Social Entrepreneurship in Ireland

I was glad to hear the contribution from The One Foundation and the projects it has funded this week in the Seanad. From the outset, I have to praise The One Foundation and Social Entrepreneurs Ireland for the work that they do. I have attended their awards in the past and I have to say I am a big fan of the type of work they do and the type of thinking they encourage – from CoderDojo to GrowItYourself and many more besides, social entrepreneurship is good for enterprise, good for business and good for society and I commend The One Foundation for facilitating it to take place in Ireland in such a meaningful well-funded way.

Now that The One Foundation is concluding its ten-year tenure this year, I believe that we need to work to ensure the viability and survival of many of its projects and make sure that they are self-sustaining and can look after themselves.

The One Foundation’s four core programmes – children and families, youth mental health, integration and social entrepreneurship – are all areas that, now more than ever, need great attention. Youth mental health, as we have spoken of time and again in this chamber, continues to pose great challenges to our society and we must strive to improve in this area while also applauding any organisations who attempt to help. BelongTo has done a great deal of work in the youth LGBT area and is another organisation that I must highlight for their work which has had the subsequent effect of helping young people, many of whom may feel isolated at times, have a safe, friendly environment – it’s an invaluable service.

The sums committed by The One Foundation to date – some €72m, of which 95% has been spent in the Republic of Ireland – is nothing short of extraordinary. Private philanthropy on this scale is a rare and wonderful thing, yet there are also gaps in the market for the Government to encourage private philanthropists to, perhaps, come together with smaller sums and create their own version of the One Foundation which could continue this great work. The Government could provide the frame within which philanthropists give or invest. In any case, I believe that we should be working to ensure continuity of the great work of The One Foundation.

It goes without saying that the Government would find it difficult to plug a gap of circa €70m over 10 years. However, it is not beyond our scope, I believe, to allow people to come together and pledge a sum each per annum to create a ‘fund’ of a near-equivalent value.

Going back to the impact that has been had by The One Foundation, one figure that jumps out to me is the analysis that in 2012 for every €1 directly invested in social entrepreneurs supported by Social Entrepreneurs Ireland they managed to raise an additional €10.83 in a 12 month period thereafter, generating growth in their activities and also contributing to their impact on society and to economic activity within their operational regions. In total, 200,000 people have been impacted while over 800 people have been employed.

The One Foundation has consistently shown throughout its existence that, sometimes, doing the right thing is smart, and I hope that we can now embed this philosophy into our society and ensure continuity of their great work.

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