Slow Things Down
“Slow down. Take stock. Decelerate.”
Not the typical thing you’d expect to hear from an organisation like Social Entrepreneurs Ireland perhaps. We are set up to scale the best solutions for social problems around Ireland. We support projects that have the potential to take an idea and replicate it elsewhere. After all, if we have found a solution to a problem in Wicklow, shouldn’t we be implementing this in other counties around Ireland? If we have found a more effective or more efficient way of doing something, shouldn’t more people benefit from the positive impact?
And it is a core trait of all entrepreneurs that they want to grow and develop their idea, to reach as many people as possible, to impact upon the world. As Steve Jobs said, entrepreneurs want to ‘make a dent in the universe’.
At Social Entrepreneurs Ireland we love that attitude. Our slogan is ‘Think Big. Act Now. Change Ireland’ and it is because of this passion and the potential to significantly impact Ireland that we work with social entrepreneurs.
But over the last 10 years we have learned that all of this should come with a small note of caution. The rush to scale projects, to work with more people and to increase your impact, while totally understandable, is potentially counter-productive. Our experience has taught us that often what some of the most exciting projects need is a period of deceleration before they can think seriously about acceleration.
Getting the Model Right
Before you can deliver a solution at scale, it is vital to delve deeply into the core service, product or solution that you are delivering. And once that is clear, the scaling model needs to be clearly developed and defined before starting to roll it out. We have seen it many times that early success is seized upon and attempts are made to replicate something before it is ready. And the danger is that a really powerful idea might fail and as a result be written off.
Is your model scalable? Is it sustainable? Can you replicate the core elements of it or is it dependent on the actions of a few key individuals? Do you have the capacity to deliver at a bigger scale?
At SEI we now take a lot of time at the beginning of the Awards Programme to work through all of these things with the entrepreneurs, and only move to scaling conversations once the fundamentals are in place.
Another challenge that we have seen in recent years is that big, exciting ideas often receive a huge amount of attention very quickly. In particular, projects led by young social entrepreneurs can receive a lot of interest from media, potential partners and supporters. While this support and coverage is potentially transformational for the entrepreneur, the risk is that they may become over-exposed, they may burn out, or they may just be distracted by all of the noise, events and attention, to the detriment of their projects. In these cases they may not fulfil the early potential that their projects have.
Learnings for SEI and for Social Entrepreneurs
Indeed, this is a challenging issue for us in SEI, as our Awards Programme celebrates these social entrepreneurs quite publicly. It is a constant challenge for us to find the right balance between protecting the social entrepreneurs and showcasing their work. I’m not sure we’ve always gotten it right but we are constantly working on it.
Over the years at SEI we have changed and adapted our approach and now have a much more nuanced approach to how we work with social entrepreneurs. We are very conscious that sometimes the best thing we can provide a project is to give them permission to decelerate for a while, to take a breath, to take stock, to slow down, so that when they do choose to scale, they are ready to give it absolutely everything.
Aviva Cohen of Neuro Hero launching her new app with Minister Sean Sherlock, TD
Congratulations to SEI Award Winner 2012 Aviva Cohen who recently launched ground-breaking speech and language therapy apps for stroke and brain injury survivors
The apps (for IoS and Android) will provide affordable home-based therapy solutions for families whose loved ones have communication difficulties arising from stroke, brain injury and a range of other conditions.
We were delighted to see Minister Sean Sherlock TD, who was recently announced as the Minister with responsibility for social enterprise, launch the four Talk Around IT apps.
Finalists Announced in 2013 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards
8 Innovative Organisations to Compete for €500,000 Cash, plus an Additional €250,000 in Support
The eight finalists in the 2013 Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) Awards, sponsored by DCC, have been announced at a reception in Dublin today. The Awards celebrate and support Ireland’s brightest and most ambitious entrepreneurs with game changing ideas to solve the social problems facing Ireland.
The finalists are; John Evoy of Irish Men’s Sheds Association, Krystian Fikert of MyMind, Natasha & Toby Haslam Hopwood of The Galtee Clinic, Peter Johnson of Jobnet, Graham Jones of Solas Project, John Kearney of Irish Community Rapid Response, Brian McCormick of Adtruism and Mags Mullarney of Move4Parkinson’s. Each of the eight social entrepreneurs head young organisations that are employing innovative approaches to help effectuate major social change in Ireland in areas as diverse as healthcare, local emergency services, unemployment, charity fundraising, the children’s care system and the prison and probation system.
