Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Microfranchising--Is it just a buzz word?

At the end of the year the word "Microfranchising" made Lucy Bernholz's Top Ten Buzz words of 2007 and her entry then had some circulation at the GlobalGiving, Chronicle, Huffington,
and even made it over to Germany. Perhaps inspired by Rob Katz's recent post about the word "Bottom of the Pyramid" I have had contemplative thoughts about this word I find myself typing so frequently.

Is it a good sign or a bad sign that microfranchising made a buzzword TopTen list? Does this mean that it really only has value as a word and the sun will set after its little bit of glory? The great buzzwords of the past (paradigm shift) and the ones of today (Web 2.0) actually did have substantial impact on their relative industries; corporate training was completely overhauled starting with Covey and now every company and organization has a 2.0 strategy or strategy 2.0.

Lately I haven't received many google alerts for the term microfranchising but perhaps the conversation is taking place offline or perhaps it is still too early to tell if the word is catching on.

My take is that the term can be applied fairly broadly and there are many practitioners out there that are using 'franchise'-like models but just not the word. The words I still hear are "replication" and "scale" but the conversation has not turned that corner to talk specifically about franchising, as we traditionally think of it, as a way to replicate and reach scale.

What do you think--is there value in encouraging the adoption of certain words in the sector? Are certain words destined to have greater impact? attract more participation?


Donna said...

Hi David,
Just a quick look at
Technorati shows way more posts on "microphilanthropy" (25) vs almost none (2) on microfranchising. Maybe the notion of microfranchising is too undefined at this point, who knows. Food for thought.
Donna @

Anonymous said...


I wonder if the terms 'social franchising' and 'microfranchising' are nascent terms that will see convergence soon. There was no talk of microfranchising at the Int'l Summit on Social Franchising in Berlin last month, but my strong sense, as a participant, was that the conference was talking about microfranchising...just as the recent ESR conference was talking about social franchising. Perhaps I'm wrong. One would think that microfinance would be well defined by now (30+ years later), but it would seem there is still an underlying tension (or misunderstanding) about whether microfinance is about micro transactions for poor people or simply micro transactions. If the latter, MC and Visa have everyone beat... Perhaps the same definitional quicksand plagues the (still small) world of micro/social franchising? Time will tell.

Sean Kline
Freedom from Hunger