Melody Hossaini speaking to staff at University of Brighton

On Tuesday 22nd March 2016, I was invited to deliver a keynote at the ‘Make it Happen’ conference at University of Brighton. The conference which brought together some 100 staff from all levels at the University, had the aim of advancing women in the workplace and inspiring them as individuals.

This is an area that has formed a large part of the work we have undertaken at InspirEngage International, as well as my speaking tours (see blog on our work at the most influential gathering on women’s issues in the world; The Women’s Forum here). The world is waking up the importance of supporting and engaging women to prosper and to be ambitious enough to want what they deserve. Underlying issues remain around pay gap and lack of representation in certain sectors.

Within my 30 minute presentation, I covered the following components:

  • What the current landscape looks like for gender equality and pipeline for advancement of women
  • Statistical data in the difference in cognitive abilities and ambition traits of men and women
  • Studies on what women have expressed they require for fulfilment and retention in the workplace
  • The changing dynamics in the business world with growth of social enterprise
  • Practical tool on reconnecting participants with their personal purpose and career goals
  • Dialogue with colleagues, sharing insight, challenges and opportunities for change and social impact

It was a great session and I was struck by the depth in thinking on the matter and willingness to practically improve the situation. I urge other educational institutions to engage their teams on this topic. The power lies in addressing unconscious bias, challenging unjust processes that hold women back, encouraging women to become more confident and allowing each person to connect with their personal purpose and connect this to their role.

Testimonials

“Great conference and great presentation. Thank you.” Mairead Stickings, Staff, University of Brighton

“Fascinating talk by Melody” Nicola Ashton, Alumni Engagement Officer, University of Brighton

“Inspiring talk by social entrepreneur @Melody_Hossaini @InspirEngage “what we think we become” “create your own reality” – Penny Simpson, HR Member of Staff, University of Brighton

 

Email info@inspirEngage.com for all enquiries and bookings.

 

Have you ever had that feeling when you tick something off your bucket list? In this blog I want to share an insight into my first time delivering the #HowToChangeThe World tour and InspirEngage Bootcamp in a country I was born in and fled from when I was 2.

Melody Hossaini keynote JWEF Iran 20 Aug 2015

Intro and context

I’m writing this whilst on the plane on the way back from Iran. I spent just less than a week there, but in that time, gained a year’s worth of insight and experience into the culture and state of entrepreneurship in this complex and beautiful country.

Tehran, Iran

I was sat in an airport, waiting for a plane when I saw the email from the President of the Junior World Entrepreneurship Forum (JWEF), inviting me to be a keynote speaker. When I read the location as being my birth city, I could not believe it. I’ve lived in Europe now for 29 years and go back every few years, and whilst there, I speak to young Iranians and when I tell them what I do, they always say it’s so needed there. Yet, I’ve built a social enterprise that’s helped young people in some 100 countries, yet never Iran.

As many of you know, Iran has a complex political state of affairs- whether good or bad, it is what it is but explains why this was always a dream- up until now.

It’s been 4 years since I was in Iran last. A country with history dating back 8,000 years. I actually felt like doing that cliché thing and clapping when the airplane wheels touched the ground! It was a weird feeling…. Perhaps like coming home- especially since I felt I had a specific purpose.

At the Conference- My First Impressions

The JWEF is a global initiative that happens around the world with the aim to “Promote and Accelerate Junior Entrepreneurship as a way to create wealth and social justice, to prepare the world for 2050”. With 500 people in attendance I’d been given a 25 minute keynote. I thought a lot about what I wanted to say, a lot more than usual (my speeches are mostly spontaneous), but this was my first time presenting in my mother tongue Farsi, and although I speak it, the business vocabulary is less developed in me!

Myself and the InspirEngage team, made up of our Iranian associate as well as a young volunteer who connected with me on instagram made our way to the national library of Tehran where it was held. In my time, I’ve attended my fair share of conferences around the world and here are the things which struck me before my speech:

  • The level of professional hospitality. Last year the New York Times published an article on Iranian Hospitality as being exemplary to the world, and even in this professional setting, I can see why! From offering me drinks upon arrival, to ensuring I had refreshments, to bringing me a glass on a tray when they saw I was too busy speaking to young people, to ensuring I had lunch to acts of politeness in rising when a speaker got up and sat down.

