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Exploring Social Franchising A programme to explore the use of social franchising techniques to help spread and scale health and care interventions.

Exploring social franchising page

This programme is closed for applications.

  • The programme supported four teams to explore whether social franchising techniques can be used successfully to scale their work.
  • The teams were supported by the Health Foundation, Spring Impact and an independent evaluator during the programme.
  • This programme forms part of the Health Foundation's work to test and pilot new approaches to scaling health and social care interventions.
  • This programme ran from 2017 to 2021.

What is social franchising? 

Social franchising is a method to replicate and scale interventions that are not widely used in health care in the UK. It requires exchange between an innovator or franchisor and an adopter site or franchisee, with the goal of replicating impact in different locations to an agreed standard.

The primary aim of social franchising is to maximise social benefit, distinguishing it from the commercial use of franchising methods. We believe social franchising techniques have the potential to help spread proven health interventions by:

  • offering greater levels of support to implementers adopting an intervention by providing ongoing training and support
  • helping to create a sustainable financial model for the intervention
  • offering more control to the innovator to ensure replication of a model, where this is necessary to create improved outcomes, while also supporting local flexibility in implementation.

The programme

Between 2017 and 2021, the Health Foundation supported four health innovators – PROMPT, PINCER, Pathway and IRISi – to explore how the principles of social franchising would influence their attempts to scale within the NHS. 

With initial funding from the Foundation and social franchising expertise from Spring Impact, each team designed its own bespoke social franchise model and developed social franchising systems and documents. All four teams were granted further funding to put their new approaches into practice by working with implementer sites across the UK to test and refine their social franchising models from late 2019 to early 2021. 

An independent evaluation of the programme by Cordis Bright focussed on the potential of social franchising as a mechanism for replication, scale and spread in the NHS. The evaluation addressed the following main research question: 

'Does social franchising work as a mechanism to promote the replication of improvement projects?' 

The evaluation approach was collaborative, exploratory and developmental. It aimed to mirror the key stages of the Exploring Social Franchising programme: 

  • Design – Defining scaling objectives, selecting and developing a replication strategy. 
  • Systematise – Documenting all systems and processes, developing functions for recruitment and support, developing legal documentation.  
  • Validate – Pilot franchise, evaluate, iterate.  
  • Launch – Rapid expansion of social franchises, ongoing support, continued learning and innovation. 

Read the findings in the evaluation report.

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