commercial franchising share the goal of achieving quality-consistent business quicker,
easier and with less risk. But can social enterprises truly be replicated and franchised like commercial chains?
And if so, will the result be (finger-lickin’) good?

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Kentucky Fried Chicken and Nando’s are like birds that migrate to new and distant lands. Not just any birds, but chickens. They may not be on your gastronomic radar,but sure as chips, they’re on your social landscape – and on the street corner down the road.

KFC started in the US and swooped into SA in 1968, where it now has more than 500 outlets nationwide. Nando’s was founded in Johannesburg in 1987 and travelled swiftly the other way to roost in 30 countries on five continents. National and international franchising is an integral part of the business and branding process – certainly for these two fast-foodies who are among the most successful franchise operations in South Africa and the world.

The franchising formula is simple and compelling. Companies that have survived their trial-and-error phase to find a comfy niche with commercial charisma, package the template and then sell it on. Great. The seller’s company grows further and the buyer or franchisee has a proven template to work from, plus the benefit of a family relationship that brings significant support and procurement economies of scale.

And social franchising works in much the same way. In essence, a proven social change project is turned into a “franchise”: the core elements of the programme or resource are codified into a “template” that can be quickly and cost-effectively shared where there is demand.Then other organisations or communities – the “franchisees” – are given the support they need to achieve the same successful outcomes. And the social change spreads as a result.

|With thanks and apologies to Colonel Sanders. |

But can you treat social change like chicken?

Yes, social and commercial franchising share the goal of achieving quality-consistent business faster and with less risk.But where they fundamentally differ is in the emotions that drive the business… in other words, their intent.Where else do they meet and part ways?


Social franchises prioritise progress over profit.

Much as a social entrepreneur is an entrepreneur who puts social change at the heart of his or her activities, so does social franchising. Rather than creating profits for shareholders and owner-stakeholders, the aim of social franchising is to create social “profits” in the form of benefits or upliftment.


A proven method is repeated… and repeated.

Commercial franchising uses tried-and-tested methods to drive a product or brand into new territories. Social franchising offers a way of disseminating social problem-solving processes to meet the needs of more communities, over a wider geographical area (at lower financial and opportunity cost). In short, it may provide an answer to Bill Clinton’s frustrated plaint: “Nearly every problem has been solved by someone, somewhere. The frustration is that we can’t seem to replicate [those solutions] anywhere else.”


Social franchising amplifies process AND passion.

Like its commercial cousin, social franchising “exports” solutions. But perhaps more importantly, it creates a network of motivated “franchisees”, all focusedon the same solutions and issues.

“Think of the Freemasons,” says Marcus Coetzee, National Coordinator for the African Social Entrepreneurs Network. “They fit the definition of a social franchise: freemasonry has a precise set of values aimed at improving the human condition… plus it’s replicable. And it’s thousands of years old.”

Clearly, critical mass has its own momentum, and a loose association with this kind of energy has infinitely more impetus than unconnected individuals, each approaching the issue independently, without a network off which to leverage.


Both kind of franchises help to simplify and save.

Commercial franchises can share and therefore spare resources. But social franchises can too. According to HIPPY SA (Home Instruction for Parents of Pre-school Youngsters in South Africa), daily management and running costs can be amortised and, on every level, it also makes management sense:“A professional central unit can focus on the bigger picture of general adherence, quality, scale and community-level dynamics at a more macro level. It’s also more affordable to have a smaller multi-disciplinary professional team supporting larger groups of paraprofessionals.”


One Response to Social franchising (to KFC or not to KFC)

  1. Peter Shrimpton October 16, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    This is a fantastic article. Social franchising will revolutionize social economic development!

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