    During break- watching the students debate

  • During break, speakers were invited to the VIP room. I never take this offer. I’m always interested in observing what goes on during breaks. That’s where the magic happens. I stood back and observed how Iranians had gathered in a very large group and engaged in a highly interesting and complex debate about human resource potential and solutions. In some conferences I have attended, students may not even move from their seats, but here they were, as passionate as ever, debating!
  • During any opportunity they had to ask questions of speakers, they shocked me with how courageous they were in getting to the heart of the issue! I had always known this of Iranians but to witness it in a professional setting was quite incredible. A young chap put his hand up and asked how in a society where sometimes people are forced to ‘con’ eachother, how can young entrepreneurs operate successfully to both guard and maximise on this. I was struck by the honesty of this question in such a large audience.

My speech

My aim was to share a little of my story and the story of InspirEngage, about social enterprise and my insight on how to find success and happiness in business.

  • One of my principles in speaking is that I always make it interactive. One of the ways in which I do that, is asking the participants a question which I then show the consequence of their answer to. In a big audience of 500, usually there’s at least a few moments of silence as people decide who should speak first. I had not even finished my questions fully, and so many already were getting involved and answering! The confidence level is high!

    The speaking tour, Tehran

  • Iranian culture has a polite version of language and behaviour and then a friendly version (it’s kind of the difference of you and you formal when learning German). It was important to me to connect with the young people- my style isn’t formal and as a speaker, I definitely can’t build that barrier between me and the people I want to connect with. For this reason also, I chose to stand in the middle of the stage, no podium, no table with fancy flower- just me and my guests.
  • In my speech I shared stories of why social enterprise is important and what opportunity it creates as well as stories of kindness, and why this should have a place in business. Afterall, aren’t we all simply working hard to be happy? So why is it underrated?
  • A central message was on why and how it’s so important for individuals to develop their sense of identity and personal brand.

Interacting with the participants

It was what happened after my speech which made it the best day of my life. I heard stories of social enterprises that until now weren’t aware of what they were. A project which profiles those needing urgent medical treatment who don’t have the fees and people donate- kind of like a medical crowd-funding who had saved 44 lives to date! I heard from a young girl who with tears in her eyes, explained to me that she had always been told that she was far too sympathetic and kind to make a good leader and that today she finally learned that it’s ok and fully possible to be both and be a strong leader, I met young people who said that for the first time in a long time, felt proud of being Iranian, and above all, to so many who said that they simply needed a boost in positive energy to feel inspired to achieve.

InspirEngage Bootcamp

I was honoured to deliver a taster InspirEngage Bootcamp for some of the participants. This was a chance to get a little more personal and to dig a little deeper. I covered some of the ‘InspirEngage PROMA’ (project management module) which supported the participants to uncover their traits and where they’re suited on the PROMA cycle in building efficient teams. At the end, we took an awesome group selfie to wrap up a fantastic day.

InspirEngage Bootcamp Selfie!

That evening, I left feeling energized (despite having been there from 11-9pm) and determined to further support young Iranians to find hope and means to prosper.

Look out for upcoming blogs, sharing insight on the enterprise world of Iran, as well as my visit to a social enterprise centre in Tehran.

Follow the journey on instagram on #AroundTehranWithMelody

Email: info@inspirEngage.com for all enquiries

 

Thank you to @aroundtehran and @_erfpics_ (Erfan Alaei) for the photographs. Thank you also to Bahar Business School for hosting and for JWEF Iran + supporters for organisation.

 

UNESCO Paris 2013

Do you consider yourself wealthy? When thinking about it, how do you measure it? This Vlog is inspired by a conversation I had with a young person in my community, who carries herself with dignity and poise despite not having the material things her other friends have. This Vlog is about how to increase your value, 1.37min.

 

Tweet us your thoughts on @Melody_Hossaini


Immigrant Social Entrepreneur in England awarded ‘Europe’s Most Influential Woman’

Melody Hossaini, accepting her award in the European Parliament, Brussels. 4 June 2015

Melody Hossaini, who was a star on BBC’s The Apprentice in 2011, was awarded ‘New European Woman Influencer’ of 2015 inside the European Parliament on 4 June.

The first New European Awards is an awards ceremony organised by UNITEE – The New European Business Confederation under the high patronage of the European Parliament. Its aim is to recognise and celebrate the contributions of New Europeans- Europeans with a migrant background. In particular, this year’s awards honoured four special categories: New European entrepreneur; New European Politician; New European Woman Influencer; and New European of the Year.

