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Wayne Dignam on His First Follower

Posted by on October 8, 2016

Wayne Dignam on His First FollowerWayne Dignam First Follower

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The moment a social entrepreneur decides to act is the moment when everything changes. But this change is only fully ignited when someone decides to follow. First followers transform an individual with a vision into a leader.

In light of our upcoming Awards Ceremony, we asked our 2015 Awardees to share with us who their first follower was, and why they were so important. Wayne Dignam, the founder of Care Leaver’s Network shared his story with us.
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I set up the Care Leavers’ Network in October 2014 by simply buying a domain name, and writing my hopes and dreams for what I would like the Care Leavers’ Network to be. ‘If you were in State care as a child, then you can join us’ was my calling card. I was in State care as a child, spending most of my childhood in foster care, and I knew the time had come to connect with other people like me.

A website went live five weeks later, and I was now the founder and sole volunteer. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Would people want to join? Would people want to volunteer? I didn’t know many other care leavers, and in truth, I had done very little research as to whether there was a need for this. I just knew that it was the right thing to do. And I knew that if I did this for the right reasons, the right people would also become involved.

Six weeks later I was asked to speak at a seminar that was discussing the foster care system and how it could be improved. ‘Listening to the needs of the child’ was my theme to speak about. I was introduced as the founder of the Care Leavers’ Network, and this was my chance to develop my network. I was beginning to have doubts. The speech went well, but I wasn’t meeting any care leavers. Near the end of the day, finally, the right person approached me. He gingerly came up to me and shook my hand, ‘Great speech Wayne, I get what you are about’.

I knew within a millisecond that I had my first follower. We connected.

I could understand what he had gone through, without him even having to explain it. He knew what I was about, in spite of my doubts and fears. We exchanged our histories, our thoughts, our dreams for a network of care leavers. We acknowledged what needed to be done. We made a pact. We shook hands, the start of something big. ‘You’re my first care leaver to join’ I said, a little embarrassed. He smiled, ‘the first of many Wayne!’ He walked away a little taller. I walked away a little prouder. This will work.

Any many more did follow. We since developed a core group of volunteers that have given countless hours of their time. We have supported many care leavers, we have campaigned for children’s rights, we have trained foster parents, and we have given a voice to people who were voiceless. If it wasn’t for my first follower, I don’t know how we could have done it.

Derek McDonnell of Mojo – My First Follower Story

Posted by on September 29, 2016

Derek McDonnell of Mojo – My First Follower StoryDerek McDonnell

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The moment a social entrepreneur decides to act is the moment when everything changes. But this change is only fully ignited when someone decides to follow. First followers transform an individual with a vision into a leader.

In light of our upcoming Awards Ceremony, we asked our 2015 Awardees to tell us about their first followers and why they were so important. Derek McDonnell, the founder of Mojo shared his first follower story with us.

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Daniel Morris, a 54 year old truck driver, had all but given up on life before he came to Mojo.

Daniel was the first man on our first training programme to take a leap of faith and share with the group that he was ‘struggling with life and finding it difficult to cope’. That one sentence had a profound effect on all of us; the other men began to talk and we, the facilitators, breathed a sigh of relief as this was a sign, after a nervous few weeks that we may be on to something.

Two years later, Danny told 100 people during his speech at an event to celebrate the success of our pilot in South Dublin that he had planned to die by suicide on week six of the programme. He explained that the only reason he came on Mojo was to show his family that he had done everything possible to stay alive before he took his life. Fortunately for all of us, connecting with other men on Mojo gave him hope for the future and, four years on, Danny continues to thrive.

The moment I realised Mojo needed to be available to men across Ireland was when Danny shared his story with us.

This story shows that with the right support, it’s never too late to change. Danny was walking through the Square in Tallaght with his 23 year old daughter, chatting about ‘stuff’ when he took the opportunity to tell her about Mojo. He told her that he had just done a session on his role in the family which helped him understand why he had not been the best of dads when she was growing up and wanted to apologise to her. His daughter thanked him for being so honest. It was Christmas time and they were passing by a Santa’s grotto. “I never even took you to Santa when you were a child,” Danny said. His daughter asked, “what’s stopping you now?” Danny and his daughter now have a Santa photo together.

As the programme drew to a close, Danny and the lads told us that they did not want this experience to end and they wanted to keep their connections to each other going. With a little support and encouragement, the lads set up their own Mojo Men’s Shed which brings a variety of men from South Dublin together five times a week. These men are part of the growing Mojo team who are working towards real change for men in Ireland.

Learn more about Mojo Programme.

Awards 2016

6 Interesting Trends from our 2016 Applications

Posted by on April 27, 2016

Applications Blog 2

Our application process closed April 7th and we are now in the midst of our review. This is our favourite time of the year as it allows us to see and learn about what is happening all over Ireland, and get an insight into grassroots efforts being made in various fields to tackle some of Ireland’s most entrenched social and environmental issues. As our applicants await the results of our review, we wanted to share with you all some interesting insights from this year’s applications.

