Head of Development at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, Lucy Masterson looks at the number of female entrepreneurs launching projects in the commercial and social enterprise sectors, and some of the potential factors influencing the gap.
In her article Women, Tech and Hell, Dublin’s Commissioner for Startup’s, Niamh Bushnell, talks about the growth of female entrepreneurship in Ireland. The good news for advocates of #changetheratio? Since Enterprise Ireland started offering female specific programmes in 2012, funding for female led businesses has jumped from 7% to 23% – an impressive figure and one that is ahead of both EU and US levels.
On the down side we are still more risk averse than our male counterparts and while female led technology companies achieve 35% higher return on investment, new research in the US and UK shows that men are still 40% more likely than women to get approved for a bank loan.
In contrast, when we look at activity in the social landscape the terrain is different – women are rocking it!
Almost 50% of the high potential social impact (HPSI) start-ups coming to us for support each year are female led organisations and these numbers show no sign of flat lining. That rate is significantly higher than the traditional commercial space, where men are twice as likely to be engaged in early stage entrepreneurial activities then their female counterparts.
More than two thirds of SEI supported businesses in 2014 were female led organisations – FoodCloud, Virtual Community College, Sensational Kids, Future Voices Ireland, Irish Charity Lab, MyLife Solutions, and Sólás. These women are highly entrepreneurial in their approach to driving social change. Like all innovators they refuse to take no for an answer because the alternative simply isn’t acceptable. They are willing to put everything on the line for their idea. They are not afraid of risk and we all know that every business investment worth its salt involves risk.
Why is this?
Is it that women tend to be the glue that holds communities together? Is it because women take action around specific causes that are closest to them? Is it that women are serial connectors and when we are deeply dissatisfied with a status quo we aren’t afraid of rolling up our sleeves and coming up with new ways to address the gaping holes in our education, childcare, political or environmental systems? Whatever the reasons, we salute those mothers of invention. And, as our Awards process gets ready to kick in to gear this March we look forward to supporting many more women as they step forward with bold new solutions to Ireland’s social problems.
Taking a look back on our first ten years our Chief Executive, Darren Ryan offers his insights on why we’re so optimistic about the next decade of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.
Ten years ago Social Entrepreneurs Ireland took a shot in the dark. We knew there were big challenges in Ireland that weren’t being solved, and we saw an untapped resource within Irish society. We were optimistic that, given the opportunity, Irish communities could provide the solutions to some of our biggest challenges.
Back then we went on instinct to seek out and support individuals that were developing big, new ideas to tackle Irish social problems. We knew that these ideas might not succeed, but we knew that if they did, the social impact would be transformative.
This optimism is critical to bringing about any major change. When you look coldly on the challenges that we are facing in Ireland, it would be easy to give up in despair. The problems we are facing can sometimes seem too great, too entrenched.
But optimism changes the way you see the world. It forces you to focus on potential, to seek out opportunities as they arise and take full advantage of them. Optimism empowers us to find our own role in improving the society that we live in. And social entrepreneurs are eternal optimists.
The 179 social entrepreneurs that we have supported over the last 10 years are tackling some of the biggest challenges in Irish society, challenges that to many would have seemed insurmountable. They aren’t blind to the obstacles that stand in their way but they choose to believe that they can overcome them.
But optimism in isolation is just a pipe-dream. It requires action to turn vision into reality. And this is where social entrepreneurs set themselves apart. They show the courage of their convictions not just to believe that things can be better, but they take action to actually make it happen, to turn their ideas into impact.
Back in 2004 our optimism was founded on hope, today it is based on 10 years of experience, evidence and impact. We are even more optimistic now because we know that social entrepreneurship works.
So as we mark the journey so far and look forward to the next 10 years, we are optimistic about the future for Ireland. We know that social entrepreneurs will play a crucial role in creating the society that we all want to live in. At Social Entrepreneurs Ireland we have now laid the foundations and created a movement that has already had a massive impact across the island of Ireland. Now we want to further increase that impact in the years ahead and do whatever it takes to ensure that the best social entrepreneurs get the support they need to succeed.
