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Perception and Funding

It is unfortunate that so many of the State agencies tend to ignore social enterprises as a source of job creation and value creation. Perhaps this is in part because social enterprises tend to play down this part of their development instead concentrating on their social agenda or objectives.

As other countries develop the infrastructure to support and grow the social sector, Ireland will need to play catch up. More defined research about exactly how many jobs are in the sector and an estimation of how many could be created with some support would be helpful for the argument. Where countries have developed strategies around social enterprise, they have highlighted the greater value the sector is creating. At a time when the dole numbers are increasing on a weekly basis, it may be better for the sector as a whole to give an additional angle to the government and public at large.

The days of enthusiastic but amateur local social enterprises is somewhat at an end. Organisations like Social Enterpreneurs Ireland have been highlighting social entrepreneurs for some years now and this at least is a start but I am constantly amazed at how many people look blankly at me when I talk about social enterprises. Not only that but I recently had an argument with some associates recently, most of whom worked in industry who had a rather jaundiced view of the sector and saw it mostly as an additional to the welfare state at best.

We need considerably more promotion of the sector so that people see any investment as just that – an investment and not the old idea that this is money for social programmes that at best stem social problems and don’t create value. Perception is reality, and at the moment for the vast majority the perception is not in the sectors interests.

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