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Social Enterprise and Higher Education

One of the great resources that is still somewhat untapped by the sector are the higher education institutions dotted around the country. And I don’t just mean Universities or the Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship here, there are plenty of Institutes of Technology also. The higher education sector offer a range of possibilities. For example I had a project team in a class that I teach in All Hallows College (Management for Non-Profits) that need an organisation to do a strategic review on – here is a possibility for a social enterprise to get a strategic review done for free, the students gain insight and hopefully I get a good paper to correct at the end of it.

Social enterprise and social entrepreneurship are beginning to be taught in the country’s business schools. There are student projects that need to be done on real life organisations. There is access to facilities and support, as seen by the collaboration MOU signed between the Special Olympics Ireland and DCU in June 2009 (the first of its kind). 

The focus of the agreement is on inclusion, integration and education which will be beneficial to the stakeholders of both agencies – athletes, volunteers, students and university employees. This agreement encourages and facilitates greater sporting opportunities for Special Olympics Ireland athletes through the use of DCU’s state of the art sporting and educational facilities, whilst simultaneously providing a unique volunteering and educational opportunity for students and staff to work with and alongside the athletes at their weekly training sessions, events and games.

There is also access to potential directors for boards, again DCU has worked with a variety of social enterprises in recent years in this area. The universities and colleges may become a source of start-ups in the area of social enterprise, particularly knowledge about the sector increases in higher education. Students and staff may be a good source of volunteering. So much so that DCU ran a volunteering fair for staff and students early in semester one which was attended by dozens of charities, non-profits and social enterprises.

So if you have a social enterprise, or you are thinking about social entrepreneurship, check out your local Institute of Technology or University, you never know what potential there might be. Even if your needs are not included in those above, the academics and students may still have an interest. The objective here is a win-win situation.

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