Social entrepreneurs awarded €100,000 for community input

Wed, May 23, 2012, 01:00

TEN ENTREPRENEURS who are tackling social issues such as unemployment in new and innovative ways will today be awarded financial and business support worth up to €100,000 each.

The Arthur Guinness Fund will give a total of €750,000 in funding over the next two years to groups and individuals who are developing a range of socially minded businesses in areas such as job creation, expert advice for jobless people and mental health support.

It is another sign of growth in self-sustaining social ventures that can benefit communities and wider society.

While some question the ability of social enterprise to provide solutions that are sustainable and scalable, a new generation of business people are demonstrating how inventiveness and commitment can successfully address social problems.

In a sign of its growing popularity in Ireland, the Arthur Guinness Fund received some 440 applications from social entrepreneurs all over Ireland for financial and business support.

Over a two-year programme, the 10 entrepreneurs will receive between €50,000 and €100,000 each, depending on whether they are new “start-up projects” established in the past two years, or “take-off” projects which are at a more advanced stage. Among the groups chosen are:

* Worklink, a volunteer-led employment support network that has been formed to assist jobseekers move into full-time employment;

* Raising and Giving Ireland, a group which believes in creating a new engaged and empowered student body that is active in shaping the future of Ireland;

* Neuro Hero, which is is developing a suite of apps to improve the lives of people with speech difficulties;

* Hireland, which encourages job creation for Ireland’s skilled unemployed through collective entrepreneurship and positive thinking;

* Restaurant 180, which provides training opportunities to young people with learning disabilities;

* Ireland Reaching Out, which wants to connect people of Irish heritage around the world in a way that creates economic, social and cultural benefits for Irish people everywhere.

* The Centre for Creative Practices, a multi-purpose venue, says it is the only arts centre in Ireland dedicated to connecting, integrating and promoting immigrant, experimental and emerging artists through its various programmes.

David Smith, Diageo Ireland’s director, said the 10 entrepreneurs were chosen because of their “outstanding potential to make a genuinely positive impact on Irish society”.

The fund links financial support with business mentoring, working with people to bring their projects and ideas to the next level. “We’re proud to help them succeed in this work. In these challenging economic times, we’re delighted to be able to help society change for the better in communities across Ireland,” Mr Smith said.

Rothar: ‘we’re just not a “hippy” project’

Rothar refurbishes abandoned bicycles, reducing the amount of old bikes going to landfill. It also trains and employs people who are long-term unemployed as bike mechanics in its shops.

Anne Bedos, who previously worked in the charity and community development sector, founded Rothar 2008 in a bid to counter the “throwawayism” mentality that pervades society.

The organisation runs a community-based shop in Phibsborough, Dublin, selling refurbished bicycles, accessories and second-hand parts.

The group also offers classes and workshops on bicycle repair.

In recent months it opened a cycle cafe on Fade Street near the city centre, where commuters can grab a home-made bun while waiting for their bike to be fixed. There are plans to open more outlets outside the capital.

“We bring a different approach to business. We’re a social enterprise and we give back to the community,” says Ms Bedos, who is originally from France. “It means a lot to get recognition from mainstream organisations. It shows we’re just not a ‘hippy’ project. We do have a place in a larger world.” See rothar.ie

Dress for success: Helping women to suit themselves

The mission of Dress for Success Dublin is to promote the economic independence of low-income women by providing professional attire, a network of support and career development tools.

The non-profit organisation was founded in New York in 1997 to help stem the underlying causes of poverty through grassroots programmes that produce long-term solutions.

The Dublin branch of the group was launched by Sonya Lennon, best known as a presenter on RTÉ’s Off the Rails.

As the organisation itself puts it: “As women emerge from poverty they bring their families with them, meaning that the assistance that we provide our clients trickles down to their children and eventually the communities in which they live.” For information, see dressforsuccessdublin.org

My mind: affordable counselling in a crisis

Access to basic, affordable counselling and psychotherapy services are limited at best. Psychologist Krystian Fikert and his team at My Mind are seeking to fill that gap.

The non-profit organisation he founded in 2006 operates two clinics in Ranelagh and Amiens Street in Dublin’s north inner city.

The cost of private counselling or psychotherapy services – usually in the region of €80 to €100 an hour – is prohibitive for many.

To help clients, the centre operates a sliding scale based on a client’s ability to pay. Unemployed patients or students, for example, can avail of €20 sessions, while a standard session is €50.

He says the vast majority of us will, at some time in our lives, need psychological support.

“If this is available, we have the chance to grow and mature psychologically through a crisis, and not allow it become a life-long affliction,” says Fikert.

See mymind.org