So You Wanna Be In TV?: Creating Opportunities For Disadvantaged Young People

In this exclusive interview with Rioch Edwards-Brown, learn more about her story, her journey on starting this London-based social enterprise.


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Have you ever heard of So You Wanna Be In TV?

After her son was shot and stabbed and being diagnosed with a brain tumor, Rioch Edwards- Brown’s world turned upside down. Feeling completely overwhelmed, she had to make a choice: either to sink or swim. In the end, she wanted to take the opportunity to make a difference and give something back to her community. With her background as a former TV researcher, she wanted to close the gap between the TV industry and disadvantaged young people who wanted to be part of it. Thus, she created a partnership and started So You Wanna Be In TV? 

In this exclusive interview with Rioch Edwards-Brown, learn more about her story, her journey on starting this London-based social enterprise, the challenges she and her team had to go through and why it’s important that more people become aware of their program. 

I am a mother of four wonderful children, a social entrepreneur, diversity expert, Gen Y & Gen Z consultant, thought Leader, influencer and Tech London Advocate who loves TV, Tech and chocolate!

I started So You Wanna Be In TV? a London based social enterprise in 2009, after my son aged 13 was shot and stabbed while in school. The reason given by the perpetrator for attacking my son was that he hated him for having two parents at home.

My family began to fall apart. At the time I had a baby, a toddler, another child with serious medical issues, my son was really struggling psychologically and my husband suffered a break down over the attack. In the middle of this mess I was diagnosed with a brain tumour.

I remember standing in my kitchen in February 2009, completely overwhelmed, numb and unable to think clearly, but even in the depths of despair, I knew that I had two stark choices – sink or swim. I chose to swim. I did not want revenge. I forgave my son’s attacker and reached out to the community to see if there was something I could give back.

A former TV Researcher, I decided to start with what I knew best which was the TV industry. The TV industry lacked diversity and our young people wanted a career in TV but did not have access to networks or know where to start, so I decided to bring the two together.

This has led to a unique partnership between the TV industry and the community. We now have a strand called, So You Wanna Be In Tech? and recently launched So You Wanna Be In Creative? In 2018 we will launch So You Wanna Be In Engineering?

A 2014 McKinsey report ‘Diversity Matters’ showed that companies with a diverse workforce realised an increase in turnover of 35%.

So You Wanna Be In TV? is a disruptive, not-for-profit, grassroots social enterprise addressing the lack of diversity, social mobility & skills gap through diverse talent pipelines, campaigns, events and consultancy for C-Level industry to future proof their business.

We provide thought leadership on how to increase diversity in boardrooms, management and how to engage now with untapped diverse talent to survive and thrive the mega- trends on the horizon. Listening and engaging the community is key. We are the conduit between the community and commerce.

Our sponsors include, NBCUniversal International, MIPCOM, Tech London Advocates, The Guardian, Alias Hire, Sony Pictures Television, ITV and PromaxUK.

We have 32 industry volunteers and provide a free training programme, long-term mentoring and direct access to companies through networking events to remove the financial barrier for young people. We go into prisons, youth offending teams, universities, colleges, schools, community initiatives, homeless projects and those in social care to find young people with a burning desire to work in TV, tech or creative (including film, VR, AR, AI and gaming), giving them the tools and connections to make it happen.

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“In London where 29% of the population comes from diverse and financially disadvantaged communities, 5.4% of the creative industries workforce is diverse.” 

Although television and the creative industries are the fastest growing sector in the UK economy, listening to young people in the community showed me that their financial disadvantage often locked them into a cycle of no hope and no future, whether they had qualifications or not. It was also clear that a ‘standardised education’ had ill- prepared them for the rigours of the real world of work. They also felt that their qualifications were not fit for purpose in a technological and digital age. 

Keeping It Real 

Many disadvantaged young people do not have the life skills necessary for employment or access to vital industry networks. The main focus of
our work is creating fair access to the industry. We don’t do quotas, we are meritocratic, and we mentor our candidates long-term. Once we make a placement, we stick around both for our candidate and the company should they either need mentoring or advice.

Don’t Do A Kodak! 

We all know the story of Kodak, who said, ‘What’s digital?’, Fuji ran with it and Kodak dropped out of the market after 150 years. As a social entrepreneur, it’s important that our social impact is in both the community and industry.

In 2018, Gen Y became the most dominant in the workforce, disrupting many sectors. Who is curating for Gen Z?

By 2020 – forty percent of all economic spend will be by Gen Z. Those that do nothing now will see their bottom line shrink by 40%.

•Currently, the penetration of the Internet of Things is at 46.6% of humanity. This will rise on a near vertical to 80%, realizing an extra 5 billion online audience

•Those that engage now will become the new market leaders (Source: our partners – Flying Binary) Listening and engaging diverse talent offline and online is key. Ditch the metrics and start feeling again. Measurements, data, linear thinking are all fine but we must upskill industry, education and young people to use imagination, creativity and the confidence to take risks.

