Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland was founded in 2004 with the objective to “solve social problems in Ireland. Giving entrepreneurs with the best ideas the resources and skills to turn them into reality. Back then, social entrepreneurship in Ireland was unknown.”, says Siobhán O’Keefe, Impact Associate at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. “We provide our awardees with direct funding and lots of support from the position of a critical friend.”

Alumni Wall at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland's offices in Dublin, copyright: Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

Alumni Wall at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland’s offices in Dublin, copyright: Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

And the numbers back their success story. Through their awards programs they have worked with 179 social entrepreneurs since 2004; these entrepreneurs have directly impacted the lives of approximately 45,000 beneficiaries. In those ten years, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland has grown from one to eight staff, was involved in setting up the Arthur Guinness Fund committing €2.5 million investment into social entrepreneurs in Ireland (2009), and has had several Presidents of Ireland speak at their Award ceremonies. So much for building an ecosystem and raising visibility of social entrepreneurship in Ireland.


The elevator program provides up to six early-stage social entrepreneurs with direct funding of €20,000, training and support from the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland team over the course of twelve months. It is designed to give participants the opportunity to refine their ideas and set up the key structures to develop into a sustainable and scalable organisation. Their Impact Program is geared towards established entrepreneurs. Each year, they select up to three social entrepreneurs to support them through direct funding (€ 100,000), along with direct support from the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland team, pro-bono support from partners and access to other low-cost training opportunities. Depending on the individual needs of each participant, the Impact Program works with social entrepreneurs to help them scale and grow their ventures over a period of two to three years.

Bootcamp at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

Bootcamp at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, copyright Social Entrepreneurs Ireland

“For our programs, we look for social entrepreneurs who address a societal issue through a new approach. Participants of the Elevator Program must at least have done a pilot. For the Impact Program, we look for social entrepreneurs whose businesses are already up and running, and now need support in growing their enterprises.” Siobhán explains. “A key aspect we pay attention to is building a strong team around the entrepreneur: We focus on developing the leadership skills of our participants to enable them gather a community around them, to create a following if you want. They can’t do it all by themselves. The entrepreneurs  are as solid as the teams around them.”



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