As we begin the next phase in our journey, I invite you to join us.
We’re just getting started.
Chief Executive, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland
In this blog on Social Intrapreneurship, John Evoy of Irish Men’s Sheds, poses some interesting questions. His intention here is to start a conversation rather than provide the answers. Join the conversation email him at firstname.lastname@example.org
In the early stages of for-profit start-ups, a core way of building a team of motivated individuals, who have a vested interest in the success of your organisation, is to offer some equity. A tech start-up for example, could have three to five early stage team members who all share the equity and potential riches if their venture is a success. During the early stages of such company’s development, none of the team would be receiving an income but the equity sharing mechanism allows the team to grow, thus increasing the skill set, the capacity and the chances of success exponentially. This is often a very exciting, high energy phase of a company’s development when the lack of income is overcome by the expectations that great things lie ahead.
Now we know that a main difference between the traditional entrepreneurship and social entrepreneurship is that the former is often motivated by financial gain or profit and the latter by a drive to solve a societal problem.
So is there a way to enthuse a potential partner to join us on the journey as we develop our socially motivated organisation? On a small number of occasions I have come across someone who really “gets it”; a person who can see the potential of our organisation and perhaps has a different skill set to mine and whose work could transform our young organisation. The problem is that I don’t yet have the funds to pay an additional staff member, no matter how much I would like to. In these circumstances it is unlikely that anyone would commit to working on our project without pay or equity.
Similar to sharing equity in the start-up phase many bigger firms are now promoting the concept of intrapreneurship. This is a way of getting high levels of innovation, hard work and forward thinking from their team and where there is little risk to the individual or the company. Intrapreneurship is defined as:
“Acting like an entrepreneur within a larger organisation. The term is derived from a combination of “intra” or internal, and “entrepreneurship.” Intraprenuers are usually highly self-motivated, proactive and action-oriented people who are comfortable with taking the initiative, even within the boundaries of an organization, in pursuit of an innovative product or service.” 
Again the traditional partnerships or for-profit companies with share capital have the upper hand when it comes to taking advantage of this concept on intrapreneurship. They can offer bonuses or larger shares of future profits based on the innovation or ideas generated by their intrapreneurs.
This leaves us with a dilemma; we can’t offer equity or promise large future salaries but we need these talented and motivated individuals to come and work with us. How can we create the conditions or circumstances which would solve this problem? Unfortunately this post asks more questions than it answers, but just to start the conversation may be a good thing.
There are some examples of projects being led by more than one Social Entrepreneur, such as the excellent Soar led jointly by Tony Griffin and Karl Swan but they have been together from the start. I am starting this conversation to see if we can identify a way to bring someone on board who we meet along the way, and to appropriately reward them, but within the limits of the organisations current financial position.
If we were to find someone who we would love to have working with us and who is willing to get involved, one of the first things we have to do is to let go of control. Social entrepreneurs can often have a very solid sense of ownership with sometimes fixed ideas of how things should be. To work successfully with another entrepreneur we would need to flexible and open to new ideas.
Another possibility would be to hand a segment of the organisation, its functions and its potential earning capacity, over to our new partner or ‘Intraprenuer’. For example, if we need an improved online presence, we could hand over our website to a web developer / designer on the premise that he/she can keep some incoming advertising revenue that the site earns as their pay. This person would, of course, be someone you know and trust, who you have developed a strong relationship with and who shares a vision with you of how the organisation can grow into the future.
As I mentioned above this is only the start of the conversation. I would love to hear from you so please email me at email@example.com if you have any thoughts on this topic.
Irish Men’s Sheds Association,
We are delighted to announce that following a very competitive process we have selected Lucy Masterson as the new Head of Development here in Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.
Lucy is a previous Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awardee. In 2012, she won an Elevator Award for her organisation Hireland. Hireland, which started as a kitchen conversation with friends discussing the economic crisis that had hit Ireland grew into a national movement calling on the nation’s small and medium enterprises to kick-start Ireland’s economic recovery by pledging to hire 1 more person. Over 5,400 jobs were created since Hirelands inception in 2012 demonstrating the central role the Irish SME community plays in our economic recovery.