Melody, who was originally born in Iran and raised in Sweden, moved to the UK at the age of 13 and volunteered in her community for 11 years to champion young people, before setting up the successful social enterprise, InspirEngage International, in 2009 with the aim of training people to be successful by giving back. Since then, Melody has helped educational institutions to better prepare their students for the world of business and work, trained vulnerable adult women to become economically active through social enterprise and guided corporates to better engage with communities through innovative CSR models. She was the first social entrepreneur to appear on ‘The Apprentice’ being described by Lord Sugar as a ‘woman of exceptional ability’.

‘This award really is an honour for me. The journey as an immigrant to being able to transform communities, is one that has become my life. I’m so inspired by the people we train, who work tirelessly with so little. They inspire me to do more.’ Melody said. ‘We’re passionate about helping people to explore social enterprise as a vehicle to create change.’

A member of the judging panel, Viviane Teitelbaum, President of the European Women Network, stated ‘Melody’s commitment in the youth sector and social entrepreneurship in the UK is exemplary of the values we support at the European Women’s Lobby. Her support to young people and vulnerable women to develop the essential skills in order to be successful by giving back to people and society meets our aims. Melody is a wonderful role model for women and an influencer we will certainly hear more about in the future!’

Amongst the other winners was Congo-born Vincent Kompany, captain of Manchester City, whose father was there to accept the award on his behalf.

Winners, MEPs, Judges & hosts at the Awards

In a time when Europe is struggling to compete on the economic stage, immigrants and minorities are often, in the public discourse, discriminated and seen as a danger or a drag on public finances. The New European Awards want to change this narrative: far from being a problem, diversity and immigration are changing Europe for the best, and contribute to keep it smart, innovative and open to the world. The Awards will finally give New Europeans and the diversity they bring about the acknowledgement they deserve.

The ceremony took place in the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin room in the European Parliament, to celebrate and honour those New European personalities, who, thanks to their multiple background, have achieved important successes in their professional lives. By acknowledging the winners’ talents not only will the value-added of diversity be shown, but they will serve as New European Ambassadors: role models for the present and future New Europeans. Showing that not only integration is possible, but that it is conducive to success in the broader society.

Melody’s Acceptance Speech inside the European Parliament


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Contact Monica Rean at InspirEngage International for any press enquiries or media pieces : info@inspirEngage.com / +44 (0) 7963 522067

Watch Melody speaking at TEDx about ‘The Social Enterprise Revolution’ here.

 

Social Enterprise Presentation at Startup 2015, by Melody Hossaini

Is social enterprise our mainstream business model? Why are consumers more likely to buy from a social enterprise than any other business? What are the measures of success for social enterprises? All this and more in this latest video, sharing a snapshot of my presentation at Startup 2015 conference, hosted by Enterprise Nation at the beautiful Somerset House, London.


 
(For all enquiries or bookings, email info@inspirEngage.com)



Thank you to our friends at Onerion for making this video.

 

54 countries. 1.2 billion young people. 1 special celebration. 9th March is Commonwealth Day. For us at InspirEngage International, the focus is on the young people who will be leading change. In this blog we look back on attending Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Trinidad & Tabago in 2009- our work there even featured on the Queen’s Christmas Day Speech that year.

Melody with delegates-Commonwealth Youth

It’s not often you attend a conference onboard a beautiful cruise ship. Every year CHOGM is held in various locations around the world. In 2009 we were invited to attend the gathering in Trinidad & Tobago. World leaders and young people came together to discuss solving the most imminent threats facing our planet.

Parallell to the main CHOGM meeting, was a youth gathering of some 200 people, and InspirEngage International, in partnership with other organisations, was tasked with training and facilitating the young people to prepare their contribution to be presented to Kamalesh Sharma – the Secretary General of the United Nations. I was honoured to deliver a keynote address (then aged 24) on the main stage. As a, then. recent graduate with Al Gore of the Inconvenient Truth training in Cambridge, my stage was focused on climate change and how young people can create change in their communities.

Watch a short snippet of the start of my keynote address at CHOGM 2009

 

To continue the outcome-focused approach, I also delivered an InspirEngage Skills Bootcamp for the young people coming from all over the Commonwealth. The Bootcamp covered our core modules in equipping the participants with skills needed to go back to their countries and achieve their social mission. The young people were enthusiastic, innovative and eager to develop their plans. As with all our Bootcamps- we got them up and moving around doing exploratory learning in an interactive way.

