Residential report 1: Dartonia, Social Enterprise City of the Future

So it's that time of year again where SSE has its residential; we are down in Dartington in Devon, which has a close connection to SSE as Michael Young (our founder) was integrally involved in Dartington, and because it is now the organisational home for the Devon SSE franchise.

Nearly 150 social entrepreneurs are here from around the UK: Fife, Liverpool, Wigan, Devon, Cornwall, London, Yorkshire…..with also visitors from SSE Suffolk and Australia staff and supporters….all descending on a tranquil part of the world for a three-day intensive learning experience, but also (hopefully) one full of useful networking, inspiration and enjoyment.

This year, the stakes have been upped. Participants were given a 'passport' as they entered, welcoming them to the Social Enterprise City of the Future: Dartonia. Apparently, the fictional Dartonia is a struggling and deprived area in need of help from teams of social entrepreneurs to address its various problems. And the government (a la Big Society) has thrown down the gauntlet. So there are four teams (red, blue, green, yellow) and five sector groups within those (arts, health, environment, crime, education), tasked with coming up with financially viable projects and strategies which are clear in their purpose (and communication) and clear on how the social benefit and impact will be measured and achieved.

Each team gets a budget (Dartonia Dollars) to spend on advice (evaluation, marketing, finance etc) or to speak to focus groups, or hear from experts on particular areas. And there's much more besides: press releases, financial forecasts, and a live Question Time (chaired by yours truly, Nick Dimbleby) featuring a representative from each team.

Thus far, it's going well; some accommodation disasters aside (far from ideal, but now thankfully sorted: the curse of events etc), everyone is cracking on with the challenge and very much entering into the spirit of things. It's a game, a challenge, but also one with a purpose: particularly a chance to experience (against very urgent and pressing deadlines) the difficulties of building / leading teams, and of partnership and collaboration.

And of course, there's also been much networking over drinks and dinner and, for a diverting couple of hours, karaoke. Highlights of the latter included a fearsome, full-bodied version of "She's a Maniac" from Flashdance, and an emotive "Another Day in Paradise". Combine the two and you get some sense of the event so far :0)

More photos, video and audio to follow over the next few days.

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