Aside from her work with Hireland, Lucy has a huge wealth of experience marketing national and international brands. She lectures on social and not-for-profit marketing and has worked closely with the UCD Innovation Academy as an in-house entrepreneur and mentor. She has also been supported by Enterprise Ireland as a female founder of a high potential start up business.
She has an amazing track record of engaging communities around a big idea, building support and getting people on board. We’re looking forward to her bringing those skills to take Social Entrepreneurs Ireland to the next level.
Lucy has an infectious sense of optimism and an incredible passion for social entrepreneurship; the whole team here are extremely excited to start working with her.
Welcome on board Lucy!
Ahead of our annual Awards ceremony on the 12th November, we have asked some previous winners to share with us the progress of their organisations since receiving their SEI Award. Anam Cara won a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland award in 2008. Since then, they have expanded their services and supported more than 6,250 bereaved parents. Here Sharon Vard, CEO of Anam Cara explains how far they have come and their plans for the future.
This year Anam Cara is commemorating 7 years since the launch of our national organisation. In that time we have supported more than 6,250 parents following the death of their son or daughter. We do this through both our online and face to face support services.
Anam Cara was very fortunate to receive an SEI award in 2008. This was instrumental in allowing us to expand the organisation from the initial meetings in Dublin and Cork to eight parent support groups throughout the four provinces.Today we have nine active groups, meeting monthly and co-facilitated by a bereavement support professional and a parent volunteer. Professionals were introduced into the meetings in 2012 and their presence helps ensure a safe and comfortable forum for parents who are often in an extremely vulnerable place.
As well as our peer support meetings, Anam Cara also hosts Bereavement Information evenings andfamily remembrance and social events. Our website provides private online forums for both bereaved parents and adult siblings, as well as links to information and other resources in the community. We receive no state funding and rely on grants and donations to fund our services, all of which are offered free of charge.
“ You think you are the only person in the world feeling the loneliness and fear and pain. Then you find out you are not, and while they can’t take the pain away, it does lift the isolation.”
-Bereaved Mum, Dublin
The last year or so has seen Anam Cara move into new territory. We are proud to have co-founded the Family Bereavement Network in Europe, which brings together organisations across ten European countries. The network’s focus is to ensure the sharing of research, information and best practices across similar organisations in Europe, as well as advocacy at EU level for statutory leave for bereaved employees.
Bereaved parents are under financial pressure to return to work. Employers are under pressure to have a productive and efficient work force. Colleagues often feel awkward around the return of a co-worker to the work place who has experienced the death of a child, not knowing what to say or do, or how best to support them.
Recognising the dilemmas of these groups, in 2014 Anam Cara conducted a survey among parents in the Anam Cara Network on what helped/did not help them. The result is what we believe to be a unique and essential booklet: “Guidelines for Employers of Bereaved Parents”. It will be launched in November 2014 and distributed to employers throughout the country.
Every year some 2,500 families in Ireland experience the death of a child. The grieving process can last far longer than society realises. Anam Cara envisions that “every family throughout Ireland will have the relevant support services they need following the death of their child.”
To this end, our objectives for the coming year include increasing our reach so that face-to-face peer support services will be available within 75 miles of any bereaved parent in the country. We would also like to establish a bursary to provide counselling for bereaved siblings, though our ability to do this will depend on whether we can access much-needed funding.
A former SEI Awardee, Paul Mooney is the Co-Founder and Chief Executive of Jobcare – one of Ireland’s leading employment support organisations. In the build-up to our 2014 Awards on November 12th, Paul looks back on Jobcare’s 20 year history, and the role SEI played in their success.
This year we in Jobcare are celebrating our 20th anniversary – 20 years of skills development, of lives changed and of hope restored.
