In many low- and middle-income countries, a majority of people seek health care from the private sector. However, fragmentation, poor economies of scale, inadequate financing, political opposition, a bias toward curative services, and weak regulatory and quality control systems pose serious challenges for the private sector. Social franchising addresses a number of these challenges by organizing small, independent health care businesses into quality-assured networks.
PSI and Marie Stopes International (MSI) have rapidly scaled their family planning social franchising programs in recent years, jointly delivering over 10.8 million couple-years of protection (CYPs) in 2014—up 26% from 8.6 million CYPs just 1 year prior. Drawing on experience across MSI’s 17 and PSI’s 25 social franchise networks across Africa, Asia, and Latin America and the Caribbean, this article documents the organizations’ operational approaches, challenges faced, and solutions implemented. The organizations provide intensive capacity building and support for private sector providers, including clinical training, branding, monitoring quality of franchised services, and commodity support. In addition, franchising programs engage providers and clients through behavior change communication (BCC) and demand generation activities to raise awareness and to attract clients, and they implement initiatives to ensure services are affordable for the lowest-income clients.
Social franchise programs offer the private sector a collective platform to better engage government in health policy advocacy and for integrating into new public health care financing and procurement mechanisms. The future of social franchising will require developing approaches to scale-up and sustain the model cost-effectively, selectively integrating other health services into the franchise package, and being responsive to evolving health care financing approaches with the potential to contribute to universal health coverage.