Sarah Crawley OBE

Lisa is an authentic East Ender of Polish and Irish descent. Lisa cares deeply about the community and making Tower Hamlets safe and inclusive for everyone, having always lived and worked locally. She started her career as a market trader and from an early age was honing her entrepreneurial skills. Lisa went on to support at-risk young people with legal issues and appeals. As a community volunteer, Lisa has raised substantial funds for education and charitable organisations and has strategically supported many more.

Lisa is a fellow of The School of Social Entrepreneurs, graduating in 2013.

She was also recognised in 2021 by being a winner of the Social Innovation Prize. This is is awarded annually by Trinity Hall College Cambridge, and the Cambridge Centre for Social Innovation based at  University of Cambridge Judge Business School. It is given to a few chosen individuals for their achievement to date and for their ambitious plans for the future.

As the founder of Social Ark, Lisa helps grassroots social entrepreneurs, whom she describes as ‘hidden gems’, to use their lived experience to develop social businesses and to create a better life for themselves and the community around them.

I am passionate about social enterprise and have been a keen supporter of the sector for over 20 years. My journey began in the Economic Development Department of Birmingham City Council with the discovery that other countries were using business practices to solve social problems. I learnt from partners across Europe about their experiences in developing social businesses and began to develop approaches that worked in the UK. Over years I have sat on membership boards, written strategy, spoken at conferences, delivered programmes of support, been an adviser and coach and above all managed by own social enterprise. ISE launched in June 2000, we opened our Digbeth based Social Enterprise Hub in 2011, followed by Birmingham’s only dedicated Women’s Enterprise and Community Hub in 2015.

I am constantly learning, innovating and problem solving in order to grow and develop social enterprises. I believe I am a strong leader, with high business acumen and a proven track record of delivery.

Big achievements have been:
The development of 2 social enterprise places: the Digbeth Social Enterprise Quarter and ‘Birmingham – A Social Enterprise City’ . Not to mention supporting local social enterprise hot spots. This work gives us a strategic framework to grow the social enterprise sector.
Birmingham City Drive – an annual week of promotion of social enterprise across Birmingham and beyond reaching over 240,000 people.
Digbeth Social Enterprise Walks – our social enterprise tourist solution to raising awareness of social enterprise.
Leadership development and work to support people working in social enterprises.
The writing of a number of social enterprise strategies/frameworks for local authorities, corporate’s and third sector including Birmingham City Council;
The researching, planning and delivery of a campaign ‘Shop for Change’​ to encourage third sector organisations to buy from one another which has led to private companies buying from social enterprise.

My goal continues to be the development of a thriving and exciting social enterprise sector using innovation and thinking outside the box!

Specialties: place based social enterprise development, partnership and consortia building, governance, new markets for social enterprise identification, new product and service development, private sector supply chain, developing sustainable organisations, strategic planning, new models of support for social enterprise, working with social enterprise boards and governance.

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