On BBC The Apprentice as the first social entrepreneur

Everyone likes their comfort zone! Course they do! It’s where we feel safe, unthreatened and confident! It’s also the place that doesn’t need us to push, to grow or prove anything to anyone. In other words- the place which stays the same. Here’s why staying in your comfort zone for too long, will make it the most uncomfortable place you’ve ever been.

People ask me how I began the work I do in the community and youth sector. When I was 13 years old, I went along to a meeting held in the Birmingham Town Hall about an idea to launch a UK Youth Parliament. That kickstarted my journey. I stayed involved, became one of the co-founding team members and made a big difference to my community on a national and international level. However, it wasn’t as easy as that on a personal level. I had recently moved to the UK – English was my third language, and whilst sitting in those early meetings with MPs in the Houses of Parliament and discussing frameworks, strategies and petitions (none of which I even knew the meaning of entirely), including presenting petitions to Tony Blair in his office at No10, I was so out of my comfort zone. The only thing which kept me returning to those boardrooms in London, was the sheer passion and acute awareness that what we were doing to benefit communities was far more important than my fear.

The other example of course is deciding to go on BBC’s The Apprentice in 2011 as the first ever social entrepreneur. Frightened to death – but there I was, putting myself forward to be Project Manager in week 1. That’s who I am. All in – wanting to grow, to face it head on and yes, sometimes you win, sometimes you get to week 10 out of 12! But I see life as chapters of experience- that have to be lived.

Those years of ‘discomfort’ taught me lessons, far more valuable than anything could have. I grew as a person. I pushed myself and learned to control and face situations which may not be my ideal scenarios – because trust me, regardless of how comfortable you try to keep yourself, those moments creep up in life.

Now here’s the thing. What happens if we never grow- what if we don’t even want to go outside of our comfort zone – we’re cool staying where we are. Well, life is kind of funny that way. It will evolve without you. Reminders here and there showing you what you could have been and could have achieved or experienced, but didn’t. Or, a glimpse into opportunities missed, or simply feeling fed up and unfulfilled after years of standing still. Believe me- that will feel the most uncomfortable place you’ve ever been.

So what can you do? Start with moments. Next time you feel a bit uncomfortable & nervous about something, could be someone asking you to go somewhere new perhaps- say yes. Try it. Reflect on what you learned. See, it wasn’t so bad! From there, go to bigger things. Maybe a career change- something you never thought you could do- try it out by volunteering for a couple of weekends (if appropriate), think about it and make a plan whatever it is!

Make a change! Grow. Don’t live the same year 80 times and call it life. Live it and make the most of the vast potential you hold.
Love to hear your thoughts- tweet/instagram me: @Melody_Hossaini

For all speaking enquiries, email: info@inspirEngage.com

 

The social enterprise movement in the UK has grown to be one of the leading eco-systems globally. InspirEngage International is working across the world, supporting the development of social enterprise- most recently in Hong Kong. Here’s an insight into what we observed in this growing economy.

On panel at Social Enterprise Summit Hong Kong, Chaired by Mr Timothy Ma

A beautiful country and former British colony- Hong Kong now stands proudly with much activity in its business sector, but what about social enterprise? I was invited to speak at the Social Enterprise Summit 2015- an annual event bringing together Government, Business and community to further efforts on social enterprise in Hong Kong.

Speaking at Social Enterprise Summit Hong Kong

As part of my international speaking tour ‘How To Change The World’ – I delivered a seminar + Q&A on the reform of education with social enterprise. I shared the InspirEngage programme ‘Social Enterprise Revolution’ where we have been able to enhance the curriculum by connecting it to life skills development and social enterprise – this way making learning real, making a difference in the community as well as giving students an opportunity to generate an income. See here for more information.

I was fascinated by the interest and questions within the seminar- seemed there was much interest in the connection to education and the role of parents. As part of the summit, I was also a guest at the HSBC Business Luncheon- attended by leaders of the corporate and political sector, discussing how to advance the collaboration between business and community. This also provided a valuable insight.

Having previously delivered InspirEngage programmes in the East Asia region, it’s always been apparent that the work-ethic is strong- but furthermore, there’s a natural spirit of social responsibility which is a powerful foundation for social enterprise. The skills are there and so is investment and funding opportunty- however, I discovered other trends which I believe could be a barrier. There seems to be a notable fear of risk. People are in search of a tried and tested model and a source of support – as opposed to a hunger to innovate (which was much more the case in the UK- the social enterprise sector wanted to find another alternative to the status quo & innovate real change). It’s an interesting predicament, which I feel undervalues the power that is held by the people of Hong Kong who have every reason to be creative.

Topic of Educational Reform with Social Enterprise

There are currently 500 social enterprises in Hong Kong- almost all of which are extremely small-scale initiatives, only 2 having gained investment. There are certainly more; those who are operating with a social mission, but aren’t aware they could be a social enterprise. Either way, it’s the task of those who attended the conference to give growth to this figure.

Much can be done- impact investment, scaling-up of the current social enterprises, capturing and sharing the stories of the local social entrepreneurs, connecting it to the curriculum and also general awareness-raising.

The year of 2016 will be a significant one in the quest to strengthen the social enterprise sector in Hong Kong, as they get ready to host the 2 substantial social enterprise conferences- so watch this space!

Melody Hossaini
Tweet: @Melody_Hossaini / @inspirEngage