In this blog, we asked our last Minnovation Fund winners HOUSE of AKI-NA, to tell us how the Fund has helped them progress their idea in the last year. This is their year in review.
Winning the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland ‘Minnovation Fund’ in April 2015 was a great boost to House of Aki-na in our drive to establish an online presence for our brand.
Winning the Fund contributed immensely towards the creation of our much needed ecommerce site. The fact that we did not have the funds initially to create our online platform left us disconnected from a large customer base- we could only engage with and sell directly to customers via events, pop-up stores etc. The funds received from SEI bridged that critical missing link every lifestyle brand requires; we were now able to carry out the next step, which was to build our e-commerce platform!
As a Social Enterprise, explaining the benefit that winning the Minnovation Fund last year has had on #Houseofakina is quite simple, not only can we now sell directly to our customers through fairs, markets and other events; we can now achieve our goal of reaching new customers both nationally and internationally via our newly designed ecommerce platform. We created this site with a small website development and support agency in Ireland, keeping business local and further proving we are a Social Enterprise who are determined to- “Look Good, Do Good”. Seeing is believing, have a look at www.Houseofakina.ie or simply Google search #Houseofakina
The next critical phase for us is to fund and execute our marketing strategy, which is to drive traffic to our e-commerce site through an integrated marketing campaign; Houseofakina ecommerce platform is critical to that plan. A platform created with the assistance of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and the Minnovation Fund.
“We will be forever grateful to the SEI Minnovation fund for facilitating our online presence and now we can use any future investment to carry out our wider Marketing Strategy. Which will broadcast our products and website from every rooftop to every connected device. SEI has been critical to helping us expand our reach. My advice, Whatever stage your enterprise is at, engage with the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and you just never know… that dream fund you’ve always needed might just be within your grasp”.
Founder and CEO | Houseofakina
The Minnovation Fund consists of ticket proceeds from the Impact Series Event (approx €1,000) plus 1 year’s worth of phone services to the winner to the value of €500 sponsored by Blueface. If you would like a chance to pitch your idea for the next Minnovation Fund which takes place at the Impact Series event on Thursday 19th May in Smock Alley Theatre, click here to find out how you can apply.
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.
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?
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.
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!
With the last few remaining seats for the 32nd Dáil decided this morning, we thought we’d take this time to reflect on the 2016 General Election, what it meant for social enterprise and social entrepreneurship in Ireland, and where we go from here. While it’s been all doom and gloom from political parties and pundits, is the situation really that bad for those of us trying to do our bit to further social innovation?
The obvious thing to point out is that we have yet to determine the shape and make-up of any potential government in the 32nd Dáil. While Fine Gael remains the largest party in the state, their coalition options are in short supply, with many senior members within the Fianna Fáil party making it perfectly clear that they have no interest in entering into a formal coalition with their historic rivals. Although many smaller parties and groupings have stated their interest in forming ‘constructive’ partnerships, their numbers simply won’t be enough to form any sort of stable government going forward.
So formal coalition options are hard to come by, but perhaps there is a way forward that allows for some governing to be done in 2016 at least. In the days following the vote, both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil have indicated a willingness to work with each other, although in the case of the latter it would be an agreement to work with Fine Gael from the opposition benches. This type of agreement – opposition support for a minority government on certain issues – presents both challenges and opportunities. While not the most stable form of government, it does allow us to avoid an immediate repeat of an election campaign, while making legislative and policy progress on a number of common areas of agreement.
Social Enterprise Reforms:
For the first time ever, all four major political parties outlined a number of social enterprise and entrepreneurship reforms they would introduce as part of their manifestos in 2016. While this in itself is not success, it is indicative of the progress being made in highlighting the economic and social value of these sectors at a political level. It’s also important because in an increasingly unpredictable and divisive political environment, it’s one of the few areas all political parties seem to agree on. This presents the sector with a big opportunity to implement some important reforms over the next 12-18 months. Let’s not waste it.
Looking closely at the commitments made by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil (the only two parties with enough seats to win a majority in the 32nd Dáil), both parties seem to agree that progress can be made on developing social enterprise in three key areas; political leadership, business supports, and an improved financial environment.
Broadly speaking Fine Gael have committed to ensuring the “continued growth of the social enterprise sector”. They propose doing this through a combination of accessible finance, educational initiatives, and increasing awareness of supports currently available. More specifically, they promise to ensure that any SME, commercial or social, receives high quality mentoring, and support from Ireland’s Local Enterprise Office (LEO) network.
