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Derek McDonnell of Mojo – My First Follower Story

Posted by on September 29, 2016

Derek McDonnell of Mojo – My First Follower StoryDerek McDonnell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about Mojo Programme.

Awards 2016

No Better Investment

Posted by on October 12, 2015

No Better Investment

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.

Darren

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

“Count Me In” and Me

Posted by on September 23, 2015

“Count Me In” and Me

Niamh Crosbie, as the first ever recruit for the SEI “Count Me In” initiative, shares her experience volunteering with Sensational Kids. Working to bring affordable therapy services to children across Ireland, Niamh played an integral part in Sensational Kids recent fundraiser, the “Fairy & Elf Festival”. 


I spotted the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland ‘Count Me In’ campaign on social media and decided to sign up not really knowing what was involved. Looking back, I’m so glad I did!

SEI put me in touch with Sensational Kids in Kildare and I met Karen Leigh, CEO, to discuss how I could help. I started working on the PR and marketing for the charity’s 6th birthday party to help build the profile of the charity locally.

The next big challenge was to fundraise €20,000. Karen’s idea was to hold an “Enchanted Fairy and Elf Festival” at the Irish National Stud – an organisation which very generously gave all proceeds on the day to the charity. The event theme really captured the imagination on social media and in just a few weeks we had 2000 people attending on Facebook! Planning was key, so we met regularly with a journalist volunteer, Noel O’ Driscoll, to make sure the event would be a success.

“I really enjoyed volunteering with Karen Leigh- she is so passionate about Sensational Kids and her enthusiasm is infectious. ”

On the day of the event, the sun shone, the Gardai had to be called to direct traffic and a steady stream of people queued under the balloon arch and bunting in fairy, elf and superhero costumes – some parents more excited than their children. Over 70 people volunteered on the day, from the local ‘Silken Thomas Players’ drama group in costume to Newbridge Lions Club to stalwart supporters of the charity. There was an amazing camaraderie among the volunteers – people who had never worked together coming together to create this fairy wonderland. The result was worth all the planning – to see the excitement on the kids faces and the crowds having fun, and knowing you had played a part in it and for a good cause – not just for a corporate product launch, but a chance to help kids get the therapies they need to achieve their potential in life.

The final numbers were approx. 2500 attendees with €19,300 raised – a day to remember for all involved.

Check out Sensational Kids on their Facebook and Website

Sensational Kids Fairy + Elf Festival

4 reasons why investors need site visits

Posted by on August 14, 2015

4 reasons why investors need site visits

Our Policy and Innovation Manager, Eamonn Fitzgerald, looks at the importance of site visits to the SEI selection process, and why all funders should look beyond application forms and pitches to inform their investment decisions.

People have a tendency to assume that all funding decisions these days are made as per the Dragon’s Den formula. High pressure, time constrained, all-or-nothing pitching sessions. After all, you learn a lot about people in situations like that right? Wrong. There’s a reason less than half of the successful entrepreneurs on the show actually receive a penny!

Pitches are great, but they only tell you a part of the story. For the past couple of years, as part of the SEI selection process, we’ve decided to conduct site visits with the finalists competing for a place on our Impact Programme. We do this for the same reason we do anything in our selection process, and that’s the fact that it improves our decision making capabilities. It allows us to make more informed and effective investments.

The team at SEI is currently in the middle of our 2015 site visits, and so I wanted to take this opportunity to look at the information that these visits provide us with, and to build a case for why all funders, whether they be commercial or social, need to be doing this as part of their decision making process.

  

1. Due Diligence

Application forms are a useful way to enforce eligibility criteria, and to obtain key pieces of information about a project, but they’re not fool proof. There’s only so much you can articulate on paper. Site visits provide funders with a chance to literally see a programme in action, to observe the development of products or the delivery of services, and to fact check some of the information already provided. It can also inform whether or not the level of investment being requested is realistic, often proving a good indicator as to a project’s readiness for the level of funding involved. This increased level of understanding is crucial to funders – who are often unfamiliar with the nuances of particular social/environmental challenges.

