Social enterprises are businesses whose core objective is to achieve a social, societal, or environmental impact. They frequently work to support disadvantaged groups such as the long-term unemployed, people with disabilities, travellers, etc., or to address issues such as food poverty, social housing, or environmental matters.
There is a wide spectrum of social enterprises in Ireland, from local community-based enterprises to larger enterprises, some of which trade internationally. They create employment and support many Government policy objectives in areas such as labour market activation, health care and the environment.
Like other businesses, social enterprises pursue their objectives by trading in goods and services on an ongoing basis. However, any surpluses generated by social enterprises are re-invested into achieving social objectives, rather than maximising profit for their owners.
Their primary focus on social impact sometimes makes it difficult for social enterprises to gain access to the type of supports that are available to other enterprises to develop and grow.
(2) Growing and Strengthening Social Enterprise and
(3) Achieving Better Policy Alignment.
It sets out a series of 26 commitments on the part of Government across these Objectives for the development of social enterprise over the period 2019-2022. These commitments will be delivered in partnership with social enterprise stakeholders.
A commitment to build on the National Social Enterprise Policy 2019-2022 is integral to the Programme for Government published in June 2020.
The Social Enterprise Policy has been developed following extensive consultation with stakeholders and with the general public. During 2017 and 2018, research work was carried out by the Department in collaboration with the Social Finance Foundation.
This research included a number of stakeholder workshops and an on-line survey to get the views of those who are involved in social enterprise.
In 2019, following further consultation, the Department published a draft Policy for public consultation. 114 submissions
were received, all of which were considered in finalising the policy.
National Social Enterprise Policy Implementation Group
The primary role of the National Social Enterprise Policy Implementation Group (NSEPIG) is to oversee implementation of the National Social Enterprise Policy 2019-2022. The group is made up of key representatives of Government Departments, public bodies and social enterprise stakeholders.
The Awareness Strategy Sub-Group (ASSG) of the National Social Enterprise Policy Implementation Group was established in May 2020. Its main purpose is to develop a social enterprise awareness strategy.
The Department of Rural and Community Development is committed to holding an annual social enterprise conference for all stakeholders. The aim of the conference is to:
• Provide networking opportunities
• Circulate information
• Share best practice examples
• Inform policy implementation and future policy development
The first National Social Enterprise Conference was hosted by the Department of Rural and Community Development on 21st November 2019.
Over 200 stakeholders from the social enterprise sphere met to discuss social enterprise in Ireland. The conference theme was “Unlocking the transformational potential of Social Enterprise in Ireland”.
Supports for Social Enterprises
Since the establishment of the Department in 2017, specific supports for social enterprises have been provided through the Social Enterprise Measure of the Dormant Accounts Fund
. Funding has been provided to approximately 300 organisations. The total amount allocated under this Measure since 2017 is €6.555 million. Details of the funding made under the Social Enterprise Measure of the Dormant Accounts Fund can be found in the links below:
Funding is also provided to social enterprises under for the Social Enterprise Development Fund, which was established in 2018 by Re Think Ireland
(Formerly Social Innovation Fund Ireland (SIFI)) in partnership with Local Authorities Ireland. Each year the Rethink Ireland releases €400,000 in cash grants in addition to a range of non-financial supports.
Social enterprises can also benefit from funding under a number of other programmes, including the Community Services Programme (CSP), Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP) and LEADER.
Supports Table for Social Enterprises
In line with one of the commitments in the Social Enterprise Policy, the Department of Rural and Community Development has published information on the various business supports available to social enterprises. This list provides details of financial and non-financial sources of support, from both public and private organisations. Click here
to access the list.