While Ireland has been in the headlines for its work towards financial recovery, it has also made a significant contribution to the growth of social entrepreneurship.
Ireland is currently home to 1,400 social enterprises, which employ about 25,000 people, with an expected increase of 65,000 jobs in the next few years. The number of social entrepreneurs in the country has continued to increase as well, with much of the rise attributed to Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI).
The organization SEI was established in 2005 to support the growth of social enterprises. SEI believes that when a social entrepreneur is working on an innovative project, they should get the funding needed for the project to grow. By supporting these new solutions, SEI hopes that these entrepreneurs will be able to help as many people as possible.
Since 2005, it has invested a total of €5.4 million in the projects of 169 social entrepreneurs. SEI supports each project for up to 2 years. The projects SEI has supported have directly affected over 250,000 people across the country and have also created 850 jobs.
In regard to Ireland’s opportunity to become a leader in social entrepreneurship, SEI’s Head of Engagement Darren Ryan said, “There is so much potential and a conducive environment for social innovation; why couldn’t Ireland be the global leader in the development of social entrepreneurship?”
In order to support these social entrepreneurs, SEI has its annual Awards Programme, which awards funding to 9 social entrepreneurs out of about 200 applications. A number of the projects are centered on reducing unemployment and rural isolation and improving mental health.
In addition to its Awards Programme, SEI also has a Social Entrepreneurs Bootcamp and its Elevator Programme. The Social Entrepreneurs Bootcamp was created to help give support to rising social entrepreneurs.
The Elevator Programme entails 12 months of support and helps about 4 to 6 social entrepreneurs every year, in hopes of helping them to choose exactly what issue they want to focus on and figure out their solutions.
SEI expects that for any project it supports, the success rate will be between 50% and 75% or the failure rate will be between 25% and 50%, depending on when SEI chooses to invest.
In light of SEI’s predictions, Ryan said, “Anything higher than that and we will know we’re not taking enough risk. We want to ensure that we are always thinking big and looking for the ideas that have the potential to change Ireland.”
Along with the SEI, the global organization the School for Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) recently expanded to Ireland. The SSE offers courses to mentor and support social entrepreneurs.
The school holds study sessions that include witnesses, experts, and social enterprise visits. The school also offers Action Learning Sets, in which people have small-group discussions to talk about their ideas.
Another important feature of the SSE is its mentoring services, where the school chooses mentors for all of its social entrepreneurs. The mentors offer the budding entrepreneurs advice and guidance as well as additional information and support to help them in their projects.
With growing resources for social entrepreneurs, Ireland is likely to be a strong leader in helping solve some of the world’s biggest problems.
- Julie Guacci