1. Social entrepreneurship is on the rise all over Ireland

While Dublin still leads in number of applications received, this year we’ve seen a significant increase in applications coming from Cork and Galway. Both have gone up by nearly 3% since last year, from 7.1% of all applications to 10%. Interestingly, for the second year in a row we are also seeing a tie between Cork and Galway for the second highest number of applications outside of Dublin. Waterford and Wicklow hold spot number three, each accounting for 6% of this year’s applications.

 Pie Chart Applications

2. Social start-ups and the economy

This year, even more so than last, we get a clearer sense of the influence that social start-ups have on our economy. This year’s applicants are currently employing 200 full-time and 228 part-time employees, and their average annual turnover was circa €325,000 for Impact applicants, and €51,000 for Elevator. This demonstrates to us that these social start-ups are not only doing great work in their respective communities, but are also adding significant value to their local economies.

3. Volunteers are a precious and important driving force
While social start-ups have an immense influence on our communities and economy, they often have to rely on one of their most valuable assets – volunteers! Once again, volunteers are shown to be an important force for good with the average Impact applicant utilising the help of about 50 volunteers, and an average Elevator applicant about 19 volunteers at any given time.

4. How old are they?
You might find it interesting to know that the average age of the organisations applying for an Impact Award is 6 years, with Elevator organisations about 2 years old. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some older “teenagers” amongst them, with the oldest applicant organisation having been established in 1989!

5. Why do today what you can do tomorrow?
During the applications process we closely monitor the daily numbers of applications started and submitted. We are always interested to look at the peak day and see how it relates to the deadline. This year our peak day for applications started was April 6th – the day before the deadline, with 40 applications started, which is a record to date. Our submissions peak of 110 applications submitted was on April 7th, THE deadline! This means that 65% of all applications were submitted on the deadline. Why do today what you can put off until last minute?

Submissions Chart

6. How did they hear about the Awards?
These statistics tell us how our applicants heard about the application process:

Word of Mouth (including past Awardees) – 42%
Online – 25%
SEI Event/ Outdoor Campaign – 10%
Media Coverage – 7%

Judging by the numbers, it is safe to conclude that our applicants have amazing networks as the majority of them have heard about our applications by word of mouth or from a past Award winner. Our Social Entrepreneurs Ireland website also seems to have been a great source of information along with other social media platforms. Additionally, thanks to the amazing support from Dublin Airport Authority and Exterion Media, this year we’ve had an outstanding outdoor campaign aimed at promoting our applications process. Because of their excellent work, some of this year’s applicants found out about our Awards programme from a billboard or saw an ad on the back of a bus. How cool is that?!

The numbers above represent some interesting trends that are worth noting, but they don’t capture the importance, excitement and true impact of the work that these social entrepreneurs do. We are all very excited and truly look forward to learning more about what they do during our review, and meeting some of these amazing individuals at Social Entrepreneurs Bootcamp on May 24th.

5 Tips to a Successful SEI Application

Posted by on March 16, 2016

5 Tips to a Successful SEI Application

It is that time of the year again. Our 2016 Awards applications are open, and you are getting ready to apply (Deadline: April 7th, 5.00 pm).

We understand that it can be a daunting task to apply for funding and support. It can sometimes be challenging to get your message across, particularly if it is your first time seeking support of this kind. We want to make the application process as easy and useful for you as possible. In light of this, we have created a list of five tips to help you to make a competitive application to the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards. So, here are our top five tips for a successful application:

1. Think quality, not quantity
Seek to become more effective in telling your story. Don’t be tempted to just fill in the word count because it’s there, as quality is always more important than quantity. Additionally, keep in mind that we are not experts in the field that you work in, so be conscious of that when trying to explain the complexity of your problem and solution – be as clear and as concise as possible.

2. Know your market
Be clear about why your project is better than others out there that are addressing the same problem that you are tackling. It is best to be upfront and honest about the work of other organisations, and it’s key to know your competition well.

3. Think about your solution
Approach the time invested in writing your application as a valuable chance to assess or re-assess your solution, how you speak about it, and the plans that you have for it. Time invested in careful reflection and planning will have a huge impact on your future success and should be something that you do on a somewhat regular basis.

4. External review
Make sure that you have someone who is not familiar with your project read your application to see if your articulation is clear. This will help you to determine if your reader’s interpretation of your application matches the reality, and if their overall impression is the one that you want to impart.

5. We’re here to help
And finally, remember that at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland we are not looking for the finished article. Our programmes are designed to support and help you and your project. To do that we need to know what areas you still need to develop and see that you are open to developing and improving. So, in a strange way, being open about the challenges you face and the support you need can actually strengthen your application.

We hope that you find these tips useful and that they can be used as a guiding reference for you in your application process. While filling out your application, please read all questions carefully and make sure to refer to our FAQs or contact us directly if any questions come up.

We look forward to receiving your application!

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Phone: +353 1 685 3191, Email: info@socialentrepreneurs.ie

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