Residential wrap: can social entrepreneurs work in teams?

Following Colin Crook's witness session, the SSE residential in Dartington took an unexpected turn (ok, so the staff were expecting it, but anyway). London SSE Director of Learning Marcia sounded the siren from the middle of the Dartington lawn (see photo below) to announce the start of the (drum roll) APPRENTICE CHALLENGE.


14 teams made up of SSE students from across the UK were challenged (by Dartington CEO Vaughan "Alan Sugar" Lindsay) to research, conceive and present a new social enterprise idea, taking into account social impact, community needs, sustainable thinking (financial + environmental) and, most challenging of all, to work effectively as a team along the way. Each team was given a set budget of $500 Dartington Dollars to spend in various advice shops (marketing, evaluation, finance, materials, and even focus groups with "real local people" etc), as well as having to register their team name with "companies house" and submit a press release to a set deadline.

By the end of the Wednesday (day 3 of residential), each team had to have created a stall in the marketplace to showcase their product, with clear evidence of thinking / planning around social impact, a 3 year financial forecast, a brand / advert, mission statement and so on. One team narrowly escaped disqualification for trying to sneak an extra print-out onto their table after time, but otherwise all teams achieved this on time.

Thursday morning was judging time (judges included the CEO of Dartington, and SSE trustees + staff), and the pressure was really ramped up as three teams were chosen to be grilled on the stage by the judging panel. Once one team was dispatched (with the immortal words "you can't polish a turd"), Dramatic Impact were up against Love + Life for the title. It went to the crowd's vote and, perhaps slightly against the judges' preferences, Love + Life won. And celebrated. Quite a lot.


Huge congratulations to all the teams and social entrepreneurs though. It was by far our biggest ever residential with over 150 people there, and everyone really entered into the spirit of the event to achieve the maximum while we were there. At times, it was challenging: as well as being fun, it was also quite a pressurised day and a half, and (as with the real Apprentice), pulling a team together from complete stranger at such short notice is tough. Especially when they are social entrepreneurs with strong opinions and plenty of ideas! But most importantly, given the discussions I heard during and after the event, there was a lot of learning and development (both skills and personal) that took place over the four days. As well as a lot of networking and friend-making.

Here's a final slide-set featuring many of the presentations, teams at work, judging, dancing, clarinet-playing (Jimmy is a star), laughing, big team photo etc etc. Enjoy. And a final huge congratulations to Cynthia, chief organiser-in-chief, and all the other SSE staff and students who made it a success.

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3 thoughts on “Residential wrap: can social entrepreneurs work in teams?

  1. Thanks for the write up.
    I believe its important have enough positive-pride to defend your reputation and those you are associated with. I was lucky enough to be a participant in the residential and to be part of ‘Dartington Bridge’ team, with some wonderful individuals.
    In this light, a correction to a misleading statement in the above article ‘Residential Wrap’ : ” … Once one team was dispatched (with the immortal words “you can’t polish a turd”), …”. This is misleading and wrong.
    I was lucky enough to be team leader of the said dispatched team Dartington Bridge. John, the judge in question actually said that the teams invited onto the stage were there because all those three projects were viable, including Dartington Bridge. The implication was that the reference to ‘polishing a turd’ (too harsh in my mind given the challenges we faced) was directed towards some of the other projects that didn’t make it through to the final three.
    The residential was a definitely a wonderful, inspiring, challenging and, for me at least, affirming experience, meeting some very impressive individuals and I am grateful to all concerned for organising it and inspiring us. I have some concerns that, whilst the Apprentice was fun (for some), challenging, interesting and comment-worthy, we could have made better use of the time we had available to us – 150 budding social entrepreneurs in the same location could be a tremendous force for good if harnessed. I would have welcomed more structured opportunities to share, find out where, what and how other people are working and how we could work together in the world beyond Dartington Hall. Having said that I am sure we learnt more than I can currently appreciate.
    Hello and thank you to all those amazing beings on the SSE Residential 2009!!! May the force be with you and your projects!
    John / Prasannavira

  2. Cheers John – am sure you are right about the team / comment; was meant in jest (both then and when repeated here), rather than as a more serious judgement. And your comment speaks volume for the team spirit generated during the few days!
    As you note, the residential was much more about the challenge, learning, inspiration and networking with others than which team won. And we’re certainly up for hearing how it could be better / improved (I’m sure the evaluation / feedback form is with you already!). And its success as part of the learning programme will be much more about the development of those 150 social entrepreneurs and their respective projects from here on in than anything that was produced during the three days.

  3. Residential wrap: can social entrepreneurs work in teams?:
    Yes. We build teams to help get our message across. Teams are built up over time in a natural way and some team members are sometimes in the wrong place and need moving or eliminated as Colin Crook emphasized in his witness session at the residential.
    The residential challenge “Apprentice” did teach me that the above is true. We learn in different ways and I heard Colin’s words at his witness session. For those that didn’t I hope they gained a better understanding of the importance of team building to get the job done.
    All my life I have had difficulty in staying awake at school something I have battled with in the past. During my time at SSE I have had the opposite effect – not being able to sleep due to stimulating thoughts and idea’s and how to carry them out. During the apprentice I did feel a little sleepy though!