Although Social Franchising is thought to have emerged as far back as the mid-1990s, it is still a largely unheard of concept with most Australians.

It’s not that the fundamentals are foreign – at its simplest, the social franchising business model is not that different to the highly successful commercial franchise models seen all over the world, whether they be the Coffee Club, Subway, or McDonalds. However, the essence – and power – of social franchising is that proven social change projects are turned into ‘franchisors’ and then respective business models are quickly replicated benefiting the social cause.

As with commercial models, the franchise-in-question documents their processes, franchisees adopt the approach, and are given support in establishing themselves. This allows each franchisee to grow a successful business much faster, with reduced risk, whilst maintaining product integrity.

Franchises aiding everything from clothing children to providing sexual health education have been established – some done in extremely imaginative ways.

And the popularity of these projects is growing.

Australia’s first social franchise, Buffed, was launched by the Wise Foundation in 2011. Their aim was to create real business opportunities for refugees and individuals excluded from the Australian workforce, so that these people could secure their futures through small business ownership.

Individuals are able to ‘purchase’ Buffed shoe shine stands and operate them as their own franchise business. As buffed franchises they receive comprehensive training in the “fine art of shoe shining”; customer service skills and business development.

Buffed provides franchisees with high-level support that includes no-interest loans, business mentorship and marketing to ensure franchisees have the best chance of creating a successful business. While growing their own business, new franchisees develop skills, experience and confidence.

Social franchising may be a new concept in Australia, but we think the idea has serious applications for not-for-profit enterprises and social change groups alike.

We want to hear more about social franchising projects that are happening around Australia.  Join our LinkedIn discussion group and tell us about your project or ideas!