Rowena has played a formative role in the social innovation and entrepreneurship fields, with over 15 years experience that has combined the direct development of innovations with leading key intermediaries and contributing to policy development.
Prior to joining the Young Foundation she was Director of the Public Services Innovation Lab at NESTA, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the Said Business School at Oxford University, and CEO of the School for Social Entrepreneurs.
She has started or had leadership roles in a number of ventures fashioning creative responses to unmet social need: commercial agriculture in poor communities, delivering access to the labour market for the long-term unemployed and behaviour change programmes tackling obesity; an internet services firm creating employment and training for entrenched drug users, run by service users themselves; a national news agency run by children and young people.
Non-executive roles have included Virgin Start-Up, People Tree (Fair Trade fashion), the Channel 4 British Documentary Foundation, VSO, and the Park View Academy in Tottenham.
Rowena leads the Young Foundation’s work on health, seeking innovations with the prospect of preventing health inequalities, and the systemic conditions to allow them to flourish – she is valued for working with partners in all sectors to define the strategic opportunities for change and the very practical business of making them happen, brokering insight, models and practices between them. She is also interim director of Ventures and is leading the expansion of the Foundation’s work on young people.
Previously she has run action-learning programmes for nurses and allied health professionals creating new ventures, advised the Department of Health on innovation as part of the Next Stage Review, led the NHS Regional Innovation Fund Advisory Service and provided post-investment support to health ventures. John Birt, Tony Blair’s ‘blue skies thinker’, dubbed her pamphlet, From War to Work, the bible of drug policy. Rowena led the UK’s first challenge prize which incentivised powerful new models of carbon reduction, served on DTI task forces to oversee two generations of national social enterprise strategies, made the keystone investment in the UK’s first equity fund for social enterprises and backed the expansion of investment readiness services for social ventures.
Rowena started her career in journalism and at the think tank Demos.
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