And the winner is…Changemaker Awards celebrates positive social impact within the county

Date 27.06.2022

Last week the annual Changemaker Awards ceremony was held, bringing together students, graduates and staff members from across the University, as well as local businesses and the community, to celebrate the positive social impact we have on the community around us.

Wray Irwin, Director of Enterprise and Employability at the University of Northampton said: “The Changemaker Awards are the highlight of the year, valued by both staff and students in recognition of the fantastic work we all do in creating a positive social impact in the communities we serve.

“Every year we are blown away by the stories and achievements people are nominated for – and this year was no exception.

“The room was a buzz of excitement as our nominees were celebrated for their relentless and highly valuable work in helping to improve the inclusivity and positive impact within our community.”

Group photos of Changemaer Award winners with the trophies

The winners – with their citations – are below.

Community Changemaker of the Year

Cheryl Smith, for her work in establishing and leading the Lightbulb Mental Wellness for Schools programme, a scheme that develops primary and secondary school teachers to spot the early signs of mental-ill health in children and initiate appropriate early interventions.

Under the leadership of Cheryl, LightBulb provides a framework for the professional development of teachers, allowing schools to improve the mental-health of their pupils and demonstrate excellence in mental-health provision. The programme has so far helped over 11,000 children across Northamptonshire, as well as providing support to their families and raising awareness of the need for a positive mental health experience for school staff themselves.


Culture Changemaker of the Year

Q Space, for their commitment to improving the lives of LGBTQ+ people in Northamptonshire in mind, body and spirit, and dedicating themselves to that commitment with endless passion and care.

Q Space encourages local LGBTQ+ community members to stand up for their rights and for those of other minority groups as well. This inclusion can be seen at all Q Space events where steps are taken to ensure accessibility is provided for all, creating safe and welcoming spaces for everyone. This demonstrates one of Q Space’s goals: to encourage people from all walks of life to learn and consider how to be more inclusive in their daily lives.


Education Changemaker of the Year

Cultural Integration Workshops at UON, for working to tackle the award gap in Higher Education where there is disparity in the attainment levels of students based on ethnicity.

They provide students with the skills needed to develop empathy for others’ lived experiences, decreasing fear and creating inclusive learning environments and workplaces, resulting in safe spaces that encourage all people to thrive in education, work and society.

This initiative is a true example of innovation in education, embracing the principles of Changemaking to create positive societal impact that is wide reaching, sustainable and vital for the positive development of our world.


Enterprise Changemaker of the Year

Lemonpop Workshops, founded by BA Graphic Communication graduate Marvin, for providing a therapeutic self-development arts programme built on the philosophy that art making is central to healing and wellness, improving functional skills, increasing self-esteem as well as stimulating creativity and imagination.

Marvin designs all elements of Lemonpop activities to inspire imagination and creativity, using the arts as a vehicle to enhance self-identity and communication, facilitating learning through creative expression. This allows people to explore who they are and understand their potential to succeed in life, with the confidence and self-belief that they can be a positive force in our ever-changing world. Marvin offers many of these activities in open, community settings, ensuring they are accessible to all, reflecting the inclusive nature of Lemonpop.


Health and Wellbeing Changemaker of the Year

The Lewis Foundation, for providing support for the physical and mental wellbeing of adults undergoing cancer treatment.

The charity operates by offering free gift packs to adult cancer patients across NHS hospitals in the Midlands, either at appointments, during treatment or when admitted to hospital. Each week, The Lewis Foundation’s team of 50 volunteers, which includes UON students and staff, fundraise, source, pack and hand out gifts, giving away 2,000 gift packs every month across the 15 NHS hospitals in the Midlands.


Staff Changemaker of the Year

Paula Bowles, for providing support to the UON Criminology Team and their students through initiatives to improve morale and wellbeing throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Paula has maintained and encouraged various authors to contribute to the ‘Thoughts from the Criminology Team’ blog, which in a challenging time of social upheaval, offers critical reflection on social injustices, as well as lighter material to encourage people to switch off from the difficulties they face.

Paula is also founder of the Criminology Staff Book Club, encouraging staff to read a variety of crime-based fiction books and come together virtually to discuss related themes and areas of interest. This virtual book club encourages staff to engage in time for themselves, something which many did not realise they desperately needed.

Through all her activities, Paula is continuously working to activate both staff and students to contribute to social impact and creatively address issues of wider social concern.


Student Changemaker of the Year

This year, we had two winners of the Student Changemaker of the Year award.

They are as follows:

Kirstie Pope, for striving to improve the lives of others as well as overcoming personal challenges in order to act as the embodiment of what UON stands for as a Changemaker Campus.

Since the start of her undergraduate degree, Kirstie as fought for improved provision for students at UON who are Young Carers. As a Young Carer herself, Kirstie knows first-hand the difficulties and additional considerations this brings, and so designed, developed and launched the Carers’ Champion programme, which trains members of UON staff to offer support to UON students who are Young Carers.

Alongside this work, Kirstie delivers support for our autistic students through events including Autism Pride, and she also founded NeuroDiversity, a support group that provides a safe space for neurodiverse students to socialise, find a sense of belonging and be introduced to University life in an accessible way.

Charlene Cranstoun, for dedicating a significant amount of time and passion to reducing knife crime amongst young communities.

Throughout her studies, work and community engagement, Charlene identified that current interventions surrounding knife crime and young people are aimed at those already involved in the crime and the culture that surrounds it, leaving many young people unaware of the dangers of knife crime.

Charlene recognised this gap, and designed an offer of preventative interventions to reach young people before they became involved in knife crime. Her programme focuses specifically on the GEM community of Northampton as a community that she has a personal connection to. This connection, along with the willingness of community members to work with her and her tenacity to succeed, is testament to Charlene’s suitability to be tackling this social issue.


International Changemaker of the Year

Human Resource Management Institute (Sri Lanka), for continuously committing themselves to embracing the ethos of Changemaker as an academic partner of UON.

Having won our International Changemaker award in 2020 for their work to educate families about the importance of education to improve life outcomes, HRMI continue to make a significant social impact within Sri Lanka.

In August 2021, the country saw a dramatic increase in hospitalised COVID-19 patients with their general hospitals quickly becoming overstretched and unable to safely admit all patients. As this problem developed, HRMI’s director Gohan Talgodapitiya secured funding to build a 48-bed COVID ward, using disused buildings within Nivithigala Divisional Hospital, that was able to provide urgent critical care to COVID-19 patients.

Being able to respond quickly and so impactfully to effects of the pandemic demonstrates the commitment HRMI have to their Changemaker values, and their most recent success is a commendable example of Changemaking.


Special Recognition Award

UON Estates and Campus Services


Special Achievement Award

Abide Zenenga


Changemaker People’s Choice Award

Steph Lee-Vae