Fianna Fáil for their part agree, stating that they will extend the role of LEOs even further, establishing social enterprise-specific training courses and broadening out financial guarantees to assist in the attraction of investment. They also committed to measuring social enterprise activity in Ireland as part of future CSO business surveys, helping to improve access to data in relation to the size and influence of the sector. Finally, Fianna Fáil also made a clear commitment to move social enterprise under the remit of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise, and Innovation – the Department with oversight over existing and future enterprise support delivery.
The overlap in commitments here is clear, and requires us all to insist that social enterprise and entrepreneurship form a core part of any SME/enterprise strategy agreed by these two parties over the coming weeks and months. This will mean SEI working with our sector colleagues to drive this message home, but it also requires individual entrepreneurs and organisations making their views clear to their newly elected representatives also. For anyone interested in getting in touch with their local TDs, please click here to find more details on those elected in 2016.
In the meantime, we at least have the launch of the 2016 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards to enjoy. Regardless of political circumstances, we’ve got €600,000 worth of funding and support to give out to 9 social entrepreneurs this year. More details on our Awards can be found by clicking here, and please do spread the word to let others know if we might be of use to them.
In this blog, Wayne Dignam of Care Leavers’ Network reflects on Ireland’s record on child protection, and suggests ways we can approach this issue differently. Join the conversation @CLNetworkIRE
Last week the Minister for Children defended the State’s record on child protection to the United Nations Committee in Geneva under the UN Convention on the rights of the child. It was the first such scrutiny in ten years. Ten years too long. This should happen every year, or even every quarter. Child protection is not top of the agenda when the Irish people hold our Government to account at local and national elections every few years. It is important that international experts hold the Irish Government to account on child protection issues much more regularly.
Ireland signed up to the UN Convention on the rights of the child in 1992 after a legacy of failure to protect children. Has our legacy improved? In many ways it has. We now have the Child and Family Agency that is focusing on children’s welfare, we have a Cabinet-level Minister for Children and in 2012 we amended the Irish constitution to allow for improved Children’s Rights. However the impact of these reforms has yet to be felt by many of our most vulnerable children in Ireland.
The best-selling book ‘Children of the Rising, the forgotten casualties of 1916’ commemorates how the 1916 Easter Rising affected children. Sometimes it is easier to face up to the truth of the past rather than the truth of the present. A more apt book would be about 2016 ‘Children of the Recession, the forgotten casualties of 2016’. The facts are startling and we should think of the human story to these figures:
- One child in nine is living in poverty;
- As of October 2015, 1638 children are homeless;
- There are approximately 5,900 child protection cases awaiting assignment of a social worker.
The Government has a lot of work to do to alleviate poverty and homelessness. The third problem is a more specific problem that the Care Leavers’ Network believes can be addressed.
The Care Leavers’ Network represents adults who spent time in the State care system as children, and many care leavers come from socially disadvantaged backgrounds. As an Elevator Awardee from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland in 2015, we are passionate about changing Ireland and speaking out about what could be improved. Once we were children who were assessed for child protection and then assigned a social worker because we were at risk. So we care about this figure of 5,900 children who are currently at risk because we understand deeply what types of risks these children are facing, and the effects these will have on the rest of their lives. We have some suggestions to improve this situation.
Consider the backlog of child protection cases awaiting social workers. These social workers are so busy because their focus is on children within the care system. Are they really the right people to assess child protection cases and develop a ‘family plan’ of family support to that family, when some day they may end up taking that child into the care system? Ideally, a ‘Child welfare and protection officer’ should make the assessment, decide on the level of risk to the child, and explore all avenues of family support. We need to give families a chance before a social worker is brought in. By doing so, the child welfare and protection officer has gathered enough information about the family, and if a care order is required, then there is sufficient grounds for such an order. In addition, a range of family support measures need to be implemented in some cases where there is a chance that a child can remain with their family.
Some States in America adopt this preventative approach to child protection and have seen a decrease in the amount of children entering the care system. Those in the care system have much greater therapeutic and social care support which will most likely lead to improved outcomes. It has been led by an Irish American social worker, Molly McGrath Tierney, who manages Maryland’s child protection system. Between 2007 and 2010 the results were dramatic:
- The number of children in foster care dropped 28% from 6,342 to 4,556
- The number of children placed in group homes dropped 71% from 1,251 to 365
- The number of annual adoptions rose 59%, from 265 to 422
To get to these numbers required a lot of soul searching and leadership development. Irish agencies still have a lot to learn, and working on a crisis basis is not the best place to start. But there is a better way, and we must learn from the countries and States that manage their care systems better than ours. And most importantly, we can learn from those adults who have lived through the care systems.
