CNN visited the SSE this week, to learn more about social enterprise and entrepreneurship; they met several of our current students and sat in an expert witness session with social enterprise legend Colin Crooks of Green-Works. In discussing the sector, the movement, the history, the definitions (!) et al, we got right to the real water-cooler stuff as well: namely, that the Dragon’s Den five had totally rejected a "social enterprise" on the programme the night before, because "charity and business don’t mix".
The episode in question is here, but sadly not the bit that includes the proposal in question (though you can submit a comment). A Senscot member has weighed in with his view on what happened. I confess to having missed the pitch through going to make a cup of tea, so it may have been unclear and sketchy and badly presented. But the reactions (which I did see) from the Dragons seemed to be that they simply could not grasp the idea of social purpose and business mixing. Which is bizarre, not to say near-backward: have five so-called cutting edge businesspeople not even heard of social enterprise? Not know who Jamie Oliver, John Bird and Tim Smit are? And their reaction was very strong, as well….enough to make grown social enterpreneurs weep.
Anyway, a "dragon’s den" format is now de rigeur at all third sector conferences, but what the movement really wants is an equivalent on TV (I once suggested the Social Apprentice). Perhaps it would be too cute and fuzzy for good TV (bunnies rather than dragons?), but it also seems that the whole concept would need a massive amount of explaining. The mere concept of a social as well as financial return on investment might send them running down the stairs. Sustainability, pah! etc…
Or perhaps, once they were in a different mindset, it would be different. Duncan Bannatyne found no problem about giving money away on ITV’s Fortune programme, so perhaps he just needs to find a middle ground between the two?
Peter, Duncan, Theo, Richard, Deborah: love the programme, but get with ours.