2. Entrepreneur Engagement

Investments are about more than just the money. For it to be successful there needs to be a good working relationship between the entrepreneur and the funder. While pitching sessions are useful for meeting entrepreneurs face to face, site visits allow you to interact with an entrepreneur in a more traditional and real world environment. It allows you to discuss aspects of their project in a location they feel comfortable, and to see how they interact with other members of their team. All of this is far more representative of what a working relationship with them might look like, rather than the interrogation like pitches that we’re so used to seeing on TV.

3. Support Network

When we’re talking about growing and scaling an organisation, you need more than just the right entrepreneur behind the project. That entrepreneur needs a support network, and those individuals need to be valued as part of any selection process. Site visits give funding bodies a chance to meet and talk with staff members in charge of various aspects of the project, and to meet with board members overseeing the organisation to get their sense on the future direction of the project. It’s one thing to hear about the plans for an organisation from the entrepreneur themselves, but it’s another thing entirely to hear from the people tasked with delivering those plans.

4. Social Impact

We all love quantitative data when we talk about social impact, and application forms are a great place to articulate and display all those numbers and graphs, but in most cases the qualitative data is where the real game-changing impact is best demonstrated. Site visits are often a great chance to meet and interact with the beneficiaries of the projects in question. Hearing first hand their experience of an organisation, what’s worked well for them and what hasn’t, and the difference they’ve seen in their lives due to a particular intervention, can be the most powerful way to understand the impact potential of any early-stage project.

 

While site visits alone are not the answer, they do massively complement traditional selection process elements like application forms and pitches. So if you’re looking to improve your funding decisions I’d recommend getting out from behind that desk and hitting the road. You, and your fund, will be better for it!

7 things we learned building Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

Posted by on June 17, 2015

7 things we learned building Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

In this blog post Chief Executive, Darren Ryan, takes a look at some of the lessons learned after a decade of operation for Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is now ten years old and last year we celebrated the progress we’ve made in Ireland over that time and the incredible impact that the social entrepreneurs have had throughout the country.

Looking back over the ten years, it is really striking how the core purpose of SEI as an organisation has stayed broadly similar. From day one, the big question we asked ourselves was “How can we help the best social entrepreneurs to succeed?”

That’s still our core driver, but over time the structure of our programmes has changed quite substantially. This isn’t a surprise. Back in 2004 we were breaking new ground; most people in Ireland had never heard of a social entrepreneur, so figuring out how best to support them took some trial and error.

And so the early years served as a great learning experience for us, and every year we continue to make additional improvements in order to further increase the impact of the social entrepreneurs that we support. Here’s what we’ve learned so far:

 

1. The social entrepreneur is critical in early stage organisation

This is hardly a surprising insight from an organisation called Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, but over the years our initial hunch that great impact could be achieved by backing exceptional individuals has been proven time and time again.

This is a pretty standard approach in the commercial sector, with investors taking as much interest in the individual as the idea. However, it is relatively rare in the charity sector. In most funding applications, little time is spent reviewing the skills of the person leading the organisation and their capacity to deliver. This is something that needs to change in Ireland if we are going to get serious about solving our biggest social problems.

 

2. The social entrepreneur isn’t enough

While we were right to back the entrepreneurs behind an idea, we learned over the years that our support needed to have a broader focus than just working with one individual.

The scale of the problems they are trying to tackle means that they won’t be able to do it alone, and so we now work with them to build and develop a strong team who can support them. In some cases we help them to develop succession plans to ensure the long term future of the organisation. We’ve learned the truth in the old saying that ‘Lone wolves only succeed in the movies’.

