Lisa Stepanovic of Social Ark was one of three social entrepreneurs recognised for pioneering new approaches to health, law and community development with the 2021 Cambridge Social Innovation Prize, awarded by Trinity Hall and the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation at the University of Cambridge.

These £10,000 awards are made annually to extraordinary founder-CEOs of scale-up social enterprises to support their growth as leaders. Mentoring from experts at Cambridge Judge Business School and support from an expanding community of social innovators at Trinity Hall will help them to develop the skills, resources and networks they need to create more impact from their work.

As we move from crisis into the rebuilding phase, the winning entrepreneurs are changing the way we approach the delivery of vital services, making them affordable, accessible, and embedding social purpose at the core of business.

2021 Cambridge Social Innovation Award winners with donor and advisors

Of the winners, Cambridge Social Ventures Programme Director, Nicole Helwig said,

“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.”

Recent research from Social Enterprise UK has found that social enterprises have proven remarkably resilient during the pandemic, leading the way with innovative business practices and deep community engagement. Winners exemplify the creativity of this sector, and its capacity to address the inequalities laid bare by Covid-19.

Award winner, Social Enterprise UK member and Founder of Social Ark, Lisa Stepanovic, said,

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.”

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 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.

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.