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20 July, 2020 - 16:58 By Tony Quested

Social entrepreneurs win Cambridge prize for pandemic response

Monk Ozgul and Jennifer Neff in Derry

As businesses struggle through covid-19 lockdown, many social entrepreneurs face an unexpected challenge – unprecedented demand for their services, which address deep needs in the community.

The second annual Cambridge Social Innovation Prize, just announced, will help four outstanding social entrepreneurs to meet this increased need with a £10,000 grant to each and advice from experts at the University of Cambridge.

The prizes, awarded by Trinity Hall and the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation at Cambridge Judge Business School, will enable four leaders in health, employment and community services to boost their own leadership capacity so they can meet new challenges head-on.

Addressing unmet needs in healthcare, Derry-based social prescribing firm Elemental Software helps frontline health workers connect vulnerable patients to community services; and volunteering platform GoodGym combines getting fit with doing good, linking joggers with volunteering tasks on their morning run.

Boosting employment, mobile phone repair company Cracked It gives ex-offenders work experience and employability training; while community-owned bakery Homebaked is rebuilding Liverpool high streets ‘brick by brick and loaf by loaf’ through local retail.

Baroness Glenys Thornton, former Minister for Health and a leader in the social enterprise sector, was one of this year’s judges for the prize.

“The COVID-19 pandemic is a public health crisis, but also a crisis of social care and the economy,” she said. 

“Social enterprises across the UK have formed a key plank in our national response to the pandemic, responding in unique and creative ways to the health and economic crises. They need our support to meet the explosion in demand for their proven, impactful interventions.”

The prize is intended to support the winners’ growth as social CEOs and the growth of their businesses, with a £10,000 grant for professional development, 10 days of business advice from experts at Cambridge Judge Business School and introductions to new partners, investors and other opportunities.

Dr Belinda Bell, who leads the team delivering the prize, said: “The University of Cambridge has contributed significantly to the medical response – we are now proud to be able to support the economic recovery by supporting businesses whose work is 100 per cent focused on creating positive social impact.

“Our support will help social CEOs develop personally and professionally so they can lead in rebuilding the economy on more equitable and sustainable terms.”

University of Cambridge (Trinity Hall) alumnus Graham Ross Russell has generously supported this prize as part of the college’s ongoing work to nurture entrepreneurial ambition among its students and academic fellows.

• PHOTOGRAPH: Elemental Software founders and co-CEO’s Monk Ozgul and Jennifer Neff in Derry.

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