If you would like to contribute to this conversation, follow us and send your thoughts @CLNetworkIRE
As 2015 comes to a close, here in Social Entrepreneurs Ireland we are reflecting on a great 2015 and are getting ready for an even better year ahead! We have been blown away by the social entrepreneurs we have met throughout our Selection Process this year, and are already looking forward to renewing the search for Ireland’s best social entrepreneurs who are bringing about incredible positive change throughout Ireland.
Our ambition is to continuously improve how we work. Our call for applications will therefore take place slightly earlier in the coming year. We will be asking Ireland’s social entrepreneurs to ‘Take the Leap’ with Social Entrepreneurs Ireland by submitting their applications to us from the 29th of February, closing on the 7th of April.
More detail on the 2016 Awards will follow in the coming weeks and months, so please do keep an eye out for updates on our website and social media channels.
If we want change in Ireland, we need to create that change ourselves. We can’t afford to wait around for others to solve our problems. We can’t just sit back and complain about the status quo.We need to act, and we need to act now. Real change will only begin when we stop fighting the old and focus all of our energy on building the new.
As Ireland’s economic recovery gathers pace, we are starting to see improvements in many areas of Irish
society. Although there are still huge challenges to overcome, our employment figures are improving, government revenues are increasing and cautious optimism is slowly starting to return.
While this is encouraging, we must ensure that we don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. None of us want this recovery to bring us back to where we were before. That isn’t success. We need to create an inclusive recovery.
But if history has taught us anything it’s that things don’t change on their own. The default position will be to spend any new resources on the same old approaches. We still won’t be solving our social problems quickly enough.
Our social entrepreneurs are experts in building the new. They see problems as opportunities, and set about tackling them using innovative, business-like approaches. Social entrepreneurs take risks and work relentlessly to show us what is possible. Often driven by profound personal experiences, they have the motivation and passion to overcome any challenge in their path.
When social entrepreneurs take action they shift our focus from the problem to the solution. Their decision to act is the lead domino that starts a chain reaction of events. Once that first movement is made, momentum builds and the early friction dissipates. Strong leadership generates more leaders. People yearn to be part of something constructive, to be part of the solution.
In most cases, the first action creates an impact far greater than could ever have been imagined. The work of the social entrepreneurs is inspiring, but this isn’t a spectator sport and all of us need to play our part. Our achievements to date have been built on the shoulders of giants; early visionaries and supporters who took a chance on Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, on the team and on an idea. We are serious about solving Ireland’s biggest social problems and we need your support to do it.
Social entrepreneurs make huge sacrifices to change this country. We can’t let them do it alone.
If this is the moment that we all decide to act, then this could be the moment that everything changes.
Darren Ryan, CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, reflects on investment opportunities in the sector ahead of the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards 2015. The event will see the unveiling of the 9 Social Entrepreneurs changing Ireland for the better, which will be held in The Mansion House Round Room, Tuesday 13th October 2015.
Back in 2009 I had just joined Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and at my very first Awards event we were honoured to have President Mary McAleese deliver the keynote address. Six years later, that speech is still one of my favourite moments from my time here at SEI. During her address the President provided a powerful endorsement of our work, saying that ‘there is no better investment anywhere on this island’.
‘There is no better investment anywhere on this island’ - President Mary McAleese
Tomorrow we will announce the recipients of our 2015 Awards. These are the nine social entrepreneurs that we will support for the next two years with substantial funding, training, mentoring and a range of other supports. Through our work with them we will help them to scale and grow their impact and change communities all over Ireland.
So, is it a good investment?
We think so. Although there is no financial return, the social impact is huge. Over the last year the 12 social entrepreneurs that we’ve been directly working with have impacted the lives of 89,868 people and created employment for 110 people. Our Awardees scaled their impact rapidly, more than doubling their impact in the last 12 months. They achieved an average increase of 103% in numbers of lives impacted by their work.
In one year our Awardees increased their impact by 103%
And these social entrepreneurs are developing effective, sustainable organisations too. On average, 39% of their income comes from revenue generation or traded activities, meaning they are less reliant on grants and donations to sustain their organisations into the future.
