The Rise of a Social Enterprise in Ireland

So many times before, I have heard of the chance a social enterprise uprising. A dawn of a new era. And I never quite know if then or now is the time. But, something in the air is changing in Ireland and there feels to be a new chance for social enterprise to shine.

A view of the Liffey in Dublin at night

The past

For a time Ireland was the envy of the world. We elected a government that installed a ‘Social Enterprise Minister’. It was a junior ministry. There was no permanent civil servant attached. For that matter, there wasn’t even money, but there was an air of opportunity. Our Scottish cousins, our Northern Ireland brothers and sisters, all spoke of how envious they were of such an exalted position in cabinet. But we held our tongue. We did so because we knew, it was not the endorsement we thought it was. It was, token.

That ministry came and went. A cabinet reshuffle was the death knell and for a good year or so, no mention of the words ‘social enterprise’ ever made it past the lips of important people in control of the state. A few people were given some calls, and our second ministry position appeared. This time under the same conditions. No senior civil servants. No measurables. No money.

The Present

That last position didn’t last. Primarily because of an election and the said junior minister not being reelected. All doors lead to nowhere. But a new development has started to occur.

A range of political parties are all taking up the challenge. Their knowledge of the sector is fragmented and a lot would prefer to work on other things, but there is now a new minister, not with the title, but with the portfolio of social enterprise. Each party has legislation on the books that they would like to see them passed. A lot of it we have been asked to step in on. A lot of it is rough. But it looks promising.

A new strategy will be developed. A new fanfare. A lot of new buzz with people who want to get their heads around the concepts. But for now, we are still talking.

Future

So how do we move from talk to action? What can be done to implement change. What can be started that will have most impact?

I think a lot. For starters, Ireland is a phenomenal training ground for companies with good mission. We have supported charities at home and abroad. We endorse financial cooperatives to a greater extent than any other country on earth. We have green fields, incredible tech and while we suffer from intense social challenges, there feels like there is air to breathe.

Our work in socent.ie and bcorp.ie will continue. Our mission is the same as it always was and we want to create a difference.

So how best to we pull the levers of our democracy to unleash the huge potential of social enterprises and their like. Our journey has started, we shall see how well we do this time. Round 3, bring it on.