 

3. From day one, we need to be thinking about our exit

Our model provides social entrepreneurs with an injection of funding and support at critical stages of their organisations to help them to increase their capacity, grow their impact and bring their organisations to the next level. And while we were always explicit about the fact that our support has a very clear end date (either one year or two years), we didn’t always prepare our Awardees enough for life without SEI.

We now start talking to our Awardees about our exit on day one of the support programme, supporting them to build the right connections, increase their focus on revenue generation and bringing on additional support. The last thing we want is for them to be propped up by us for two years and then fall off a cliff.

The evidence is that this approach is working. In 2014, for every €1 that we invested in a social entrepreneur, they raised an additional €4.64. This is hugely encouraging for us.

 

4. It’s not (just) about the money

When we started as an organisation we were fixing one part of the problem that social entrepreneurs face: lack of risk capital in the philanthropic world. We began by taking chances on early stage ideas that had huge potential but needed somebody to take a chance on them.

While this is still a critical part of our model, we quickly realised that the non-financial support we were providing to the Awardees was being valued more than the financial support itself. The Awardees were coming for the money of course, but they quickly realised that the key value of the SEI programme was the additional supports that we provided. These included everything from business planning, goal setting, governance support, coaching, mentoring and linking them in with an incredible network of other social entrepreneurs and our network of supporters.

Over the years we have invested further in this element of our programme to help the social entrepreneurs to build really well run organisations and increase their capacity to deliver in a sustainable and effective manner.

 

5. Failure is really hard

As an organisation that supports early stage organisations and takes a risk on projects before other funders will, failure is a key part of our business model. From day one we explicitly stated that we expected a certain percentage of our Awardees to fail. And in fact if we aren’t seeing a high enough failure rate, it means we aren’t taking enough risk.

Despite this openness to failure, when organisations fail it is still really, really hard. It still feels like failure, and you still question yourself and your decisions. All we can do is learn from these challenges and support the social entrepreneur through a very difficult time. And we work hard to ensure that it doesn’t affect our openness to taking that next big risk.

 

6. The best ideas have no guarantee of success

We are not solving our social problems quickly enough. And the sad fact is that there are many great potential solutions to some of our biggest problems that just haven’t scaled sufficiently. At SEI we’ve seen literally thousands of ideas presented to us, and have supported 179 of them over the last 10 years. Some of these have been absolutely fantastic ideas that are proven to be better approaches to what is currently provided.

Change is really hard. Even with a great social entrepreneur, with all of the support from SEI and our network, some of the best ideas can still struggle to gain traction.  This is deeply frustrating for us as an organisation.

But it points to the fact that we must do more to increase the likelihood of the best ideas succeeding. While working with the social entrepreneurs was a critical first step, we need to take the learnings from the past 10 years to change the system in which they are operating, to make the system more open to new ideas, to increase funding to early stage projects and to increase the focus on impact as the key driver of what programmes are implemented.

 

7. When social entrepreneurs succeed, they succeed big

We’ve learned that failure is hard, and that not all great ideas are guaranteed to succeed. But what keeps us going is seeing the incredible success stories that have come through the SEI Awards Programme. Some of the organisations that we supported are now nationally successful, driving

From the Irish Men’s Sheds, which now has over 6,000 men attending Sheds every week throughout the entire country, Pieta House which has become a leading national organisation, Grow It Yourself Ireland (GIY) which has become

Coder Dojo which is now active in 50 countries around the world,

Soar, Irish Community Rapid Response, Camara.

So when we receive applications from early stage social entrepreneurs. We know that they are just at the start of a journey that could impact lives all over Ireland. And that’s an incredible thing to be a part of.

On Setbacks

Posted by on May 18, 2015

On SetbacksOvercoming setbacks

This week was one of the most exciting weeks of the year here in SEI. After going through all 182 applications to our Awards Programme we selected the top 50 applicants who we will be bringing through to Social Entrepreneurs Bootcamp.

There is something magical about this stage of the selection process. We only get to see a snapshot of the projects, but the energy jumps off the page. The passion is infectious and the potential of each of these social entrepreneurs to make a difference in Ireland is huge.

