Passionate local providers take MSI’s services the extra mile

Social franchising and MSI's BlueStar network

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29-year-old Welansa lives in a small village on the outskirts of Mojo, 80 miles from Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. Divorced with one child, she doesn’t want to have any more children at the moment.

Welansa tried a number of different contraceptive methods, but she hadn’t found one that really suited her until she was able to get an implant at her local BlueStar clinic.

What is a BlueStar clinic? In 2004, MSI established a social franchising network, partnering with existing private health providers who can deliver high-quality contraception and safe abortion services on our behalf. Those providers who participate in MSI’s network are called “BlueStar” franchises.

A social franchise is a model of franchising that’s for a good cause, rather than profit. People commonly associate franchising with fast foods chains, but it is also changing the face of healthcare in the developing world. Social franchising helps MSI to quickly scale-up access to services so that we can reach poor and under-served women, like Welansa, in a sustainable way.

“I’m much happier using the implant - it feels right for me,” she said. “Before, I was taking the injection every three months. I was menstruating more often and I had to go to the clinic every three months to get my injection, which wasn’t always easy.”

In countries where the public health system is not strong, people already visit private health clinics and pharmacists for their health needs. By expanding the services offered by these private providers, we can easily provide greater contraceptive choice to clients.

For Welansa, this meant choosing a method that best fit with her lifestyle. She makes a living selling Tella, a local beer, and her job requires her to travel a lot.

“The implant lasts a lot longer, which makes it easier for me and my work.

I am happy and confident knowing there is no risk of an unplanned pregnancy for me now.

I am divorced, and I don’t want to have more kids right now but I want to keep my options open. If I get married again, I would like to have more but we’ll see. I’ll probably always use contraception, though, because I want to be able to space my pregnancies.”

Through our BlueStar network, we strive to always be there for her, providing choice that best fits her needs.

Welansa visits her local BlueStar provider.


How does social franchising work at Marie Stopes International?

Our BlueStar social franchise brand works in much the same way as a commercial franchising operation with franchisees – clinics, midwives and pharmacies – paying a small fee to join the network.

In return, they receive extensive and ongoing training in a range of sexual and reproductive health services, infection prevention, counseling and, most importantly, are trained on how to put their clients’ needs at the heart of what they do.

Once they have completed the training and meet our quality standards, we provide franchisees with branded signboards and materials, usually bearing the logo of our BlueStar network. We also provide them with affordable, high-quality medicines and other products that they sell to clients using an agreed pricing structure.

We now have over 3,600 franchisees working with us across 18 countries. We take responsibility for the quality of the services they provide, by assessing and assuring that they meet our required standards, and also working with them to provide training and support.


Our Global Impact Last Year


women using a MSI
method of contraception


unintended pregnancies


unsafe abortions prevented


pregnancy-related deaths prevented