When I co-founded Jobcare in 1994, my conviction was that ‘Working Matters’. Yet the unemployment rate in Ireland stood at 15.1% and there were three generations of unemployment in some areas of inner city Dublin. Jobcare’s purpose was to help those people who were long-term unemployed to address their own barriers to employment and to secure suitable work. We knew that work would positively impact not just those individuals and their families, but their friends, communities and the economy as well. It was powerful to see that legacy of unemployment broken in families and a culture of work introduced to their children.
As the Celtic Tiger years took hold, with jobs in abundance, many of those long-term unemployed people secured work. However, I realised there were a group of people being left behind: those with a criminal record. That’s when I began to research and form the initiative that became Jobcare’s Trasna work programme – to provide work experience, training and support for ex-offenders, giving them the opportunity to forge a new path for themselves and their families and to re-establish themselves within society. As an SEI Awardee in 2007 (and later in 2009), I was so grateful for SEI’s recognition of our efforts and support in helping us launch this programme. This enabled us in January 2008 to establish an effective work programme tailored to the specific needs of this group, securing special funding from FAS for the first two years. We were able to provide a work programme of individualised coaching, training and education, centred round a framework of work. Since that time, over 100 ex-offenders have commenced Trasna with over 60% going onto work or full-time education. For most of these men and women, their time with Jobcare has been the longest period of time they have remained out of prison since their first sentence – only 9% have gone back to prison as opposed to the national average of 45% (the re-offending rate after three years).
We know that change is the only constant and the Irish economy certainly changed when we entered recession. The collapse of the construction industry meant a re-thinking and re-focussing for many of our Trasna participants. Funding cuts and a different jobs market meant Jobcare had to adapt in order to sustain the programme, including integrating our Trasna participants into the landscape of our other work programme.
Interestingly we were simultaneously seeing a new kind of jobseeker in the Irish jobs market – professionally skilled individuals and graduates who, because of the decline in the economic climate, find it difficult to secure work, yet have much to offer a potential employer. The impact of unemployment, of the sudden loss of income, of structure and of mental and emotional satisfaction that working brings, was having a profound impact on these individuals. In contrast to our original experience of people who were third-generation unemployed, we were now assisting people, many of whom were experiencing unemployment for the first time. And so we responded in 2011 by initiating and developing the Jobnet programme for professional and graduate jobseekers. Jobnet empowers jobseekers to market their skills and learn to network effectively to find employment. SEI again supported our initiative when Peter Johnson, our Jobnet manager, became an SEI Awardee for Jobnet in 2013. Of the 732 jobseekers who completed our first 16 Jobnet programmes, 62% have progressed to employment or further education.
So in the ten years of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, the journey Jobcare has taken with their support has fundamentally required innovation and enterprise in order to effectively meet the changing needs of the people we seek to impact. Jobcare’s Trasna programme does not currently look like we expected it would back in 2007. However, in exploring how to adapt the programme in response to the economic landscape and consequently integrating our work programme participants, we realised that we were in fact meeting a deeper need for these people. Our goal to reduce recidivism through meaningful employment and to support ex-offenders’ re-establishment within society is born out of their identifying skills, achieving goals, having self-esteem and hope restored and developing a new sense of themselves as people contributing to their families and communities. This re-framing of identity requires a reintegration, a levelling of the playing field, an equality of opportunity. By integrating our Trasna participants, they have the experience of working side-by-side, on an equal footing with other jobseekers from diverse backgrounds. Whether professionals, people with a disability or the “average” jobseeker, it quickly becomes apparent that everyone has their own individual challenges and that, with support, they can deal with these challenges and progress positively to work, hope and making a positive impact on those around them. Necessity may be the birthplace of change, but innovation can ultimately meet our original and core purpose.
It’s been busy year at GIY with over 50,000 people involved in their various campaigns and events, growing food at home, school, work and in the community. Here Michael Kelly (previous SEI Awardee) tells us some of his highlights.
Sow & Grow 2015
Our school programme Sow & Grow in association with innocent drinks will be back in 2015 for the 4th year running and plans are underway to make next year’s campaign even bigger and better. We are well on track to hit our target of 100,000 primary school children growing their own food for the first time as a lever to a healthier lifestyle by the end of 2015. What a milestone that will be. Keep a close eye on our website in coming months for more information on registering for Sow and Grow- last year the packs were all gone in 48 hours so you’ll need to be quick! We’ll also be announcing an exciting celebrity ambassador too so stay posted.
