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TV business guru takes 'wonderful world of social enterprise' to 76m viewers
An estimated 76 million television viewers around the world will tomorrow be introduced to the 'wonderful world of social enterprise', by charismatic TV business guru Alvin Hall.
An eight-part series called Alvin's Guide to Good Business will launch in the 200 countries serviced by the BBC World News channel. There will also be a grand premiere at the BBC offices in London.
The plan for the series was hatched at last year's Skoll World Forum on Social Entrepreneurship in Oxford. Series producer Alex Seaborne was able to convince eight Skoll award winners, working mainly in developing countries, to accept a documentary concept based on six-month challenges set by Hall.
Seaborne said he could immediately see the story value in the social entrepreneurs developing their businesses and wanted an 'intelligent and charismatic presenter' to bring out their stories.
'I said in my wildest dreams the person I really want is as close to Alvin Hall as possible.'
To Seaborne's delight Hall accepted immediately. Hall, who 'loves an adventure', said he had been thinking about how he could use his skills in the 'wonderful world' of social enterprise since his close friend Karl Weber worked on the biography of Nobel laureate and microfinance pioneer Muhammad Yunus.
What's more the request was perfect timing as one of his big clients - Lehman Brothers - had just collapsed, leaving him with a much freer schedule.
Hall told Social Enterprise: 'I thought, one door closes and another door opens, and you just don't get an opportunity to use your skill set in this way or to see these places every day.'
In the first programme in the series, Hall works with Riders for Health, who use motorcycles to improve health transport logistics in Africa. Riders for Health co-founder Andrea Coleman admitted to being a great fan of Hall and said this was one of reasons she agreed to appear on the programme.
Coleman was also inspired by the prospect of reaching a huge BBC audience and showing how a social enterprise can make a difference to people's health and be financially sustainable.
'People have said they've wanted to do films on us in the past and we've been lukewarm - but we felt this programme was important for all of us because it's the BBC,' said Coleman.
'Of course the six-month time limit gave me a heart attack and it was very difficult but it was also incredibly helpful to us because we had to do it so quickly and if we're going to make a difference in Africa we have to set up our programmes more quickly because there is so much to do.
'And it was very encouraging to us to hear someone who really understands money say, "I really get this," to hear Hall say, "I really like the way you've made your money work".'
Hall said that one thing that quickly became apparent with Riders for Health was that co-founders Andrea and Barry Coleman were the 'repository of an incredible amount of social knowledge' which they used to talk to the right people and give local people ownership of the projects.
He called this the 'charm offensive' and said this sort of emotional intelligence was important for all entrepreneurs but 'ratchets up to a different level' for social entrepreneurs working with communities they were often not that familiar with.
Hall was also struck by the need of many social entrepreneurs to guarantee the sustainability of their organisation though succession planning. This came through in the six-month challenge set for the second programme in India with social enterprise IDEI.
Hall described the series as a life-changing experience which made him come back to New York and start auctioning his possessions for good causes, and change all his Christmas presents so that they benefited one of the social enterprises he had worked with. He is now thinking about how he can use his skills to help more social enterprises.
UK viewers can watch the programmes online through the Rockhopper TV website www.rockhopper.tv