Wessex Social Ventures: ‘Training small, community based social franchises is unique’

Wessex Social Ventures recently returned from Uganda where they were training Training small, community based social franchises:

After 4 intense days of training on how to set up each of our three social franchises; Petal, Roots and Right Light, today was all about the new partners Organisation for Community Action (OCA). All about preparing them for the exciting and unique challenges of training a micro-enterprise.

OCA are already experts in training. Their Step Up programme trains subsistence farmers on 132 topics over 6 years; on all things from keeping your home clean, to domestic violence and why you shouldn’t be afraid of the police. What’s even more impressive, and just shows the patience and commitment of OCA, is that each topic is taught through ‘participatory development’ i.e. the farmers set the pace, uncover the problems and find the solutions mostly by themselves.

Training a micro-enterprise is similar, but there are two key differences. With our model, you are training people to run a business as a team; whereas the norm is solo, and you are setting up a franchise with most of the rules and procedures already established. It is businesses to the core… and a new way of thinking of business.

On day 1 of training we delved into the business experience of each of the 15 OCA team members. Many had tried once or several times to start a personal business of their own with only a couple still continuing. The key element of failure they all recognised by day 5 of training (today) was that in Uganda (and many other cultures) small businesses and the owners are one and the same. Meaning, my businesses debt comes from my income, my expenses are paid by my business and the businesses depends on me being there to succeed. In WSV, all of our entrepreneurs are trained to and understand that they must consider their business as a separate entity. One that pays its expenses, its employees and sustains itself through the social and practical value created for community members. A social enterprise to the core.

Each social franchise needs a focused team, to train them. OCA dived themselves into three groups, one for each business and dove into the training, practicing by teaching each other.

The role play, was hilarious! Quite a few people in the team were downright stubborn, conservative and easily confused ‘entrepreneurs’. But, at the same time they were passionate, energetic and rewarded when things were well put.