So we’re looking forward to meeting the top 50 at the end of the month.

Unfortunately, for every social entrepreneur that we are bringing to Bootcamp, we had to turn away nearly 3 others. And that’s really hard. It’s hard for us to have to turn away people who are doing genuinely amazing things around the country. And no matter how much we stress that what they are doing is incredible, it is hard for them not to take this decision as rejection.

And so for any of the unsuccessful applicants out there, I’d urge you not to take this as too much of a setback. While our support can be really helpful, there are other ways to build your project. This is a time to roll up your sleeves and hopefully prove us wrong. We don’t have the monopoly on good ideas, and you don’t need to be chosen by us to develop a great idea and have a big impact in Ireland.

And there will always be setbacks if you’re an entrepreneur. The key thing is how you overcome them. Many of our Award Winners in the past few years had applied to us a number of times before they were successful. They took the learnings from the application process (we strive to give every applicant feedback at each stage of the process) and they worked even harder to develop their projects, so the next year they were that bit stronger.

So to all of you who were unsuccessful this year…keep in touch with us, keep the passion alive and hopefully this time next year we’ll be seeing you again with an even better project, even greater impact and even more ambition.

In the meantime, good luck!

6 interesting SEI application trends in 2015

Posted by on May 7, 2015

6 interesting SEI application trends in 2015

We say this a lot but…this is our favourite time of year! It’s true. Application season is an exciting time for the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland team. It provides all of us with the opportunity to see for ourselves what’s happening at the grassroots level in communities around Ireland. As our 2015 applicants wait to hear if they have made it onto the shortlist for this year’s Social Entrepreneurs Bootcamp, we wanted to take the opportunity to analyse some of the interesting trends from this year’s application process.

       

1. Social entrepreneurship leads on equality

The social entrepreneurship sector continues to outperform its more traditional commercial sibling when it comes to gender balance in start-ups. 55% of applicants to this year’s Awards were female entrepreneurs – that’s around 20% higher than the numbers associated with Ireland’s for-profit start-up space.

       

2. This social entrepreneurship thing is catching on!

With 27 out of the 32 counties submitting applications in 2015, social entrepreneurship is no longer confined to urban areas like Dublin, Belfast and Cork. While the capital still accounts for a large chunk of applications, it’s now significantly outnumbered by the rest of the island. Places like Galway, Limerick and Northern Ireland continue to account for more and more submissions every year.

2015 Geographic Spread

      
      

3. The social enterprise identity crisis.

This year we asked applicants to tell us if they considered their project to be a social enterprise, a charity, or if they even knew yet! The results were surprisingly one sided. 75% of all applicants to this year’s programme identified their project as a social enterprise, compared with just 15% for charities. While 3 out of every 4 might consider themselves a social enterprise, only 55% of applicants state that revenue generation is their main source of income, meaning that a lot of those social enterprises are still heavily reliant on fundraising.

      

4. Never do today what you can put off till the very last minute.

Despite having a 4 week window for submitting applications, the vast majority of the applications we received in 2015 were submitted in the last 48 hours. 82% of all applications were submitted in the last two days, with 74% coming in during the last 24 hours! If you’re struggling to understand what that looks like…

      Submission Rate Graph
     

5. No wonder these start-ups are hard to manage!

With the average age of the projects applying to our Awards Programme standing at just 2.8 years old – it’s no surprise they’re a lot of work! Have you tried reasoning with a 3 year old lately?

       

6. What’s good for communities is good for the economy.

Aside from the social impact generated by the projects in the communities they operate in, the start-ups that apply to our Awards Programme are also playing a crucial economic role themselves. The average turnover of an organisation applying to our 2015 Awards Programme was €135,385, and for that they typically employed 8 people in either full-time or part-time roles. However, they do still rely heavily on the generosity of others, with a typical project utilising around 35 volunteers on average as well.

