What have we learnt about social franchising?

More than a million migrants and refugees crossed into Europe in 2015. This is to escape the war in their home countries. They have to go through dangerous journeys to reach Europe. This situation created a division in the European Union over how best to deal with resettling people.

Given that, we at SPEAK, were appalled at the lack of solidarity and the negative attitudes some European countries are showing towards migration. Creating cohesive societies that value and celebrate diversity has always been at the core of SPEAK’s mission. We strongly believe that everyone should feel at home in the city where they live.

On a clearer note, SPEAK fosters the organic emergence of local communities. Migrants, refugees and locals meet and develop meaningful relationships as equals in a safe sharing space. Since we value diversity, fosters deep human bonds and ultimately creates powerful informal support networks to enable the integration of newcomers.

The goal is to take SPEAK to different cities, where community-based solutions to fight social exclusion were needed. This led us to start expanding SPEAK in 2017 with the first city being Turin and in 2018 started its expansion on a social franchising model – where everyone can start SPEAK in their own city and become a SPEAK founder, with the support of the central team along every step of the way. 

SPEAK has reached around 30 cities in 11 different countries with its Social Franchising model. Over the past 2 years, SPEAK has closed some cities that didn’t work out. This has allowed us to learn a lot along the way. With this wee have learnt that the characteristics of founders and a well-defined process are critical success factors as well as continuous support.

What have we learned from two years of developing a social franchising model?

A founder needs the right characteristics:

This is absolutely critical. Since the beginning, a founder will be responsible for managing many different areas. A typical day in the office might look like the following: closer partnerships with asylum seekers in the morning, online marketing in the afternoon and organize community events before sunset. One truly does a bit of everything. There will be a variety of challenges that this person must face, even with the support from the central team. A SPEAK founder has to be an entrepreneur – always looking for ways of creating an impact. A SPEAK founder needs to have passion and an unshakable belief in our mission. Passion is a key characteristic that will give founders the energy and ability to mobilize others allowing them to continue pushing for change even in times of struggle and difficulty to make the world a place where no one is discriminated against. 

Support and skills development for franchisees:

Since recruiting the right founders is not enough to make a successful case. The central team needs to dedicate time and resources to support founders and help them develop or improve their skills. Therefore we have recently developed an onboarding process in the form of MOOC (Massive Open Online Course). It is a combination of videos, tools, quizzes and challenges help founders to navigate through the implementation of SPEAK. Additionally, there is a dedicated person from the central team who meets with each founder on a regular basis to discuss challenges and brainstorm for solutions and has shown great success.

The power of the network:

A successful social franchises take advantage of a dynamic network where they can share their experiences, their challenges and foster innovation. This can be done in many forms, such as having a team communication channel where everyone can be contacted directly, regular online meetings, peer mentoring and offline meetings. Having a strong network can also increase the reach of the events and activities that the founders organize in the city. Also, this helps build stronger partnerships. We have been organizing regular founders meetings and training and are using Slack as a channel for daily communication.

Financial model:

Franchisees need to understand the path to sustainability and have the support from the franchisor. Since many people who start a social franchising don’t have the skills in the team to understand all the instruments that can be used for financing an organization. This is fundamental for the project in the long term. However, the central team has a support process and a mentoring program. This allows every founder to learn to develop the financial model that suits their goals. So far, there have been many successful SPEAK founders that have used the social franchising model. You can read all about it in part 5.


Since we all have a common vision, a world where everyone can feel at home in the city where they live independent of their background, race, story and religion. In 2024 SPEAK aims to be in 100 cities to achieve its mission of creating inclusive societies.

You don’t need to be a business or an entrepreneurship expert. However, you have to have a passion and an idea, that may help solve a social problem. Therefore, make sure you balance the risks of implementing your project and that you surround yourself with people who have the expertise you need and don’t have and can help you on this journey.

Stay tuned! Part 5 of the series will bring testimonies from founders!!

Do you enjoy this post? We have a blog series about social franchising, take a look into part 01 - "What is Social Franchising?", part 02 - "Scale your impact with a Social Franchising" and part 03 - "6 Tips to start your own impact venture".

Author:Mariana Brilhante

Mariana is SPEAK’s Co-Founder and CMO. She loves nature and adventure, has a sort of obsession for typical sayings.

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