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
Ulster Bank – Business Achievers Awards
Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is proud to have Ulster Bank as the corporate partner of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland’s Alumni Network. Ulster Bank is committed to entrepreneurship. Currently Ulster Bank is running their ‘Business Achievers Awards’. The awards cover a range of business categories; we’re delighted that this includes a Social Enterprise award too.
“Celebrating your business success”
The Ulster Bank ‘Business Achievers Awards’ celebrate the spirit of the excellence and innovation that are the hallmark of our most successful entrepreneurs.
Open to businesses across the Island of Ireland regardless of size, location, sector or turnover, the Awards recognise and reward entrepreneurial success and achievement across the Island.
The overall winner will receive a comprehensive reward package including a €50,000 publishing bursary with the Irish Independent or Belfast Telegraph, business mentoring from Enterprise Ireland, a full service communications workshop, a business laptop and a specially commissioned ‘Business Achievers Award’ trophy.
This year’s categories are:
1. Business Start Up Award
2. Small Business Award
3. Established SME Award
4. International Business Award
5. Social Enterprise Award
6. Food & Drink Award
7. Agri-Business Award
8. Women Led Business Award
You can enter a maximum of two categories per business. The awards are open for entries until 26th September 2014.
What happens when I enter my business?
- All entries are judged by a provincial panel
- Three companies in each category will be short listed for the four provincial finals in October 2014.
- There will be one winner per category in each provincial final and they will receive a ‘Business Achievers Award’ Provincial Trophy and media profiling.
- All provincial category winners are judged by our national judging panel
- These companies will also be invited to our National Awards event in December 2014
- Eight all-island category winners will be announced and they will receive a ‘Business Achievers Award’ National Trophy and media profiling.
- One of our eight category winners will become the overall Ulster Bank Business Achiever 2014.
Once you complete the application process, there are also opportunities for your business to benefit from:
- Extensive national and local media coverage through our media partners, the Irish Independent and the Belfast Telegraph.
- Sell, pitch and gain insights from some of Ireland’s leading entrepreneurs and industry experts.
- Network and promote your company at our provincial and national awards ceremonies
- Gain access to a focused business forum for like-minded entrepreneurs through www.smallbusinesscan.com
All this information and more is available at www.businessachieversawards.com
Terms and conditions apply.
Our CEO Sean Coughlan has decided after 10 years that it is time for a fresh start for both himself and Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. Sean will be leaving us in August to take up the exciting new position as CEO of Boards.ie. While we are all very sad at Sean’s departure, we are excited for what the future holds with Darren Ryan as the newly appointed CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. Here Sean explains in his own words his new venture and optimism for the future.
I just wanted to let you know that after 10 incredible, inspiring and exciting years of setting up and running Social Entrepreneurs Ireland I am planning to leave this summer and pass on the baton to a new leadership team who will guide SEI through its next phase of development.
The last 10 years have been an amazing journey and I am immensely proud of what we have built in SEI. Through working with our amazing social entrepreneur awardees, we have helped change the lives of literally hundreds of thousands of people. And we have played a key part in the development of a social entrepreneurship movement that is now a vibrant and growing force for good in communities throughout our island. To have achieved this level of success and impact is the work of many rather than the few, and I would like to thank each and every one of our supporters, friends, partners, staff, board and (constructive!) critics who have been such a crucial part in our growth and success. There are too many to mention in an email such as this, but you know who you are, so a deep and heartfelt thank you for everything you’ve done during my tenure with SEI.
There is one group in particular that I would like to specifically mention – our amazing awardees. Our job in SEI is to support and help them on their journey. At times we have got it right and other times we have got it wrong, but on balance I believe that we have had a hugely positive impact. That said, we know our work pales in comparison to the work that the social entrepreneurs do. They show a commitment, courage, passion and steely determination that is breath taking. Every one of them is a hero.
So what next? Well the first thing is that SEI will be left in very good hands. I am leaving at a time when we have an exceptional team in place who are dedicated, passionate and committed to helping the best social entrepreneurs to succeed. And I am delighted to announce that Darren Ryan has been appointed my successor as CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. Darren is one of the most impressive talents I have come across throughout my career, he is SEI through and through and I know that the organisation will go onto even bigger and better things with Darren at the helm.
And as for me, I am very excited to be taking up the role of CEO of boards.ie (www.boards.ie). boards.ie is Ireland largest community website. With over 70,000 daily active users, boards.ie allows people to discuss topics that are interesting and important to them and in doing so can, at times, help shape the national conversation. It is a great business with lots of potential and I am really looking forward to the new challenge.
So, as with all things, there comes a time when it is time to move on, time to hand over. I really feel that for me and for SEI this is the time. The future is bright and as I pass over to Darren I do so with a sense of pride, optimism and excitement for the future of SEI.
Thanks again for everything!
Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is running a governance workshop with some of its Awardees this month, facilitated by legal and governance experts. Ahead of that workshop, we wanted to ask the question, what is it that makes good governance so crucial?
The importance of good governance for social enterprises and charities cannot be overstated. With good governance comes oversight, public trust and the ability to mitigate against many of the risks an organisation may face.
To a start-up organisation it can appear to be nothing but a hindrance and a drain on scarce resources. However, there is a pertinent time in the development of an organisation for which different aspects of governance can and should be meaningfully applied. This is recognised by the many voluntary codes of governance available, such as that of www.governancecode.ie which is tailored to organisational size and turnover, with different expectations placed on different types of organisations depending on the criteria they meet.
There can be a lot of confusion about governance requirements and best practice, especially in Ireland where a Charity Regulator is not yet in operation (though it soon will be. So, what exactly does it involve?
‘Governance’ refers to how an organisation is run, directed and controlled. Good governance means an organisation will design and put in place policies and procedures that will make sure it runs effectively. But good governance is not only about rules. It is an attitude, whereby organisations aim to act with integrity and to meet their responsibilities to both supporters and beneficiaries.
Governance encompasses a wide variety of functions of an organisation, such as the means by which it runs and how roles are defined, its risk management, and the mission, purpose and values of an organisation. The board members of a social entrepreneur-led project will play a large role in these matters, and need to extend oversight to the organisation as a whole.
Good governance requires transparency and accountability to stakeholders, two words which are often used interchangeably but which in reality have very different meanings. If an organisation aims to be accountable, it needs to report to its shareholders on the outcomes of its work rather than simply on its outputs. It can do this through more narrative reporting, but in order to be transparent its reporting and accounting need to be outlined in a particular way so it can be compared to other organisations and its governance can be benchmarked. This is a particular problem faced by ‘not for profit’ organisations in Ireland; where financial reporting can take many different variations. The Statement of Recommended Practice (SORP) for financial reporting is used in the UK and regarded as best practice for Ireland, and something similar may soon be required under law by the Charities Regulator.
It may at first seem like a huge uphill struggle, but putting the appropriate governance structures in place will ensure an organisation is ready to grow and behave with integrity and openness. Recent failures of governance within the Irish ‘not for profit’ sector have damaged public trust and shown the need for good governance principles to be adopted by all social enterprises and charities, to the best of their ability.
You can find details of governance requirements for your particular organisation here; www.governancecode.ie
Written by Gina Kelly, Intern with Social Entrepreneurs Ireland
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