Diageo starts to GIY@Work
The Diageo team of ‘GIYers’ at St James’s Gate are joining a growing movement of corporate employees who are growing their own food in the workplace, and in the community, as a lever to improved health. Recent research studies concluded that time spent in the vegetable patch improves mental and physical health, mental agility, and immune system function. Diageo joins other ‘GIY@Work’ companies such as Aramark, Genzyme, Eirgrid, WLR FM and the National Rehabilitation Hospital in starting a new direction for healthier living. At Diageo, over 100 employees volunteered to help develop and plant the ‘St. James’s Gate GIY Garden’. The GIY@Work programme provides companies with a GIY garden and a mentoring programme to help employees to learn to grow food. If you would like more details for your workplace get in touch with Ronan Douglas (firstname.lastname@example.org).
GROW COOK EAT
October saw the launch of GIY’s new book ‘GROW COOK EAT’, written by founder Michael Kelly, and featuring recipes and contributions from over 35 of GIY’s favourite chefs, cooks and growers including Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall, Dylan McGrath, Donal Skehan, Darina Allen, Rachel Allen, Neven Maguire, Clodagh McKenna, Ross Lewis and Derry Clarke. It’s a ground-breaking book for anyone that wants to develop a deeper understanding of food – a comprehensive guide to the food year, that will help you to bring abundant, delicious food from plot to plate. All proceeds from the book, which is supported by Flahavans and Aramark, go to GIY to help us inspire and support a new generation of growers.
“GROW COOK EAT is that rare thing- a gardening book that doesn’t make the non-green fingered feel completely out of their depth and ready to throw in the trowel’. Marie Claire Digby, The Irish Times.
GROW HQ Fundit Campaign
Delighted to report that in September we hit target on our fundit campaign for GROW HQ! What a rollercoaster 7 weeks we had! It started strong, had a major lull in the middle (when honestly we were worried whether it would work out at all!) and then the BIG finish – in the end we hit our target with six days to go! Of course we never doubted it for a minute! The final total was €21,564, which was a phenomenal result and one of the larger crowdfunding campaigns in Ireland this year.
GROW HQ is GIY’s €1.5m national food education centre with a grow school, cookery school, homegrown food café and shop, and food gardens on a 3 acre site donated by Waterford City Council. It will be a place where people can immerse in the GROW COOK EAT lifestyle. If you would like to become a founding friend or sponsor a sod on the living roof at GROW HQ, we’d love to have you. Get over to www.growhq.org and help us make it happen. GROW HQ will open in 2015.
The 2015 David Manley Emerging Entrepreneur Awards are now open for Applications. Please click here to apply.
In 2002, the David Manley Emerging Entrepreneur Awards were established to nurture Ireland’s entrepreneurial spirit in the Business, Arts and the Social spheres. Since then, the awards have provided over €1 million in support to high-potential emerging entrepreneurs. This has been in the form of cash supports and through the gift of time from the awards partners who are listed below. All of our partners are leaders in the area of their particular business activity and, through their wide experience and professional expertise, they are in a position to make lasting impacts on the businesses of our award winners.
The David Manley Emerging Entrepreneur Awards are open to all Arts, Business and Social Enterprises that have been in operation for between 1 and 3 years.
3 finalists from each of the Business, Arts and Social spheres will be short-listed from all the applications received. In addition to having the opportunity to be a Category Winner and the Overall winner, each of the 9 finalists will receive free payroll and accounts software from Thesaurus, mentoring support from Enterprise Ireland’s Mentor Network and will have access to a series of 3 dedicated support workshops with industry experts in areas such as business strategy, marketing, PR, legal and finance.
There will be 3 category winners; 1 for Arts, 1 for Business and 1 for Social. Each category winner will receive a €1,000 cash prize.
1 Overall winner
The overall winner of the David Manley Emerging Entrepreneur Awards will receive €100,000 in professional mentoring and support from the award partners, plus a €10,000 cash prize.
