In his January 2019 Stanford Social Innovation Review article, “To Impact Millions, the Social Sector Needs to Scale Scaling Up,” consultant Greg Coussa writes: “The ‘scale sector’—the practices, people, and policies that make up the efforts to exponentially boost an organization’s impact—is woefully under-resourced and nascent.” This scaling crisis threatens the loftiest aspirations of the social sector. How, for instance, will we even begin to approach the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)—the 17 goals the United Nations General Assembly set to “achieve a better and more sustainable future for all” by 2030—without first figuring out how to dramatically expand the impact of our most promising ideas? How will we try to eliminate poverty (SDG 1) and hunger (SDG 2), ensure good health and well-being (SDG 3), create quality education (SDG 4), establish gender equality (SDG 5), provide clean water and sanitation (SDG 6), and produce affordable and clean energy (SDG 7) for the whole world if we cannot take whatever limited successes the social sector has seen along these lines and multiply them a thousandfold?

While the so-called “scale sector” may be under-resourced and nascent, social sector franchising is emerging as a promising approach to multiplying the impacts of social enterprises. Commercial franchising has a proven record of catalyzing business expansion. Socially minded entrepreneurs have begun turning to this model in hopes of achieving analogously large-scale growth and thereby exponentially boosting their social impact.

Imagine a world with massive numbers of franchises all over the world delivering standardized medical care, potable water, education, and clean energy, rather than hamburgers and french fries. If the success of commercial franchising could be harnessed for positive social impact, the benefits would be immense. They would include improved access to products and services for tens of millions of people; ownership opportunities at the base of the pyramid (BoP) for tens of thousands of franchisees; creation of jobs for hundreds of thousands of people employed by franchisees and franchisors; and spillover benefits, such as healthy pressure on local suppliers to improve the quality of their products and services to a level high enough to win contracts to supply franchise networks.

To be sure, multiple obstacles stand in the way of social sector franchising reaching its full potential. The practice is still fairly recent, and as practitioners, capital providers, governments, NGOs, and researchers learn more about it, solutions will emerge to overcome these obstacles. This article is an effort in that spirit.

Read the full article about social sector franchising by Greg Starbird, Fiona Wilson & E. Hachemi Aliouche at Stanford Social Innovation Review.