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Archive for March, 2010

Common Cents Emphasis on Jobs

March 29, 2010 Leave a comment

It  was good to attend the Clann Credo Common Cents conference in Athlone last week. There were a range of speakers from Sean Coughlan of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, to the very interesting Gerry Higgins, CEO of Community Enterprise in Scotland. Overall the theme was about the job creation side of social enterprise, and as we have stated here many times before, the Ryan Academy believes this is an important factor that should be emphasised particularly at this point in time.

If one looks at the many hybrid models in the US in particular, of social enterprises, many of them cooperative in nature, and how they are developing businesses that help with long-term unemployed in particular, you can see there is a lot we can learn in Ireland. The recent Irish long-term unemployment figures are a testimony to the huge employment issue that are causing problems in Ireland, and the angle that Social Enterprise must push at Cabinet level.  

There was also a commentary about capital funding. This really is a huge issue; if the capital requirements of the best social enterprises aren’t met then a lot of this will be in vain. It will be interesting to see what the final version of the Social Enterprise Taskforce document looks like. Worth mentioning that the Ryan Academy has been asked to participate in this badly needed venture, and we hope that we can help with what already is looking like a key document for social enterprise and it’s development in this decade.

ILO Report on Green Skills

March 27, 2010 Leave a comment

Another example of research specifically on the green skills area is the International Labour Organisation (ILO), in cooperation with the European Centre for the Development of Vocational Training, who conducted applied research into skill needs for greener economies across a range of countries.  Their research distinguished three different types of skills needs:

a) (re)training needs deriving from green structural changes in the labour market and major employment shifts within and across sectors;

b) new green occupations which emerge in the context of adaptation to climate change and mitigation of negative impacts in the country;

c) new types of skills, competences and skill gaps which need to be incorporated into existing occupational profiles.

New Green Skills

March 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Skills needs in Ireland for the green and clean technologies areas could potentially cover a spectrum from low skills/re-skilling for building conversion to LEED standards, dwelling retrofit up to C1 BER, right the way up to grid redevelopment and the new technologies areas which Irish start-ups are pioneering. For example there are a number of different technologies which may make up the green economy in Ireland including wind power, ocean technologies but also potentially other technologies like geothermal, biomass,  Concentrated Solar Power (CSP), Thin Film Solar (TFS). Such industries need the skills necessary to achieve scale if they are to have an impact on the countries energy and carbon balance. The report of the High Level Group on Green Enterprise “Developing the Green Economy in Ireland” identifies four key areas:

– Renewable Energy
– Efficient Energy Use and Management
– Waste Management (Recovery and Recycling)
– Water and Wastewater Treatment

The green and clean technologies sectors is also a technology convergence area, which will involve skills from the ICT, construction and other sectors which currently exist in Ireland, therefore new skills and up-skilling will be needed. The University and Institute of Technology sector have already begun to identify re-skilling opportunities, as well as organisations such as Fas and the ESB. The Irish report identifies the inter-disciplinary nature of the sector and the importance of human capital. It also identifies the changing nature of the skills needs.

All Entrepreneurship is social?

March 26, 2010 Leave a comment

Interesting article from this months Stanford Social Innovation Review, by Carl Schramm who is President and CEO of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. In it he makes an interesting argument that over the past decade the term social entrepreneur has become “a fashionable way of describing individuals and organizations that, in their attempts at large-scale change, blur the traditional boundaries between the for-profit and nonprofit sectors. Given the ceaseless appearance of innovations and new institutional forms, we should welcome a new term that allows us to think systematically about a still-emergent field.”

He argues that use of the term ‘social’ could diminish the contributions of regular entrepreneurs, those who create new companies and then grow them to scale.He points out that these regular entrepreneurs create thousands of jobs, improve the quality of goods and services available to consumers, and ultimately raise standards of living. One example he uses is the mobile phone, he agrees that they obviously cannot cure diseases, but:

“They can spur the development of new business models, new companies, new technologies, and, thus, economic growth. Among businesses, cell phones also facilitate the scaling up of networks, firms, and innovations. They allow people to dream big, rather than focusing only on staying afloat. Several studies in the past few years have found that a 10 percent increase in cell phone penetration in developing countries would increase the annual growth rate of per capita gross domestic product (GDP) by nearly 1 percentage point.”

There is no doubt that economic prosperity is a potential help in getting people out of the poverty trap, but as we have seen in Ireland in recent years, this economic growth doesn’t necessarily mean that a gap in incomes doesn’t appear. A rising tide does not mean all ships rise.

Clann Credo Conference 2010

March 24, 2010 Leave a comment

The Ryan Academy will be at the 2010 Clann Credo conference tomorrow, ‘Common Cents’. Clann Credo’s upcoming annual conference will focus on job creation and community building and will feature keynote international and Irish speakers. Common Cents 2010 will take place in the Radisson Blu Hotel, Athlone, Co. Westmeath, on Thursday the 25 March and will examine the contribution that Social Enterprise can make in the critical area of job creation, particularly from a community perspective.

The conference theme is “Social Enterprise: Creating Jobs, Building Communities” and it will hear from a number of high profile speakers, including Gerry Higgins, regarded as one of the leading experts on social finance in the UK. It should be an interesting day.

Green Mahattan Project Part 2

March 24, 2010 Leave a comment

One example of the ‘BIG IDEA’ has come from North Africa. The $555 billion Desertec project is a massive solar pipeline spanning from North Africa and the Middle East to Europe which aims to provide up to 15% of Europe’s total electricity needs. The plan is that Concentrated Solar Power plants (CSP), some of which operate in the US now, will supply solar energy to high voltage direct current (DC) transmission lines.

These lines will deliver power to the European continent, in the first attempt to transmit such CSP energy long-range. The Desertec Industrial Initiative is partnered by companies such as Deutsche Bank and Siemens.  But this is a long-term project as it will take three years just to finish the planning before construction can begin.

Yes, the level of investment needed for a true green revolution is huge – the US has over $500 million in stimulus money for clean tech in general and China is to invest over $200 billion. Big companies like Wal-Mart, GE and Google are all investing heavily in sustainability and energy projects.

Such budgets are being funnelled into specific project areas for example the DOE in the US has recently given a $100 million grant to the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy for three areas of green tech: developing green energy storage, building power converters that  reduce energy consumption and identifying technology for heating/cooling systems.

Opportunity for Social Entrepreneurship?

March 22, 2010 Leave a comment

There is an interesting call out from those in Enterprise Ireland (EI) called the Business Partners programme.  On their site EI state that in 2009, 35 new companies emerged from State-funded research in Higher Education Institutions and they are working hard to substantially increase this number in 2010. Through the Business Partners Programme, they are seeking to engage and support entrepreneurs to “capitalise on this rich portfolio of research and create start-up companies.”

Enterprise Ireland wants to work with individuals (not companies) who can demonstrate strong commercial experience and the ability to lead a venture. After identifying specific opportunities, Enterprise Ireland will work closely with these individuals over a six month period to produce start-up companies.

There is no reason why one or more of these start-ups cannot be a social enterprise technology company. We have seen that there are many examples of such companies that rely on a technology solution to aid the world’s problems. Here is a good opportunity for right-minded individuals to be supported in looking for technology solutions in our Universities and Institutes of Technology. Such calls should be a good opportunity for social entrepreneurs across Ireland.