By Marcia Cardamore, PSI philanthropic partner
Sustainability is an all too overused word that is rarely linked to the word profit. Yet sustainability and profit go hand in hand. When it comes to building a network of health facilities in a developing country using a social franchising model similar to how business franchises operate, the link between profit and sustainability is imperative. Without one we cannot hope to have the other.
Why is this so? Because aid as we have known it is changing. Handouts are starting to dwindle as we come to realize that the old model is not sustainable. What is sustainable is profit. Profit creates the opportunity for an enterprising doctor to effectively run a clinic so that it becomes financially viable. The social franchise model provides a fair return to the owner who lives off a clinic’s profit while serving the health needs of under-served populations who are willing and able to pay modest fees for good healthcare services and products.
Why would people in developing countries pay for health care? They already do. Globally, out of pocket healthcare expenses account for almost half of all health care expenses. This burden disproportionately effects lower income households with less disposable income. This fact exists in part because governments often fail to provide quality health care, particularly in struggling states like Honduras.
Recently, I had the great fortune to make a trip to Guatemala to join an amazingly stellar group of healthcare professionals who work with PSI in Latin America and the Caribbean. The purpose of the meeting, facilitated by the International Centre for Social Franchising, was to explore the possibilities of establishing reproductive health care clinics for women under a franchising model.
As an entrepreneur, I greatly appreciate the potential for creating jobs while providing important services and products that garnish profits for other entrepreneurs. As a philanthropist dedicated to improving the lives and futures of women and girls globally — including their access to quality reproductive health care — helping to proliferate access to clinics is in my view a social justice and human rights imperative. Through philanthrocapitalism, there is an opportunity to marry the idea of business and profitability with social good.
Our group, which included OB/GYN specialists as well as nurse practitioners and marketing professionals, considered how we could create a “business in a box,” a social franchising model that could be replicated throughout the region and beyond. At the end of the workshop we decided that the first social franchise would be in Honduras, a country that has the sad reputation of being the most violent place on earth that is not an actual war zone.
Honduras is a country that lacks infrastructure, including proper access to reproductive health care and has high rates of young teen pregnancy. I have dedicated a $1 million gift to pilot clinics in some of the poorest and most under-served neighbourhoods in Honduras over the next few years. By carefully building the first clinic with a social franchising model all of us in our working group hope to empower women and doctors. We can create jobs, by applying the business in a box model to serve other women who seek the knowledge and tools to control their reproductive health. In turn, those served will be able to choose how and when and how often they become pregnant. Ultimately, we will positively influence their lives and futures of their children.
If we can help women access reproductive health by making it profitable to those who serve them, then the model of social franchising is definitely worth pursuing.
Marcia Cardamore is an entrepreneur, philanthropist, and former university professor in business and organizational development with 30 years experience in the high-tech industry. In her relatively short philanthropic career, Marcia has championed a successful constitutional challenge for young girls who have been raped and denied justice in Kenya. In her homeland of Canada she has also supported significant initiatives to address the disappearance and murder of hundreds of aboriginal women. In collaboration with PSI, Marcia is launching a transformative program to empower women entrepreneurs and strengthen health services in Honduras. Marcia is committed to encouraging other women to step forward and use their talents and resources to invest in improving the lives of women and girls.