Open Gov Hub is the world’s first meeting place, co-working space, or innovation hub dedicated to opening up governments and empowering citizens around the world. Through their coworking space, professional services and programming, Open Gov Hub helps open government advocates be more efficient and effective, by sharing resources and working together.
In 2019, the Open Gov Hub formalized their Global Affiliate Hubs program to help scale up their impact globally, by offering coaching and structured support to nurture existing, like-minded hubs elsewhere and help bring new ones to life. Today, they support 13 different locally-owned and operated affiliate hubs across 12 countries and 5 continents. The Open Gov Hub currently provides capacity building tools and peer learning activities to its affiliates, to help them become self-sufficient engines of social change for their own networks.
Current locations of the 13 global affiliate Open Gov Hubs around the world.
To help this work become sustainable over the long-term, Open Gov Hub is exploring if they might develop it as a social franchise – a way for social enterprises to scale up by replicating tried-and-true business and social impact models.
Social franchising presents a number of exciting opportunities, but many challenges too, especially related to financing and establishing strong feedback loops with affiliate hubs. Open Gov Hub staff face questions around designing honest feedback loops with franchisees, deciding the right time to start implementing a fee-for-service model, and maintaining consistency across hubs without stifling local innovation. They came to the Labstorm for fresh ideas and perspectives on these challenges as they plan to scale their impact up globally. Here is what LabStorm attendees had to say.
The feedback dynamic may improve if hubs become paying customers. Right now, Open Gov Hub staff are concerned about how their relationships with affiliate hubs may change if they start charging for their coaching and support services. Will their transparent feedback channels still make sense once those affiliates are paying customers? Attendees noted that charging partners a bit of money for Open Gov Hub support can actually open the door to get more candid and frequent feedback from them. After all, if hubs pay to be a part of Open Gov Hub, they may feel more empowered to give critical feedback or suggest ideas for continuous improvement.
Get creative with joint fundraising. Financial sustainability is key as Open Gov Hub plans to scale their hub network. LabStorm attendees raised the idea that just because affiliate hubs are locally owned and self-sustaining does not mean they necessarily need to be 100% locally funded. Instead, the network of global hubs can support each other. Open Gov Hub can make joint fundraising pitches based on which hubs in the network need the most support, and rooted in the overall value proposition of running a unique, dynamic and impactful global network. This process would provide a layer of security for affiliate hubs, and also ensure their commitment to the success of other affiliates.
A Zoom group photo from the Global Affiliate Hubs virtual retreat held this August.
Start by defining shared values rather than focusing on quality standards. As the number of affiliate hubs has grown around the world, it has become harder for Open Gov Hub to manage their overall brand. Open Gov Hub staff want to maintain the quality expectations of their brand, but also want to leave room for local hub owners to innovate and get creative. LabStorm attendees suggested that instead of setting prescriptive standards from the top-down, Open Gov Hub could collaborate with the network of affiliate hubs to establish shared values and expectations, that help the network regulate and manage itself. These shared values can create a sense of collective identity and serve as the “quality control” for affiliate hubs across the world. The process of defining values together will also create a sense of shared buy-in, ownership and dispersed power throughout the network.
This LabStorm reminded us of the importance of collaboration and flexibility when trying something new. Open Gov Hub will be able to better experiment with a new social franchise model thanks to the strength of their innovative global network itself, and their willingness to adapt based on feedback. Do you have any experience with social franchising, or any advice for Open Gov Hub? If so, please send a message to [email protected].