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Denise Pope
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Completely out of my comfort zone for 90% of the day - but that’s partly why I thought it was worth doing.

SPLASH at Northampton College

I was invited to be a Dragon's Den style 'expert' for a day...

21 February 2013

Back in January I was somewhat surprised to be invited to be a business ‘expert’ at an social enterprise SPLASH event with a group of other business experts and 100+ students studying various subjects at Northampton College. True to my word that I'd look out for new professional experiences this year, I went along to the event earlier this week.

It was initially quite a daunting prospect, but it seemed like a unique and challenging opportunity to get involved with a scheme that not only aimed to help young people gain knowledge and skills that would help them to enter the real-world working environment, but also to inspire young people in a much more engaging process than anything I’d heard about before.

The scheme itself is operated by Working Knowledge, and it very quickly became clear they are experts themselves at running such a event - which packs a lot into a single day - but never felt anything less than particularly well organised, and a lot of fun for everyone concerned.

Throughout the course of the day the students are given the task of coming up with a business idea, which is then developed through a series of activities within their teams and interacting with the business experts, cumulating in a Dragon’s Den style pitch in front of the other teams and a small panel of experts.

The activities are designed to encourage teamwork, business planning, understanding of business operations, promotion, and communication. Each team has multiple opportunities to ask the experts questions, receive advice, and practice their meeting, sales, and presentation skills.

The experts are asked to encourage the students at every opportunity, whilst still providing practical advice, and it was clear this approach worked well. The development of many students outlook and business ideas between sessions was clear to see, and very rewarding.

Towards the end of the process the experts rate the teams for the best overall business idea and implementation, and highlight individuals that have stood out in particular, either for their contribution to the task at hand or development through the day, which are recognised before the end of the day.

It really was a fantastic experience to be part of. Completely out of my comfort zone for 90% of the day - but that’s partly why I thought it was worth doing. What I didn’t realise, is how much I would genuinely enjoy the entire day. Talking about what I do in my business, what’s important in the business environment, how things work, answering questions, suggesting areas for improvement or ideas that perhaps the students hadn’t quite been able to get to and then seeing them develop was an amazing process.

There was genuine interest and enthusiasm from all the students and that was extremely encouraging to see. Almost every team had a strong business idea, and a couple were incredibly well thought-out, to the extent that there were discussions amongst the experts about how they could be put into practice in the real world.

For me, someone who has always enjoyed seeing people develop personally and professionally, but never been entirely sure about how to develop that area of interest, it demonstrated a way that I could contribute on a small level at least. I certainly enjoyed it; I’d do it again if I have the opportunity, and I’d like to think the students’ clear enthusiasm will continue as they (hopefully) go into business themselves.

For more information on the SPLASH scheme you can visit the <http://www.workingknowledge.org" target="external">Working Knowledge website.

Your comments on this post are always welcome.

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