Meet our Ambassadors

We are honoured to have a team of Ambassadors, who are committed to raising the profile of the Social Enterprise Mark and Gold Mark, and why these accreditations are important to their sector as well as the wider world.

We have brought together leaders from social enterprises both nationally and internationally, all of which are striving to create positive social and environmental change. They span multiple sectors, from education to IT, and from business support to healthcare.

Meet our Social Enterprise Mark Ambassadors:

Julie Hawker

Julie Hawker

Joint Chief Executive, Cosmic

Julie Hawker is Chief Executive of Cosmic, a social enterprise which is very highly regarded for its work in addressing digital skills development and digital inclusion as key priorities across the region. Cosmic work in partnership with many of the leading organisations locally in the South West and across the UK to enable them to benefit from digital skills, working smarter, engaging with society and delivering value.

Cosmic is regarded as one of the UK’s leading ethical digital businesses, having won multiple awards, and with more than two decades’ experience in bringing the value of digital innovations to partners, helping them to benefit as part of the connected, digital world. Julie has led the company to growth and development of a strong team of highly skilled and dedicated individuals.

Julie has been involved at strategic and policy level in the development of regional and national partnerships and currently holds positions at Board level with the South West Business Council, Exeter Chamber of Commerce and the Exeter & Heart of Devon Employment and Skills Partnership. In these positions she aims to provide support for wider economic and social impact through effective use of digital skills and social enterprise. She continues to champion these key components of the Cosmic business model with organisations and people she meets every day.

“The Social Enterprise Mark has been a fundamental part of Cosmic’s brand identity for well over a decade now, and it has proved a highly effective way to promote to the world our social impact credentials. Cosmic’s commitment to social enterprise remains as strong as ever, and the Mark acts as a regular reminder for all stakeholders – staff, Directors, partners and clients.”

Miriam Rivas-Aguilar

Miriam Rivas-Aguilar

Chief Operating Officer, Care Opinion

Miriam was the very first Patient Opinion (now trading as Care Opinion) employee in 2005, and has been Chief Operating Officer (COO) since 2012. Care Opinion is a non-profit feedback platform for health and care services, which helps to improve care for everyone through public feedback & education.

Over 500 organisations are using Care Opinion to listen to what patients, service users and carers are saying. These include health and care providers, commissioners, health boards, regulators, professional bodies, educators, researchers and patient groups.

As COO, Miriam oversees the various functions across the organisation, manages the team and loves to chat with staff about the benefits of subscribing to Care Opinion.

She has over 20 years’ experience in business development, operations, managing teams, project management, and service delivery working in both the private and public sector.

Miriam was born in Chile and loves to travel, including a recent sabbatical travelling through South and Central America. Miriam’s interests include mentoring, Emotional Intelligence, and ensuring that Care Opinion offers a happy work environment for the team.

Professor Karen Stanton of York St John University

Professor Karen Stanton

Vice Chancellor, York St John University

Professor Karen Stanton joined York St John University as Vice Chancellor in September 2015. Previously, she was Deputy Vice Chancellor at Glasgow Caledonian University and has also held senior positions at King’s College London and the universities of Nottingham, Birmingham and Sheffield Hallam.

As Vice Chancellor her role is to lead the University and provide a distinctive strategic vision.

York St John University changes lives by helping students to develop the confidence, knowledge and adaptability they need for a successful graduate career and fulfilling life. Their values come from a rich history, built on community, engagement and partnership, with a belief that no matter their background, they can help their students realise their ambitions. The Social Enterprise Gold Mark is important to the University as it brings their values to life and underlines a commitment to social justice and social responsibility.

Professor Stanton gained her first degree in History from the University of Sheffield and her postgraduate qualification in Information Science from Manchester Metropolitan University.

She is a Trustee of UCAS, Vice Chair of the Cathedrals Group and a member of the GUILDHE Executive, as well as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and Chartered Institute of Library and Information Professionals. She is also an Ambassador for the Uprising Charity and Inspiring Digital Enterprise Award.

“The Social Enterprise Gold Mark is enormously important to York St John as it underlines our commitment, as a values-led institution, to social justice and social responsibility. As an anchor institution in the city of York,  we strongly believe in the wider social impact of our work within the community and the difference it makes.

The Gold Mark is a force for good in the HE sector.  All universities should strive to operate in a way which is transparent, socially responsible and maximises positive social impact.”

Louise van Rhyn

Dr Louise van Rhyn

Founding CEO, Symphonia for South Africa

Dr Louise van Rhyn is a social entrepreneur. She believes the worlds’ huge intractable problems can be solved through cross-sector collaboration and a solid understanding of complex social change. Her approach to change is shaped by more than 30 years of working as an Organisational Change and Leadership Development practitioner. She holds a Doctorate in Complex Social Change and has founded a few entrepreneurial organisations.

In 2008 she returned home to South Africa (after living in Europe) and started Symphonia for South Africa (SSA), a social enterprise with a purpose to mobilise active citizenship around the significant social issues facing the country.

In 2010 she launched Partners for Possibility (PfP), an innovative nation building and leadership development process for business and school leaders. Business leaders develop their capacity to lead in a complex and unfamiliar environment by becoming a co-learning and co-action partner to a school principal. The focus of their partnership is to lead positive change in an under-resourced school.

So far more than 1,700 leaders across South Africa have benefited from the programme and they’ve won many national and international awards for their innovative approach to enabling business leaders to make a significant contribution in education while developing their leadership skills. Participants report that they learn more about leadership from working with a school in an under-resourced community than attending a course at a business school.

“Symphonia for South Africa is proud to be the first social enterprise on the African continent to receive the Social Enterprise Mark and we have committed ourselves to encouraging other social enterprises to distinguish themselves by applying for the Mark.”

Kate Welch OBE

Chief Executive, Social Enterprise Acumen

Kate Welch OBE DL FRSA founded her first social enterprise, Acumen Development Trust, in 2003. It has now supported over 16,000 unemployed people to find jobs or start their own business. She was awarded the OBE for services to Social Enterprise in the North East of England in 2008 and was commissioned as a Deputy Lieutenant in County Durham a year later.

Kate then founded Social Enterprise Acumen CIC in Durham, which supports the start up, growth and development of social enterprises in the UK and many other countries. She gained the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion in 2016 and continues to support over 300 social entrepreneurs and social enterprises every year. Kate works with partners ranging from community groups to universities, to inspire, enthuse and support people to learn and take action by starting or developing their social enterprise. She is passionate about how social enterprise can be a way of working for anyone who wants to bring about long term, sustainable change in society.

In 2017 she co-founded Acumen Community Buildings and is developing centres for social enterprise in the North East of England. The Old Rectory in Houghton-le-Spring is the first of these and is a Grade 2 listed building in a beautiful park, which is now home to 9 established social enterprises and a co-working space for new social entrepreneurs. The second, Sacriston Co-operative Workshops, aims to open in early 2019.

Kate Welch