• OBSEA, the Oxford Brookes Social Entrepreneur Awards, is an award-winning programme for students, staff and recent graduates, who are interested in social enterprise or social innovation or who wish to set up and run social enterprise. Please  register your interest or  sign up to find out more.

    john-henry-brookesA goal of all formal education should be to graduate students to lead lives of consequence.

    John Henry Brookes

    If you are passionate about your field of study and would like to put the knowledge and skills that you are gaining at Oxford Brookes into action to make the world we live in a better one, then apply for the Oxford Brookes Social Entrepreneur Awards. Learn about one award winner’s story in our video below.

    Over the next 12 months you will receive a comprehensive training and mentoring programme including the opportunity to attend social entrepreneurship conferences, seminars and workshops. Award winners will also receive cash awards to further develop their ideas and projects and one to one mentoring from experienced social entrepreneurs.

    OBSEA is now part of OSEP, the Oxfordshire Social Entrepreneurship Partnership, which is a major new umbrella partnership for social entrepreneurship in Oxfordshire, inspired by an innovative collaboration between Oxford Brookes University, University of Oxford and Student Hubs. OSEP was launched in autumn 2014 to support existing and potential social entrepreneurs who are based in Oxfordshire.

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  • Social Entrepreneur Ben Wilkins shares the story of his idea, Sustainabus, and how the Oxford Brookes Social Entrepreneur Awards helped him turn his idea in to reality.

  • Awards are open to Brookes staff, students and recent graduates across all Faculties and subject areas. You do NOT need to have business skills/background to apply. All you need is:

    • Passion for your field of study
    • Determination and drive to be a changemaker - wanting to make the world a better place, one small step, one small project at a time

    The programme is designed to build on these strengths so that you can gain the confidence and skills required to translate your passions and ideas into tangible action.

    This initiative aims to foster social entrepreneurship and social innovation within the university and to help translate your passionate ideals into sustainable social business ventures. With our help, you can make a positive difference to society and broaden your knowledge and entrepreneurial skills.

    Whether it’s a brand new concept or an existing one, Oxford Brookes Social Entrepreneur Awards can help you take your idea to the next level. Applications are split into two project categories and you may apply for more than one award. In their first year of the programme, OBSEA participants tend to apply for a Try It award, moving up to a Do It award for their second year. For 2015-16 those wishing to apply for a Build It award can do so through  UnLtd

    Try It Awards

    Small amounts of funding of up to £500, for individuals or small groups to try out their ideas. This might mean finding out if their idea is viable, learning more about what is needed and trying the project on a small scale first. The Award provides an opportunity for individuals not yet used to managing large sums of money or planning larger projects to take the first steps towards starting their own project and gaining the skills needed to run it. The funding enables individuals to progress at their own pace with the right support to develop the entrepreneurial skills they will require to, in some cases, take on larger projects.

    Do It Awards

    Up to £5,000, with an average Award size of £2,500, allowing individuals to grow an entrepreneurial idea. Do It Awards are for individuals that are confident their project will work and have the basic skills to do it. Award Winners who have completed Try It Awards may now feel confident enough and have honed their ideas to be able to develop their project. Other people may come straight in at this level as they demonstrate they have the energy and skills to take forward an idea that has some project planning already.

    Build It Awards

    For 2015-16 applicants can seek funding from  UnLtd for this level of award, which is aimed at individuals with exceptional projects that have the potential of developing to scale or becoming investment-ready. Awards of up to £15,000 can be used for project costs and to pay for the Award Winners living expenses for 12 months. Build It Awards are for individuals who have innovative and entrepreneurial solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing communities, wider society and the world. Applicants have usually been operating their projects for over a year and are able to demonstrate a viable business case for their project development. 

    How to apply >>

    Any existing or planned project/idea developed by Oxford Brookes staff, students or recent graduate (up to a year) that adopts an entrepreneurial approach to tackle a social or environmental issue. Learn about some of the work we've funded or explore the types of projects we support by reading our case studies pages.

    Examples of local, successful social enterprises include the Turl Street Kitchen, an organic restaurant developed by Student Hubs to provide revenue streams to fund their core mission of connecting students with causes, and the CRISIS Skylight Cafe, which supports homeless people. Both are run on ethical and community-based principles.

    Other projects include Cultivate, which brings fresh, ethically-sourced, local food from farms to the community and Introduction to Dance from Brookes, which offers lower-cost dance classes and reinvests the income into increasing their availability in some of Oxford's more deprived neighbourhoods.

    Key dates 2015-16

    Our new programme of events, workshops and masterclasses for this year's OBSEA appears below.  Download the OBSEA timetable 2015-16.

    Residential weekend: this popular event is back by demand in the New Year, so book the date now! This residential weekend is designed to prepare you for your application and your pitch at our Dragons' Den event and immerse you in all aspects of social enterprise and social innovation. 