The finalists will now embark upon a three month programme of support and evaluation, designed to help them to clearly define the problem they are trying to address and refine their solution. They will receive in depth support and professional consultation before the announcement of the 2013 Award winners in October. Three Social Entrepreneurs will be awarded the top level “Impact Award” and €130,000 in direct funding with over €70,000 worth of support over two years. A further five will receive the “Elevator Award” and €22,000 in direct funding with over €10,000 worth of support over one year.
Will it be you?
The Most Exciting Time of the Year?
“Think Big. Act Now. Change Ireland.” We throw out the call to people all over the country. If you have an innovative solution to a societal problem in Ireland, we want to hear from you. We want you to tell us how your solution has the potential to change Ireland. And we don’t just want to hear about it. We want to help you to make it happen.
This year alone we have raised a fund of €500,000 in cash to give away and a further €250,000 in practical supports and training. At a time when funding elsewhere is being cut, this investment in innovative solutions is more important than ever.
The purpose of the application process is to attract the very best entrepreneurs who are tackling social problems throughout Ireland. Read More
Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is now open for applications for this year’s Awards Programme, with a total cash fund of €500,000 to support individuals with new solutions for social challenges in Ireland.
The Awards Programme will see eight social entrepreneurs selected to partake in one of our two support Programmes: the Impact Programme and the Elevator Programme. Three social entrepreneurs will be selected for the Impact Programme and will each receive direct funding of €130,000 over two years, as well as over €70,000 worth of training, mentoring and support.
Five social entrepreneurs will be selected for the Elevator Programme and will each receive direct funding of €22,000 over one year, as well as over €10,000 worth of training, mentoring and support.
The deadline for applications is Monday 18th February. Full details of the application process, eligibility criteria and an overview of the Awards Programme can be found online at www.socialentrepreneurs.ie.
An Information Evening will be held on Tuesday 29th January at 6.30 pm in the Waterways Ireland Visitor Centre, Grand Canal Quay. Previous Awardees will share their experiences and the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland team will be available to answer any questions you may have about the application process. Please register your interest in attending at http://seiawards2013infoevening.eventbrite.ie.
Timeline of the birth of a Social Entrepreneur
By Myles McCorry
Step 1: Elation of idea. Can’t get over your own brilliance. (2 weeks)
Step 2: Talk yourself into resolving the problem. Feel like Gandhi. (4-5 weeks)
Step 3: HOW?? Feeling low, as you have told your partner and committed yourself – and only now do you see how tall the mountain that you have chosen to climb is. But you do it any way. (7 weeks)
Step 4: A friends son does you a web site and you feel like you are Kofi Annan Presiding over the UN for 20 minutes. The idea has legs and you are running.
Step 5: You realize it is not actually financially viable or someone (anyone!) would have done this before (5 days). You trip and fall – but get up stronger.
Step 6: Who can give me money; sure it’s a good cause. (This lasts from that point for the whole duration of the project)
Seán Love receiving the 2011 Impact Award
12 months on from Winning a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact Award, Seán Love from Fighting Words reflects on his time so far as an Awardee.
The SEI Awards process feels a bit like a graduation, and my experience last year was that the previous award winners came across as modest, confident, wise and generous. A bit like your slightly older friend/brother/sister, who’s been there already, trying to reassure you that “it’ll all be grand”. There is no training for the role. I was certain last year the Frances and Dara were operating from a script, but, if so, Annalisa has forgotten to forward it to me. This year, being cast in that role of “elder” myself, I hope I measure up for this year’s awardees.
12 months on…
Fighting Words has had a great 12 months since receiving an Impact Award from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI). We’ve hosted another 10,000 students over the past year in free creative writing workshops and courses; and, on the basis of the applications we receive, we know we could fill 4 centres around the country, every day, on an ongoing basis.
A short message to the new Award Winners from Michael Kelly of GIY Ireland, 2011 Impact Award Winner.
It was very strange being at the awards on Oct 18th and being there as an alumni, rather than an awardee! At the same time, it was nice to be there and not to have a sick feeling in the stomach as I did the previous year! A huge congrats to all the awardees – all of your projects are simply awe-inspiring. Congrats also to the SEI team on pulling off another incredibly inspiring event – as is always the case with SEI gigs, I returned to the GIY trenches feeling reinvigorated and re-inspired.
Ireland is in a state of flux. This is an age of dislocation where the ground beneath our feet has rarely seemed less solid. Many of our traditional institutions and structures have lost credibility and significance. Fault lines have started to appear throughout Irish society, young vs. old, public vs. private, rural vs. urban. And the economic crisis has resulted in cut backs and unprecedented pressure being placed on the not-for-profit sector, the critical services they provide and the communities they serve. Yet in a state of flux come opportunities for great change. Opportunities to reimagine a country, rewrite a society, re-evaluate priorities and renew a shared vision for the future.
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