It is certainly not new (I learned that I should have been reading Nextbillion.net more carefully three years ago... their new look is great!), but diving into the topic of MicroFranchises today, I found some new ideas.
First, the BYU Economic Self-Reliance Center "broadly define MicroFranchises as small businesses that can easily be replicated by following proven marketing and operational concepts. The overall objective of MicroFranchising is to promote economic development by developing sound business models that can be replicated by entrepreneurs at the base of the pyramid; therefore, the start-up costs of MicroFranchises will be minimal. The key principle is replication, replicating success to scale."
This led me to another article I missed in the Stanford Social Innovation Review. This article, as an online PBS report on health care solutions, focuses on CFW Shops in Kenya.
I am still thinking through my reaction to this idea. It stirs up my interest in social marketing and social enterprise. I am very attracted to the idea that, at least in the CFW Shops, franchise owners are vetted, supported and trained. It seems to address the frequent criticism of Microfiance that its loans remain too small to really have an impact that money alone doesn't make an entrepreneur. On the other hand, the challenge of quality control seems to linger. Can you really take away a franchise in Kenya if the owner cuts corners in a time of crisis? (This is discussed in the PBS video.)
One graduate of BYU has set up a blog on microfranchising and the head of the Economic Self-Reliance Center, Jason Fairbourne, has written a book on the topic (cover above) and runs the university's wiki, which explains their MicroFranchise Toolkit.