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Previous winners

Businesswoman sitting at desk making ambitious plans for the future.

The Cambridge Social Innovation Prize was awarded for the first time in 2019. These winners were chosen for their achievement to date and for their ambitious plans for the future.

Sashy Nathan.

Sashy Nathan

Co-founder, Commons Legal

London, UK

commons.legal

Founded in 2016, Commons Legal is a specialist criminal defence law firm, based in London. At the heart of the firm’s mission is social justice and the team of lawyers ensure representation is provided at police stations, in courts and at appeals.

Sashy Nathan and his co-founders set up Commons Legal as a Community Interest Company, ensuring all profits generated by the lawyers are ploughed back into the firm, giving their clients the opportunity to receive legal advice and representation no matter how their case is funded.

Working with local support groups to ensure their clients’ needs are supported, Sashy and the team also deliver training to local support groups in order to help those who are considered at risk of being criminalised.

Winning was a surprise and having an objective party like the University of Cambridge recognising what we do and providing us with a platform to develop and to continue to grow in whatever way that means, makes the long hours and the challenges of running a business like this worthwhile.
Sashy Nathan, Co-founder, Commons Legal

Founded in 2016, Commons Legal is a specialist criminal defence law firm, based in London. At the heart of the firm’s mission is social justice and the team of lawyers ensure representation is provided at police stations, in courts and at appeals.

Sashy Nathan and his co-founders set up Commons Legal as a Co-operative and a Community Interest Company, ensuring all profits generated by the lawyers are ploughed back into the firm, giving their clients the opportunity to receive legal advice and representation no matter how their case is funded.

“Commons Legal is very different to other law firms. As a not-for-profit company, we reinvest any profit made into our social justice projects. We’re part of a new ecosystem of ethos driven law firms, that focus on why people want to become lawyers and how they deliver legal services and legal practice.”

Last year, the law firm developed and published a free app which provided advice and guidance for those who had been issued fines for breaching COVID-19 regulations during the lockdowns.

Commons Legal also researched the impact of a 2017 policy which required defendants to declare their nationality in open court. It was found that doing so at the start of court proceeding meant any chance of impartiality was undermined – a real win for social justice.

Of Sashy’s work and his win, Cambridge Social Ventures Programme Director, Nicole Helwig says:

“The winners of the Cambridge Social Innovation Prize are visionaries and drivers of social change. They identify entrepreneurial opportunities through insights based on empathy, experience and a deep understanding of the social challenges they address.

“Sashy Nathan and his co-founders at Commons Legal are driving structural innovations within the legal system, motivated by a clear commitment to social justice. This prize celebrates social entrepreneurs like Sashy who challenge systemic barriers and break new ground with their innovations”.

Listen to Sashy’s full interview ‘The social justice of criminal justice’ on the Social Ideas Podcast

Kim Griffin.

Kim Griffin

Founder, Griffin OT

Online, UK-based

griffinot.com

Founder Kim Griffin is an occupational therapist with almost twenty years of experience. She developed GriffinOT with the mission to give parents of children with additional needs the opportunity to learn how to support their children. Kim is also working with educators to ensure they are able to provide support within a classroom setting.

It is important to Kim that the services she provides are affordable; therefore, she has indexed the pricing model to the UK’s National Minimum Wage, which has been written into the social enterprise’s Articles of Association.

Using her experience and knowledge, Kim has created the online resources, which include articles, a mix of free and paid for training, books and fine motor skill programmes.

If you said in 2018, when I attended the Social Venture Weekend at Cambridge Judge Business School, I would be a Social Innovation Prize winner in 2021, I would not have believed you! The prize makes me more confident about the importance and scale of the impact I am making.
Kim Griffin, Founder, Griffin OT

With almost twenty years of experience as an occupational therapist, Kim developed GriffinOT with the mission to give parents and educators of children with additional needs or sensory differences the opportunity to learn how to support their children themselves. Her online resources are written in friendly and accessible language supported by images and videos, so that parents and teachers with no prior knowledge of Occupational Therapy can lead children through the task. For example: teaching scissor skills using BBQ tongs, or using the ‘crocodile snap’ song and video to help children develop their pencil grasp.

“I am committed to teaching all educators and parents how sensory and coordination needs impact a child’s success and how they can help. GriffinOT aims to ensure that this piece of the puzzle is not missed and that underlying needs are not just written off as bad behaviour or laziness.”

Kim’s online resources have reached more than 250,000 people, including daily exercises to help parents support their children’s development at home through lockdown. Her training focuses on simple tools that can be used by anyone supporting children to improve their sensory processing and motor skills. Cuts to local services, the cost of private occupational therapists, and the impact of COVID-19 means that Kim’s mission to provide affordable services is more important than ever; therefore, she has indexed the pricing model to the UK’s National Minimum Wage, and this commitment has been embedded in the company’s incorporating documents.