Since 2002, the David Manley Emerging Entrepreneur Awards have provided over €1 million in support to high-potential emerging entrepreneurs in the Business, Arts and Social spheres. With eleven award winners to our name, we recently drew on their experience and expertise and asked: if there was one tip you would give a new entrepreneur, what would it be? See some of these tips below.
Simon O’Connor, Little Museum of Dublin (2014)
“Don’t be afraid to ask for help or support, assume you will have to hustle for every sale, diversify your financial risk as much as possible and never allow a lack of experience or knowledge get in the way of pursuing a seemingly impossible task – an expert is just amateur who decided to chance their arm” @dublinmuseum
Steven Menton, Archipelago (2013)
“Make sure you have all the administrative issues regarding the company, shareholdings, clearly defined roles and responsibilities set out from day one, agreed upon and understood by everybody involved. The temptation is to get excited and jump straight into business head first but you need to protect yourself and avoid unnecessary disagreements caused by different people’s expectations further down the line.” @archipelago_ie
Muireann Ahern Lovett, Theatre Lovett (2012)
“Be sure to bite off much more than you can possibly chew… and you will reap the rewards.” @theatrelovett
The deadline for applications is close of business Friday 3rd October. Click here to apply.
John Evoy of Irish Men’s Sheds Association has been involved in many projects. This has helped him identify some indicators of whether a project will be a success or a failure. He wrote this blog, in the hope that he might help others identify these indicators.
Over the last 10 years or so I have been involved in several non-profit projects; some have been fantastic, others have worked out OK and some have not worked at all.
During that time I’ve had a number of experiences which, upon reflection, were the moments when some of my best ideas took hold and began to flourish. I’m talking about early in a process when no one else can see anything special happening but there was a sense that something very important was happening. We have all closed deals, secured the funding or had a proposal accepted by the powers that be, but the occasions that I am referring to here are much less tangible than that. On just as many occasions there have been times when I felt that something was not right in a project and as I couldn’t clearly pinpoint the threat, I progressed only to eventually experience the failure. I often said to myself “I knew something wasn’t right” but at the time I didn’t act. It is so easy to identify all this is hindsight. Wouldn’t life be easier if we could catch these ‘tells’ in the moment?
There are so many sub projects that make up our organisations and we have new ideas all the time. We simply can’t run with all of them. We have to decide what to do and what not to do. There are all the usual major considerations such as budget, the risks involved and the potential contribution to the overall purpose of the organisation. I am writing this piece as an exploration, hoping to help myself identify if a project is going to be successful or not. Maybe it might help some of you guys too.
So what are the earliest signs of potential success or impending failure? I say potential success because so much more has to happen to ensure a successful project, such as hard work, determination and very often, a slice of good fortune.
Early signs of potential success
You get energised by talking or even thinking about the project.
The entire project is in line with your (& your organisations) values and ethos.
You would be happy to work on this project even if you never earned a cent from it.
Those you’ve spoke to and trust also think that it has great potential.
Others involved share the same vision, purpose and values.
Some parts of the project seem to fall into place synchronistically and people offer to help.
You seek out feedback and integrate the learning from the beginning of the project.
Your gut feeling or intuition tells you that you’re right track.
It’s a simple concept and people understand it the first time they hear about it.
Early signs of impending failure
You have that feeling that something’s not right but you progress anyway.
You have to continuously assess if the project breaks your value system.
You’ve chased the money – sometimes the conditions accompanying funding are too restrictive or lead you in the wrong direction.
You’ve ignored the advice of your trusted confidants / mentors.
Others are involved for personal gain or have an alternative agenda
The project is always hard work. You and team would prefer to be working on other stuff.
You are determined to “do it your way” and to stick rigidly to the original idea.
There is a lack of cooperation from on the team members, who all have different ideas about how to progress.
So much of the contemporary leadership and entrepreneurial teaching tells us how a certain amount of failure is an essential ingredient in the eventual success, but wouldn’t it be great to be able to identify if a project is doomed or has the potential to be great at the earliest possible moment.
