Social franchising – using commercial franchising methods to achieve social impact – is a buzz word in the CSI sector. Two organisations, Shine and Unjani Clinics, share their successes and lessons learned.

Maurita Weissenberg is the Founder and Executive Director of The Shine Centre, an NPO offering language and literacy support to primary schools in the Western Cape, Eastern Cape and KwaZulu-Natal. An experienced remedial teacher, she started the Shine Centre at Observatory Junior School in 2000, introducing a structured early intervention literacy programme. Within four years, literacy rates of grade three children rose from 50% to 82.7%. Shine decided to replicate its model and set up four new centres with a goal of 20 centres by the end of 2011. Today, Shine Centre is working in 33 schools across three provinces.

Scaling Shine

As the Shine team opened more centres, Weissenberg noticed inconsistencies in how the programme was run. People were changing the model, but still operating under the Shine banner. She realised that to ensure the brand retained credibility, she would need to become more protective of it. She began to research social franchising in a bid to scale Shine in a sustainable, manageable way.

Shine developed a quarterly operations manual, training manual and programme manuals, and agreed on a list of reading material. They created assessment tools and key policies, and designed and produced a set of 36 Shine games.

“We offer franchisees proven results, national and international awards, effective learning resources, operations manuals, policies, training, assessment, tools, a database, experience and understanding of the need, a brand, and Western Cape Education Department endorsement of our programme. What we require from people looking to open a Shine Chapter is shared mission, vision and values, trust, and a signed contract.”

The contract allows Shine to visit chapters, give regular training, oversee assessment processes, capture results on its database, and the right to withdraw materials if the Shine programme is not followed. Although Shine shares many resources freely with other literacy projects, to be associated with the Shine brand, projects need to adhere to the Shine model.

Weissenberg lists the benefits of social franchising:

  • For the franchisor financial sustainability, increased political capital, larger data samples, opportunity to solve a social problem on a larger scale.
  • For the franchisee access to training, ongoing support, proven business system, reduced risk, marketing and brand recognition.
  • For the donor funds being used in proven, sustainable model, measurable impact, and brand association with successful, scalable programme.

Primary healthcare: social franchising

Unjani Clinics NPC is a social franchise and Imperial Group’s enterprise development initiative. The non-profit company seeks to create employment, empower black women professional nurses, improve healthcare access and provide an affordable private healthcare alternative, mirroring the Department of Health’s treatment protocols and guidelines.

Unjani Clinics is founded on an owner-operator model. Nurses are empowered to operate their own primary healthcare clinic, assisted with operational donations for the first 24months. “The beauty of the model is that there’s huge demand for quality healthcare and an affordable alternative to private GPs and state clinics,” says CEO Lynda Toussaint. “Unjani Clinics takes the solution to the point of need.”

The project is designed around enterprise development funding, a simple, easily replicable model, systems (education, operational, financial and clinical), and social franchising principals. “The nurse signs a five-year enterprise development agreement with us,” explains Toussaint. “Over that period, she pays back 43% of the infrastructure cost and contributes towards the brand every month. After five years, she owns the infrastructure. She owns a sustainable clinic.”

Between 2010 and 2014, Unjani piloted six clinics. The first was launched in Etwatwa (Barcelona , Ekurhuleni) in 2010, with subsequent openings in Mpumalanga and Ekurhuleni in 2012, and Soweto, Western Cape and City of Johannesburg in 2013. “These clinics have been in the network for over two years. On average they’re seeing around 250 patients per day,” says Toussaint.

From the pilots, Unjani learnt that site and nurse selection is critical. In 2014, an improved model was launched, including a site survey, business plan and re-designed shipping container clinic. While still affordable, the new design includes an internal waiting area, reception, kitchen and recovery room.

“We’ve also implemented stricter applications, including criminal and credit checks,” says Toussaint. “Since September 2014, we’ve opened eight more clinics. The new selection criteria and site selection methodologies have paid dividends, with some clinics already seeing year-three patient numbers. They’re averaging 200 patients per day.”

The 14 clinics have served just under 50,000 patients to date. Unjani Clinics plans to have opened 25 Imperial-funded clinics by June 2015 and a further 25 clinics by June 2018.

If Unjani reaches this target, the company will have launched 50 Clinics in five years, serving between 150,000 and 240,000 patients annually, and creating 150 jobs.

Written by Tamara Oberholster