deal or no deal

who's the banker

Let’s be honest Endemol are the gods of car crash TV.  Love it or hate it they have the format cracked and they very very rarely get it wrong.  Some of their formats work better in some countries and some contexts than in others but on the whole failure of the format is rare.

And the best of all…

The banker knows the location of the booty and all you have to ask yourself is – is it a deal or no deal?

Rodney Schwartz is right, I think, to be optimistic about the Big Society Bank ( and I think the Big Society in general.  In the big question of Deal or No Deal it is not the bank you have to trust but the Banker.  The Banker knows the location of the prize fund, the amount in the fund and fundamentally pulls the strings as to who gets the booty.

I guess there has been a lot of asking of the question “deal no deal?” recently mostly from people who are a little scared that The Banker can’t be trusted because his motives are not completely clear.  But in the real world peoples’ motives are often unclear, or at least complex.  Investors, stakeholders and partners of social enterprises have a complex range of agendas and motives for engaging with a particular social enterprise.  Genuine altruism to mercenary PR spin is the spectrum along which many of us engage with those who want to be aligned with the outcomes we are able to deliver.  Do I care?

Probably not is the answer.  As a social entrepreneur, first and foremost I am a business woman and, as such, used to negotiating the complex agendas of staff, customers, stakeholders and investors.  Do I care about the motivation of the people I am working with.  Probably not.  With 20 years experience in the world of business I sometimes wish I had the luxury of the comfort of the moral high ground of some of my voluntary sector partners.  I do not.  As a pragmatist I am really interested in the question – does it deliver?

The Big Society has been worked and reworked in different contexts.  From the 1500’s through to the present day there have been a plethora of expression of this same social ideal.  In context as diverse as Africa, Latin American and Europe there have been many different expressions of the same ideals.

The question Endemol asks of the latest incarnation of Big Brother or Deal or No Deal is – in this context at this time, does it work and will it make money.

I am interested in the same question.  In this context and at this time will the Big Society work and will it delivery outcomes.  Again as a business woman and pragmatist I want to say, let’s give it a go.  Let’s throw some investment and time into it and see what flourishes.

So whilst we are thinking and debating the concept and context of the BS and the BSB lets just do something eh?  Let’s invest in robust multi-local cross sectoral partnerships that deliver profit and strong social returns and then let’s see if it works. Not in principle but in the concrete realities that we wrestle with each day.


About Sarah Dunwell

Sarah Dunwell is executive director of Arena Partners and has twenty years experience in the corporate and business sector. After a number of senior roles in customer service and retail management, Sarah led her own successful catering business and is experienced in business turn around and SME growth. Sarah has a particular interest in the role of robust business planning and development in the not-for-profit sector. Her passion lies in seeing social businesses grow successfully and sustainably through creating mature businesses that deliver strong social agendas.
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