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.