People, not pizza: reflections on social franchising

I’ve been fortunate enough over the last few months to design, recruit and deliver a social franchising programme for SSE, called Scaling to Success. It was aimed at social entrepreneurs and social enterprise leaders who had a proven model and were seeking to replicate it: and looking at a franchise-type approach to that replication. It was not “franchise is the answer” but more “a practical look at replication through the lens of franchising”; and the outcomes will hopefully also be very practical and implementable.

The programme was built around SSE principles (action learning, cohort of peers, practitioner-based content, diverse group etc), and we were fortunate to have some fascinating people and organisations take part, with people attending from right across the country: London, yes, but also Devon, Stoke, Yorkshire, Birmingham, Kent and Ireland (kudos to Dara for flying over…).

And we also got a great mix of people to come and speak and participate: from the worlds of funding (Big Lottery Fund, Esmee Fairbairn, Big Issue Invest), the charity sector (one great panel involved Tony Hawkhead of Groundwork, Paul Farmer of Mind, and Simon Blake of Brook), social entrepreneurs with franchising experience (Owen Jarvis, Colin Crooks, Simon McNeill Ritchie), and from the commercial world (Linklaters, Barclaycard, Tie Rack / Le Pain Quotidien, The Plant, and more). Many thanks to all who gave their time.

As the programme progressed, we worked as a group to try and extract as much learning as possible, and create a bit of ‘group memory’ for people to refer back to. I referred to this as ‘nuggets of learning’ in our first session and, given our franchising focus, the group had somewhat inevitably renamed this ‘McNuggets’ by the final day. There were countless such pieces of practical learning over the course of the programme, but here are five McNuggets that stood out to me:

  • Franchisees (or local partners) are another set of social enterprise customers, in addition to beneficiaries/clients and funders/investors…
  • …but don’t lose focus of the end user / customer through that intermediation
  • The balance between flexibility and control in replication is often about the leader’s personality as much as the requirements of the organisation
  • Going slow (or piloting properly) means you make most of your mistakes with fewer partners…
  • …but everyone (even the big commercial franchises) make plenty of mistakes, and they are surmountable

The differences are manifold between social and commercial franchising (incentives for good performance, sharing:protecting IP, types of franchisees, appropriate finance, etc) but I retain the belief that it is underused in the field. Providing as it does that balance between the social (propensity to share and partner) and the enterprising (a business that grows and trades and innovates).

And during the course of the programme, I think we found our strapline too.
Social franchising: growing the business of people, not pizza.

[Nick Temple can now also be found blogging at]

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