    Drop in Days at Student Hubs for networking and support are on Thursdays between 3 and 5pm, starting 22nd October on the first floor of Turl Street Kitchen, 16-17 Turl Street, Oxford. If you have specific queries or issues that you want help with do please try and email in advance to allow for some research and to make best use of time. Contact Student Hubs' Oxford Hub Manager, Harry Jenkins

    The Challenge Series:  run by Student Hubs in Oxford, these are issues based presentations giving students an overview of the local problems, and inspiring them to find entrepreneurial solutions. These will be held every Tuesday from 20th October until 1 December at Turl Street Kitchen,16-17 Turl Street, Oxford. For more information or to sign up, please contact Student Hubs' Oxford Hub Manager, Harry Jenkins


    • 30 September 2015, 3-5pm, Chakrabarti Lecture Theatre, JHBB - OBSEA Launch Event  
    • 14 October 2015, 2.30-5pm, meet at Turl Street Kitchen, 16-17 Turl Street -  Visit to Social Enterprises in Oxford
    • 21 October 2015, 5.30-7.30pm, JHB 202 Taste It Challenge Week Launch
    • 28 October 2015, 5.30-7.30pmJHB 202 - Taste It Challenge Results and Review
    • 04 November 2015, 5.30-7.30pmJHB 202 - Idea Generation Workshop 
    • 11 November 2015, 5.30-7.30pmJHB 202 - Key Social Issues In and Around Oxford
    • 18 November 2015, 5.30-7.30pmJHB 202 - Social Enterprise Idea Peer Group Workshop/Volunteering Opportunities
    • 25 November 2015, 5.30-7.30pmJHB 202 - How to Pitch workshop
    • 02 December 2015, 5.30-7.30pmJHB 202 - Business Model Canvas
    • 06 December 2015, 10-5.30pm, JHB 408 - Pitching for Real (all day Sunday workshop)
    • 18 January 2016 - Try It and Do It awards applications open. APPLICATIONS AVAILABLE TO DOWNLOAD
    • 30-31 January 2016, Hill End Community Centre, Eynsham, Oxford (tbc) - OBSEA Residential Weekend, Preparing Your Funding Bid and Developing Your Idea
    • 03 February 2016, 5.30-7.30pm, JHBB 406 - Masterclass series: Research, Research, Research
    • 10 February 2016, 5.30-7.30pm, JHBB 406 - Masterclass series: Legal Structures 
    • 17 February 2016, 5.30-7.30pmJHBB 406 - Masterclass series: Budgeting and Financial Planning
    • 21 February 2016 12 MIDNIGHT LATEST - Try It and Do It awards applications close 
    • 21 February 2016, 10-5.30pm - JHBB 408 Snow Room – Pitching for Real (all day Sunday workshop) 
    • 24 February 2016, 5.30-7.30pmJHBB 406 - Masterclass series: Fundraising 
    • 02 March 2016 Brookes Restaurant, Dragons' Den & Awards evening 
    • 09 March 2016, 4-8pm JHBB 405-- Masterclass series: Social Media and Communications
    • 16 March 2016, 5.30-7.30pmJHBB 406 - Masterclass series: Managing Your Project, a guide
    • 23 March 2016, 5.30-7-30pm, JHBB 406 - The Customer is King: An Introduction to Good Customer Service
    • 6 April 2016, 5.30-7.30pmJHBB 406 - Masterclass series: Measuring the Impact of your Project
    • 13 April 2016, 5.30-7.30pm, JHBB 406 - Review and Focus Group

    To book a place at our events, workshops and masterclasses  register here or email  socentpren@brookes.ac.uk to find out more. 

    There are four Faculty Champions who are able to give you advice and more information about this exciting project:

    There is a project co-ordinator based with Research and Business Development Office, Jeff Willmore, as well as support from Student Hubs Oxford Hub Manager, Harry Jenkins

    The Oxford Brookes University Social Entrepreneur Awards are part of a higher education (HE) support initiative originally funded by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE), and delivered by UnLtd, an organisation that supports social entrepreneurs in the UK and globally. The programme has also been funded by generous donations from Santander and from Brookes’ alumni.

    Social entrepreneurship is a rapidly growing movement within the HE sector. In the last year, Brookes has collaborated with the University of Oxford and Student Hubs to set up a major new social entrepreneurship umbrella partnership for Oxfordshire, called Oxfordshire Social Entrepreneurship Partnership (OSEP). OSEP was launched in autumn 2014 to support existing and potential social entrepreneurs in the region and this initiative means there is more funding than ever available to help social entrepreneurship locally 


  • "Social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change. Rather than leaving society’s needs to the government or business sectors, social entrepreneurs find what is not working and solve the problem by changing the system, spreading the solution, and persuading entire societies to take new leaps.” Ashoka