        
       

While all of these numbers provide an interesting insight into the world of social entrepreneurship in Ireland, they don’t go nearly far enough in describing the true nature of the impact social entrepreneurs have on our society. We look forward to meeting some of these incredible individuals as our selection process progresses, and we can’t wait to introduce you to the ones that will become Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awardees this October!

Until then, watch this space…

Winning the Minnovation Fund

Posted by on April 15, 2015

TIS v3
Áine Rynne, Founder/Director Sober Sessions shares her experience of winning the Minnovation Fund in 2014. For your chance to apply for the Minnovation Fund, check out the details for the next Impact Series event on 28th April. 

“In September 2014, when I was one of three people short-listed to pitch for the Minnovation Fund at the ‘Innovation in Health’ talk as part of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland’s Impact Series, it really was the start of a new chapter for me. When I received that vote of confidence from the audience, it gave me a huge boost to keep Sober Sessions moving and keep on building momentum with confidence and determination.

Since then, things have been incredibly positive and with the help of the fund I have made some very worthwhile and much needed investments including a brand new printer, business mentoring, logo design and renewing my membership with Fumbally Exchange (www.fumballyexchange.com/). Without this fund, these developments simply would not have been possible and as anyone starting out knows, funding is always the most challenging aspect so it has been very much appreciated.

 In December, we hosted our second event for Sober Sessions with an album launch by Little John Nee and the Caledonia Highly Strung Orchestra at Bewley’s Cafe. This was a sell-out show and we had to turn people away – not bad for the height of 12 pubs of Christmas season and not a drop of beer to be had! There was such warmth and fun in the room that evening and I was very heartened to see how well people are responding to Sober Sessions. On foot of this, The Journal.ie did a piece about Sober Sessions and The Evening Herald featured us very prominently in an article about Dublin on the dry.

Sober Sessions is very much a labour of love for me. This time last year, I had this very simple idea – to offer people an alternative to the pub and club venue scene – I never expected a year later to have achieved so much in such little time. To see this idea flourish, get nurtured and take on a life of its own has been incredibly fulfilling. Live music is at the heart of this and no better place than Ireland to bring us amazingly gifted musicians to the fore and I will be making sure that Sober Sessions continues to grow.

Thanks to Social Entrepreneurs for giving me a platform to be able to do this.”

Áine Rynne, Sober Sessions

Sober Sessions offers a unique live music experience from contemporaries of Ireland’s thriving and diverse live music scene in cool unlicensed and intimate venues. For more information: https://www.facebook.com/SoberSessions

The Minnovation Fund

If you are an early stage social entrepreneur with a great idea to change Ireland, The Minnovation Fund could be the seed fund that will get your idea off the ground! So each night at The Impact Series events, The Minnovation Fund (which will comprise all ticket proceeds) will be up for grabs. The next event in The Impact Series will take place on 28th April in Smock Alley Theatre.

If you feel you have an idea that you would like to develop further, check out how to apply to pitch for the next Minnovation Fund here: http://theimpactseries6.eventbrite.ie

An Optimistic Future

Posted by on December 19, 2014

An Optimistic Future

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.

Darren Ryan

Chief Executive, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

The Possibilities for Social Intrapreneurship

Posted by on November 27, 2014

The Possibilities for Social Intrapreneurship

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 info@menssheds.ie 

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.” [1]

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[2] 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 info@menssheds.ie if you have any thoughts on this topic.

John Evoy,

Irish Men’s Sheds Association,

www.menssheds.ie

[1]http://www.investopedia.com/terms/i/intrapreneurship.asp

[2] http://www.soar.ie

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Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, Lower Ground Floor, 11/12 Warrington Place, Dublin 2
Phone: +353 1 685 3191, Email: info@socialentrepreneurs.ie

Company No: 433846, Registered Charity No: CHY 17524, © SEI 2016

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