When I started So You Wanna Be In TV? many doors were closed to us by TV executives fed up with organisations with good intentions but without a clue of how the industry worked – leading to poor outcomes for the young people from these schemes and disillusion within the industry.

For our first sponsored diverse talent event we invited 100 TV companies and only two showed up. One left before I even started the introduction and the other left before it ended! In September 2012,
we invited 36 companies to our event supported by BAFTA and 36 companies attended. In September 2016, we invited 100 TV companies to our Diversity Summit and 100 came.

Our speakers featured Matt Hancock, Minister for Culture, Media and Sport and The Deputy Mayor of London.

…I fully applaud the work that So You Wanna Be In TV? is doing to help improve the skills of disadvantaged and diverse young people…which can help them to develop the self-belief to achieve a positive employment outcome.”
Sir Vince Cable MP – Former Secretary of State for Business Innovation and Skills 

By listening to industry and community we were able to devise a blank canvas, where they could come to us with specific issues which we problem solved rather than being proactive and putting forward services or initiatives that were not needed.

I created an innovative sponsorship model to build sustainability and fund our free employability and recruitment programme, enabling candidates to work alongside broadcast professionals.

The industry either sponsors our free programme and become true Diversity Champions or through sponsorship packages, we seed their companies with a workforce that represents change.

For candidates that are not right for TV, we do not drop them. Instead we sign-post them onto our networks in other industries, higher education, community projects or job opportunities in other industries.

“Our partnership with So You Wanna Be In TV? has been a positive one…So You Wanna Be In TV? has helped us engage with new and diverse talent.” 

Robin Elias – Managing Editor ITN 

Impact 

Since 2009

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• Over 2,700 financially disadvantaged young people have benefitted from our free training programme

• 68% of those mentored have entered industry

• 90% said that their confidence increased

• 85% had a better understanding of what the industry wanted

“I attended the ‘So You Wanna Be In TV’ session in 2010. I had no idea how to start a career in TV. I’d like to say a big THANK YOU! because without you, none of this would have happened.”

Serena Jacobs started an internship at ITV. Now Tournament Media Director – Women’s Tennis Association 

Awards 

50 Most Influential Women In UK Tech 2017

50 Most Influential Women In UK IT 2016

European Diversity Awards 2015

National Diversity Awards 2014

Based on the success of So You Wanna Be In TV? we will be rolling out our model globally and moving closer to our vision to see 1 Million young people move from financial disadvantage into social mobility and employment.

We are seeking sponsors and partners to scale our programme, who want to be agents of social change. We are at an exciting stage in our goal of reaching 10,000 diverse young people in hard-to-reach communities. The next step will be to reach one million young people online by 2020.

We need donated studio space, IT and filming equipment. Speaking engagements and access to TV, film, tech and creative festivals, awards & conferences will help us build vital networks.

Please support our GoFundMe campaign which will allow us to run free pop-up employability events with employers across 17 of the poorest London boroughs in London.

Please contact us @sywbitv

About the Founder

Rioch Edwards-Brown

Rioch Edwards-Brown, mother of four, started So You Wanna Be In TV? after her son was shot and stabbed while in school. She didn’t want revenge and reached out to the community to give something back. Social Entrepreneur, Diversity and Future Talent expert in TV, Tech & Creative, Rioch is a new breed of influencer, leader and agenda- setting Gen Y / Gen Z consultant for C-Level management. So You Wanna Be In TV? is a disruptive social enterprise, addressing the lack of diversity, social mobility & skills gap through talent pipelines, campaigns and consultancy to future proof industry.

Over 2,700 financially disadvantaged young people have benefitted, 68% of those mentored entered industry. Based on her successful model, Rioch launched So You Wanna Be In Tech? in 2016 and recently So You Wanna Be In Creative? So You Wanna Be In Law? will start in 2018. Sponsors include: NBCUniversal International, Sony Pictures Television, Tech London Advocates, The Guardian, Creative Skillset, ITV, BT Sports and Promax UK. Rioch says, ‘The answer to the lack of diversity lies in the community. Is TV ready for the new 5 billion online audience? We engage decision makers at the top of TV, tech and creative companies to change the way they recruit at the bottom.’

Rioch was a speaker and moderator at MIPCOM 2017 and WPP Stream Greece. She won the ‘Hero Of The Year’ at the European Diversity Awards 2015, Entrepreneur Of Excellence’ at the National Diversity Awards 2014 and is one of Computer Weekly’s 50 Most Influential Women In UK Tech 2017. Rioch is a Tech London Advocate (TLA), member of TLA Createch and TLA Edtech. She has over 100 media appearances for the BBC, ITV, Sky, Newsnight, Woman’s Hour and printed press.

 

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