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Charities should copy commercial franchises such as McDonald's, says research

Copying and adapting business models can save charities from 'reinventing the wheel', according to Dan Berelowitz, a fellow of the Clore Social Leadership Programme

Dan Berelowitz
Dan Berelowitz

Charities should take lessons from the fast food giant McDonald’s, according to a new report on social franchising.

The research by Dan Berelowitz, a fellow from the 2011 Clore Social Leadership Programme, looks at what the sector can learn from franchising in the commercial sector. It concludes that social organisations should consider replication as a way of increasing their social impact and growing sustainably.

Berelowitz acknowledges that some social organisations will be uncomfortable with fast food companies being held up as examples, but says he hopes to encourage sector organisations to learn lessons "wherever they are coming from".

"What is undeniable is that McDonald’s has been phenomenally successful in applying the franchise model when it comes to scale, growth and profitability," says Berelowitz, co-founder of the International Centre for Social Franchising, which helps successful social projects to replicate.

The report, published by the Clore Social Leadership Programme, the ICSF and Social Enterprise UK, compares and contrasts two case studies: McDonald’s and the Trussell Trust’s food banks, a social franchise.

The comparisons in the research identify 11 key lessons that social franchises can take from commercial counterparts. These include: designing to scale; developing people with skills training and professional development; planning for sustainability; understanding and adapting to markets; and building a brand.

"Social franchising is a business model that addresses two key issues for the social sector: taking successful projects to scale and avoiding the continual reinvention of the wheel," the report says. "Time and money are poured into developing new programmes to meet a social need, when so often this work has already been done and could simply be copied or adapted."

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