39% of their income comes from revenue generation
And we know our support is making a big difference. Every single one of the Awardees report an increase in their organisational capacity following support from SEI (59% strongly agree, 41% agree). All of the Awardees also report significant improvements in their skills and abilities as entrepreneurs, thanks to our support (67% strongly agree, 33% agree).
Tomorrow is a huge night for the nine new social entrepreneurs that we’re going to announce. Over the next two years we will be making a significant investment of time and resources in their projects, and we believe that together they can change this country.
Our ambition is to make sure that an investment in Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is the best investment you can make in Ireland today.
p.s. President McAleese’s Keynote Address at our 2009 Awards really was remarkable and even six years later it holds up wonderfully. It can be viewed in full here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kyo5XqV3HGQ
From the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland “Minnovation Fund” to expanding operations to the UK and beyond – Foodcloud have had whirlwind of a journey since accepting their Impact Award last year. In advance of the SEI Awards, Iseult Ward reflects on the last year as a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact Awardee, in the next entry to our series “Generation 2014″. Iseult Ward speaks of her journey with SEI and what advice she would give to the new Awardees 2015.
Iseult Ward and Aoibheann O’Brien founded Foodcloud after working on a university innovation project together, which is now saving tonnes of food across Ireland and the UK, connecting supermarkets with too much food to charities with too little. After winning the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Minnovation Fund as part of the Impact Series in 2013, Iseult and Aoibheann attended the 2013 Award Ceremony “thinking wouldn’t it be amazing if something like this would be possible for us“, but never believed it could and would happen for them the following year.
In 2014, walking into the Award Ceremony as Impact Finalists, Iseult & Aoibheann felt a sense of “déjà vu” and “quite emotional at the same time, having walked the exact same steps the year before, but in completely different shoes“.
Moving into the Impact Programme, Iseult comments “We were at the stage as an organisation that we needed to grow, and the Impact Award was a good fit for the organisation. It’s fantastic knowing people are there, who care about this nearly as much as you do, and are there to help you through the challenges and with new opportunities”.
Giving advice to the new Awardees who will be announced on Tuesday, Iseult highlights the importance of “getting to know all the awardees and helping each other through the experience”
Its a great feeling knowing you’re not alone as there are other organisations working towards a social change and trying to have a social impact too.
Moving Foodcloud to the next level with the second year of SEI Impact Programme, Iseult acknowledges “getting retailers on board in Ireland, diversifying retailers supplied and hopefully being able to bring on more charities” is their goal. Foodcloud have started to have an international impact, with a pilot programme running in the UK with Tesco. “The next phase will mean us taking on 100 stores in the UK with Tesco in partnership with Fairshare – it’s really about taking it all in stages to develop a social franchise model that can work beyond the UK.”
We’ve been growing really quickly since we began, but it’s the energy and momentum that has helped us gather so much support.
Iseult concludes how “it’s the passion of the team that has allowed us to get to where we are, and making such ambitious plans for the future.” With the incredible success of Foodcloud since being announced as an Impact Awardee 12 months ago, we’re excited to see where the next 12 months will lead the organisation.
Having “The Last Word” on Matt Cooper yesterday were the newest Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Elevator Awardees, Arlene Naughten of Sugru Therapy and Wayne Dignam of Care Leavers’ Network. Arlene and Wayne will officially receive their award next Tuesday night in the Mansion House, where we will reveal all six Elevator Awardees, alongside the three new Impact Awardees.
Speaking about the power of social entrepreneurship, Matt Cooper interviewed Arlene and Wayne on “The Last Word” ahead of the Awards Ceremony, to get an insight into the life-changing work their organisations do.
Sugru provide vital therapy services for children, parents and families to develop children from early childhood age to adulthood. Arlene and Lorraine of Sugru, offer individual counselling sessions, workshops and summer camps to help create stronger and healthier children and families across Ireland.
The Care Leavers’ Network, founded by Wayne Dignam, provides a support system for people who exit the Irish care system. The organisation has supported over 950 care leavers during their transition into society after leaving the Irish care system. Currently expanding their operations, Care Leavers’ Network are planning to significantly scale their organisation with the help of the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Elevator Programme.
In conversation with Matt Cooper, Wayne highlights the aim of the Care Leavers’ Network “is about us making a difference and stepping forward to improve the outcome for care leavers and children in Ireland”.
The Elevator Awardees will receive financial, organisational and developmental support from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland over the next 12 months, to elevate their organisations to the next stage. Check out the Elevator Awardee interview with Matt Cooper on Today FM.
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