- John Evoy, Irish Men’s Sheds Association http://menssheds.ie/
The International Men’s Sheds Conference “learning from down-under” is taking place October 3rd – 5th.
Today we’re launching an extensive report on social entrepreneurship in Ireland, looking at the current state of the sector, the use of social impact bonds in Ireland, and the development of a social impact measurement framework. This report, Social Entrepreneurship – Considerations for Policy Makers and Practitioners, was developed in partnership with the University of Toronto and represents a major piece of research into the Irish social entrepreneurship landscape. See the report’s introduction below and download your copy here – http://bit.ly/1kmswtf
Over the last 10 years, the social entrepreneurship sector in Ireland has seen remarkable growth. In 2004, social entrepreneurship, as a concept and a practice, did not exist in any formalised way in Ireland. Today, in 2014, there are a growing number of individuals self-identifying as social entrepreneurs and many actors active in both working directly with these social entrepreneurs and in helping build an ecosystem of support for this emerging sector. However, the social entrepreneurship sector is still young and many questions on how best to support its continued growth and maximize its positive impact, remain. It is within this context that the current reports have been compiled.
The genesis of this project came from a proposed partnership between Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. As Ireland’s largest organisation providing direct support to early stage social entrepreneurs, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland was well placed to identify some of the important questions that needed to be addressed in order to allow the sector to continue to grow both in terms of scale and, critically, impact. While acknowledging the important work being done on social entrepreneurship within the third level sector in Ireland, it was felt that having an international perspective could be of significant benefit in helping frame the questions, challenge assumptions and posit solutions. As one of the leading universities worldwide, the University of Toronto, provided the perfect partner, particularly given the presence of the Munk School of Global Affairs with its novel approach to teaching and research within the university. The Munk School speaks to the challenges of a changing world, something that resonates strongly with the approach and ethos of social entrepreneurs, and in its Masters of Global Affairs students it has an exceptional cadre of talented and insightful graduate students. From the point of view of the Munk School and its renowned Innovation-Policy Lab and its Social Innovation Centre, establishing this collaboration with Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, fits perfectly with the School’s goals of enhancing innovation and its positive distributional and social impacts on a global scale.
In terms of the specific research projects of the Masters in Global Affairs graduate students, there seemed to be a natural progression in the issues being addressed. Firstly, the question of how to continue the growth of the social entrepreneurship sector in Ireland was examined. It became apparent that continued, and indeed increased, policy support for the sector was vital.
- Thus the first project report focused on the state of the social entrepreneurship sector and how to improve it.
In order for social entrepreneurs to succeed, they require not only an enabling policy environment, but also, critically, sources of financing. Recent years have seen the development of alternative financing mechanisms for the not-for-profit and social enterprise sectors, in particular Social Impact Bonds (or as they are known in Ireland, Social Impact Investments).
- Therefore the second report focused on the potential of Social Impact Bonds as a viable alternative financing mechanism within an Irish context.
One of the critical components within Social Impact Bonds is a robust and measurable set of impact and outcome metrics, something that is of great importance not just to Social Impact Bond actors but also to social entrepreneurs and the organisations that support them, such as Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.
- And so the third report addressed the issue of how to design a social impact measurement framework for an organisation such as Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.
In compiling these three projects, we are not claiming that the issues addressed are the only, or even the most important, questions that the sector currently faces. Nor are we claiming that the conclusions reached are necessarily the correct ones. We do, however, feel that the issues addressed are important ones for the social entrepreneurship sector in Ireland and that the conclusions reached will allow for an informed discussion to take place amongst all actors in the sector as to the best way forward. We strongly believe this would be to the benefit not just of the social entrepreneurs in Ireland, but also to the benefit of the individuals and communities they serve.
Prof. Dan Breznitz
Munk Chair of Innovation Studies
Co-director Innovation Policy Lab
Munk School of Global Affairs
University of Toronto
Social Entrepreneurs Ireland
Download a copy of Social Entrepreneurship – Considerations for Policy Makers and Practitioners
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