Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Social entrepreneur to feature on The Apprentice: Good or bad for social enterprise?

Love them or hate them it's hard to deny that reality TV shows such as Dragons' Den and The Apprentice have generated a renewed interest in business. That's certainly true in my day job where as editor of BusinessZone.co.uk any content I publish focusing on the shows usually leads to a spike in traffic.

What there is very little of in these TV programmes however is anything focusing on social enterprise. You may well have seen the clip in a recent episode of Dragons' Den when an entrepreneur pitching a social enterprise cookery school was met with confusion from Peter Jones, Theo Paphitis and co who struggled to work how they could get a return from any investment in such a business model.

With that in mind I was interested to spot that among the contestants for the new series of The Apprentice, which were revealed today, is a successful social entrepreneur.

The woman in question is Melody Hossaini, founder of youth training organisation InspirEngage International. Melody set up her social enterprise, which aims to improve the lives of young people through skills development training, aged just 13 and looking at her LinkedIn profile she has an impressive CV having worked for groups including the Youth Parliament and with high profile individuals including Al Gore Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama.

Having been a viewer of The Apprentice since it started in the UK, Melody is not your usual candidate!

So why is she doing it?

The profile boost which comes from the show can't be ignored and although the entrepreneur already has an impressive CV, she is likely to get a lot more attention from appearing in the show. There's also a change in the format this year as rather than receiving a job with Lord Sugar the winner will be rewarded with up to £250,000 to invest in a joint business venture with the peer. That could be the reason why more entrepreneurs than usual feature in this year's line-up.

But what does it mean for social enterprise specifically?

I think it's a positive step that a social entrepreneur will feature in the show. The social enterprise sector has done lots over recent years to promote itself among the general public but there is a still a long way to go until most people really understand what social entrepreneurs are all about. Melody Hossaini's appearance in The Apprentice could help do that.

Also the fact that the programme results in the winner running a business rather than a job selling one of the Lord's wacky products could result in someone as high profile as the Amstrad founder getting involved in social enterprise.

That of course is looking on the bright side. It's highly possible that Melody's social enterprise background will get lost among the bickering and back stabbing which the BBC often prefers to focus on. We must remember that The Apprentice is entertainment afterall.

However let's not be too cynical at this very early stage. Let's hope that a social entrepreneur's starring role in a prime time BBC TV broadcast watched by millions will teach at least a few more thousand people about just how beneficial the social enterprise sector is.


Anonymous said...

I'm afraid cynical is the default setting for any reality TV show.

The Apprentice isn't really about the business world given the producers primary aim is to make an entertaining TV show.

Anyone hoping for a 'poster girl' for social enterprise as a result of this exposure will likely be highly disappointed...

Anonymous said...

Now we have seen a few episodes I think we know the answer to this - BAD. Scheming, lying, selfish, I could go on....

It can't all be in the editing, surely?

John Durrant said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

As a poor advertisement for business...short term...rushed ...poorly thought through....dodgy pressure selling...lack of customer service....

Can't imagine it will do well at presenting social enterprise.

Or that shared value will make it many rounds with Big Al