Of Kim’s work and her win, Cambridge Social Ventures Programme Director, Nicole Helwig says:

“The winners of the Cambridge Social Innovation Prize are visionaries and drivers of social change. They identify entrepreneurial opportunities through insights based on empathy, experience and a deep understanding of the social challenges they address.

“Kim Griffin through her work at GriffinOT is changing the way vital occupational therapy services are delivered, making them accessible by redefining affordability. This prize celebrates social entrepreneurs like Kim who challenge the norms and break new ground with their innovations”.

Listen to Kim’s full interview ‘The affordability of occupational therapy’ on the Social Ideas Podcast

Lisa Stepanovic.

Lisa Stepanovic

Founder and CEO, Social Ark

East London

socialark.co.uk

Social Ark’s mission is to empower 16-30 year olds living in East London communities by supporting and guiding them as they use their lived experiences to develop their social enterprises.

Founder and CEO, Lisa Stepanovic and her team, deliver a programme of workshops, mentoring and one-to-one support tailored specifically to harness the skills and talents of young people who are feeling increasingly disenfranchised in an area that is being gentrified.

Lisa has ensured that, through the Social Ark family, social impact and sustainability are at the heart of her work. Those who have made their way through the programmes are trustees on the board, with alumni also part of the senior management team.

For me, it's not the money, it's about the recognition of the programmes we deliver and the work we've done. It shows our young people it doesn't matter where you're from, do something different, stick to it and stay true to your values. It's validation of our young people and our community.
Lisa Stepanovic, Founder and CEO, Social Ark

Born and raised a working-class East Londoner, Lisa is driven to address the inequalities on her doorstep. Social Ark’s mission is to empower 16 to 30 year-olds living in East London communities by supporting and guiding them as they use their lived experiences to develop their social enterprises. This is an entrepreneurial programme truly rooted in ‘place’ and locally led, creating a springboard of positive action that has resulted in sustainable change.

Founder and CEO, Lisa Stepanovic, and her team, deliver a programme of workshops, mentoring and one-to-one support tailored specifically to harness the skills and talents of young people who are feeling increasingly disenfranchised in East End communities that are that being gentrified.

“We support young people from working class backgrounds, to use their lived experiences to lead the change they want to see, and we use the social enterprise business model to do that. We run structured learning programmes and provide expert mentoring, with continued wraparound support with business issues and personal issues.”

Lisa has ensured that, through the Social Ark family, social impact and sustainability are at the heart of her work. Those who have made their way through the programmes are trustees on the board, with alumni also part of the senior management team.

Of Lisa’s work and her win, Cambridge Social Ventures Programme Director, Nicole Helwig says:

“The winners of the Cambridge Social Innovation Prize are visionaries and drivers of social change. They identify entrepreneurial opportunities through insights based on empathy, experience and a deep understanding of the social challenges they address.

“Lisa Stepanovic of Social Ark honed in on gaps in services for working class youth, becoming their champion and empowering them to empower others. This prize celebrates social entrepreneurs like Lisa who challenge systemic barriers and break new ground with their innovations”.

Listen to Lisa’s full interview ‘The social ark of East London’ on the Social Ideas Podcast

Josh Babarinde.

Josh Babarinde

Cracked It

Greater London

crackedit.org

Cracked It is London’s award-winning social enterprise smartphone repair service. Staffed by young ex-offenders and youth at risk, its mission is to harness the smartphone repair market to support vulnerable youth away from crime and towards employment.

Cracked It takes mobile phone repair to offices across London, with pop-up repair clinics in large corporate workplaces such as UBS, the Ministry of Justice and the US Embassy, staffed by young people trained in both repair skills and workplace behaviour. A benefit of this model is that young people are exposed to professional workplaces, and corporate teams have the chance to get to know young people who they may not have considered employable.

Josh and the team have made a proven impact: 64 per cent of trainees on their transitional employment programme gain employment within a year, and 70 per cent don’t re-offend in the same period.

Learn more about Cracked It

Jennifer Neff.
Leeann Monk-Ozgul.

Jennifer Neff and Leeann Monk-Ozgul

Elemental Software

Derry, Northern Ireland

elemental.co

Elemental Software’s online social prescribing platform helps the health, housing, local authority, prison, higher education, charity and voluntary sectors work together to connect people, build communities and improve lives. The leading platform of its kind in Ireland and the UK, co-founders Jennifer Neff and Leeann Monk-Ozgul hope to take their evidence-backed intervention abroad.