Delivering InspirEngage Skills Bootcamp-CHOGM

As part of the trip, we also attended a session in Parliament with their Prime Minister and Kamalesh Sharma himself (pictured), as well as a ceremony to welcome the Queen. InspirEngage has worked with the Commonwealth Secretariat throughout the years, including me filming an impact video with them to mobilise action in young people across the Commonwealth (in fact, tomorrow we shall be attending the Commonwealth Youth Awards at the Princess Alexandra Hall). We are always struck by the sheer force of the young people- that’s the power of the Commonwealth for us. This leads to growing business, trade and understanding.

Secretary General of the UN, Kamalesh Sharma

Melody

@Melody_Hossaini

 

 

How do we create 1 billion jobs for young people?

Melody Hossaini answers at the Youth Job Creation Summit. In a nutshell: Through Social Enterprise!

 

 

Youth unemployment crisis

The youth unemployment crisis is an issue that has been ongoing for a while. Whilst it is easy to say the youth unemployment crisis needs to be solved, the question is does it need to be solved? Problems need to be solved however the youth unemployment crisis is NOT a problem. Despite the figures, stats, and constant negative perception about this issue, there are lots of opportunities to be taken here. If the youth crisis is looked at with a positive view, this perception will have a domino effect that will be passed through to the younger generations.

If one was to suggest the Youth crisis was in fact a problem, one could say a huge solution is required. The economy and the business world required change anyway, regardless of the youth unemployment crisis. It was heading towards destruction and needed to be directed onto the right path. The youth unemployment crisis triggered change and change is what was needed to head back onto the right path. Radical changes can only come from huge problems as huge challenges. The business world can only get better so the youth unemployment crisis is NOT a problem and definitely should not be perceived as one.

How to create a billion jobs for young people- through social enterprise

To be very clear and practical, there are many ways this can be done. One clear way this can be done is through social enterprise. This idea has already been talked about in the past how if businesses are doing well and creating employment opportunities for the youth of today they can create jobs for themselves.  However a business that has the potential to improve communities is surely much better. InspirEngage is very passionate about this, a social enterprise themselves wanting to create further social enterprises and naturally social entrepreneurs.

3 driving factors that explain why the world is heading towards social enterprise

1)    The first factor that explains why social enterprises are becoming more popular is the world is moving away from competitive models into collaborative models. At one time, every business was competing with each other however increasingly there is a shift for people/groups/businesses to work together.  Women and young people are in tune with these collaborative models and that is why they are leading social enterprise. In the UK social enterprise is the number 1 job creator for young people. This is a great opportunity that has come out of the youth unemployment crisis. If it wasn’t for the young people seeking new exciting opportunities, social enterprise wouldn’t be on the boom it is currently on.

2) The second thing is the ‘Passion Phenomenon’ as it is described by InspireEngage. Previously, it is fair to say that people were generally embarrassed to say what they were passionate about. Now, everyone is talking proudly of what they are passionate about and additionally, how they can turn their passion into a career. If one’s passion is to help others, younger people or communities- this is social enterprise and when this kind of passion is turned into a career this is how social enterprise is trending.

3) When the chips are down, social enterprises are born! This is the final factor that explains why social enterprise is on the up; if everything was good in the business world previously, would the younger generations have been as keen and energetic to look for new opportunities? It takes a trigger like the ongoing youth unemployment crisis to arrive at exciting opportunities such as social enterprises. What’s on the other side is a better world. We were getting too greedy.

Solution-How to create the jobs?

To answer this question simply, EDUCATION. The idea of embedding social enterprise into the curriculum could create many, many jobs. It is embedded into the curriculum, not in the traditional way where it is taught in a lecture/seminar but across the curriculum in all subjects. Imagine 3 things, firstly young people developing life skills where it is encouraged within the curriculum. Confidence, interpersonal skills and teamwork are a few examples of the skills that young people should develop whilst at school. Previously, these kind of skills were not taught in schools and many establishments encourage younger generations to seek work experience, extra curricular activities to gain these skills. It was never in the curriculum before though.

Secondly, imagine a curriculum that allows you to develop a job whilst still at school/ college/uni and finally imagine if that job also benefits your community.

This would mean that not only are younger generations gaining an education that will allow them to pursue a career in there chosen field, they are also gaining the skills that will allow them to go out and get that career. This is what InspireEnagage have allowed with there brilliant, innovative programme called Social Enterprise Revolution. It has been launched nationally and no doubt will be a roaring success.

All that remains to be said is the revolution is happening, when are you going to join?