Visionary. Self-confident. Utterly committed to their cause. It’s easy to see why social entrepreneurs are beloved by politicians and journalists alike. I’m enthused by them myself. Only last month I was bowled over by Locality, a membership organization of more than 700 community-run social enterprises. Since starting two years ago, it’s become adept at working with its informal network of community activists, and social entrepreneurs to rapidly spread ideas and knowledge across its network rapidly.
From snapping up “heart-of-the-community” pubs (Brits prefer to overindulge in groups!) to persuading councils to use recent changes in legislation to take back derelict buildings for community use, Locality is riding the wave of community ownership with aplomb. It creates downloadable guides and tools that local activists can use to kick-start campaigns to bring neglected buildings back into the community. A couple of hours with the team, and a world of possibilities opens up. Its members fund projects through a range of means, including council grants, property sales, and funds from charitable trusts and foundations. Inevitably, many of its achievements rely on the hard work and goodwill of volunteers.
But, frankly, most people are not like these idealistic, single-minded individuals. I know from my day-to-day work that, if given the choice, most people would prefer to faithfully reproduce a familiar idea with a track record of efficacy. In the commercial sector, this is the McDonald’s model—franchising. In our sector, I call it “social franchising.”
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