Social prescribing allows healthcare professionals to refer patients to local, non-clinical services which meet their wellbeing needs. These lifestyle interventions could include community gardening groups, creative writing or debt advice: the range of activities that patients can take part in depends on what’s available to them locally, which in turn is dependent on how local services work together.

Elemental Software tech-enabled service helps local organisations work together to offer joined up solutions that match patients’ wellbeing needs to their interests, and to track the impact of these interventions against public health data.

Learn more about Elemental Software

Ivo Gormley.

Ivo Gormley

GoodGym

London, South East

goodgym.org

GoodGym is a digital platform for people who want to run and to use their running time to ‘do good’ in their community. Whether running to an isolated person’s home for a ‘social’ or to do an errand, or to a community project to do a bit of manual labour, GoodGym members are using their energy to benefit their community.

GoodGym’s work is unique in the world, and has been shown to have significant impact on two of the most pressing issues of our time: care of our ageing population and physical inactivity. Larger than any other running club in the UK, GoodGym is funded by runner subscriptions, brand partnerships and local authority contracts.

Learn more about GoodGym

Angela McKay

Homebaked Bakery

Liverpool, North West

homebaked.org.uk

A co-operative bakery located opposite Liverpool FC’s iconic Anfield stadium, Homebaked is famous across Merseyside and beyond for its award-winning pies. Having taken over the local neighbourhood bakery to save it from demolition, the co-operative has grown to become a thriving business and community space with over 30 active volunteers and 20 members of staff, all with strong links to the Anfield and Everton areas of Liverpool.

Inspired by the belief that ‘we all deserve to live well’, Homebaked Bakery is more than just a local bakery. Creating good jobs, great food and welcoming spaces in one of the many left-behind areas of the UK, it is a model for community-led regeneration enterprise from which other left-behind cities could learn.

Learn more about Homebaked Bakery

Susan Aktemel.

Susan Aktemel

CEO, Homes for Good

Glasgow, Scotland

homesforgood.org.uk

Homes for Good is Scotland’s first social enterprise letting agency. They also own two property investment portfolios of 240 homes specifically for people who have limited housing choice. Since 2013, Home for Good has grown to 21 employees, £12.5 million in assets and turnover of approximately £1.6 million.

But the way Susan talks about the business, the driving motivation is to give people dignity in housing: for tenants to love your home and for your home to love you. People who live on benefits or so-called ‘high-risk’ tenants often don’t get that opportunity.

To scale her impact, Susan wants to lead by example – her goals in the next year include meeting with estate agents and social organisations across the UK to help them adopt a similar model.

Learn more about Homes for Good

Will Britton.

Will Britton

CEO, AutonoMe

Weston-super-Mare, Somerset

www.autono.me.uk

Will’s vision combines education technology with one to one support to improve outcomes for vulnerable people in social care settings.

The AutonoMe app helps people learn new skills through step-by-step videos and helps them self-evaluate their needs. This helps carers understand where each individual is on their journey of independence, so they can make evidence-based decisions about their ongoing support needs. It’s already operating in seven local authorities in South West England, and Will’s ambition to make this a mainstream part of social care nationally.

It’s a win-win innovation: firstly, for vulnerable people who crave independence from people standing over their shoulders; secondly, for local authorities commissioning a better service at lower costs; and thirdly, for shareholders as it does this whilst still delivering profit.

Learn more about AutonoMe

Sarah Neville.

Sarah Neville

CEO, Birdsong

East London

birdsong.london

Birdsong provides living-wage work to women from migrant communities in London using craft skills that they already have. With ‘dress in protest’ as their catchphrase, their collection is fashion-forward and sustainably-made.

There is a wealth of making skill among London’s migrant communities but the women Birdsong employ often face significant barriers to employment: for example language, lack of qualifications and childcare commitments. One of the women they work with said: “working with them has always made me feel at home, comfortable, accepted, safe and understood”.

Aside from the social mission, Sarah and the team have managed to build a manufacturing process that is local and lean, which gives them margins comparable to industry standards. They have also provided 10,000 hours of paid work at the living wage to low-income women in East London.

Learn more about Birdsong

Gareth Roberts.

Gareth Roberts

Founder, Regather Co-operative

Sheffield, South Yorkshire

regather.net

Regather is hard to pin down – but that’s all in the design. Gareth founded this co-operative to allow space for community to flourish and “to help people work together, support each other and make projects happen”.

Over the past 10 years, that’s settled into three main areas:

  • Food – including a vegetable box scheme and market garden.
  • Drink – a bar and a microbrewery producing craft beer and cider.
  • Events – a two-day music festival and event management services.

Gareth is a champion of social and economic change through food. His five-year plan is to deepen the engagement between the community and its food systems by launching a community share offer and membership scheme, inviting the community to engage fully in the democratic governance and ownership of the Regather Co-operative.

Learn more about Regather