The Irish government has published its long-awaited social enterprise policy, with positive feedback coming in from community development-focused groups.

On Thursday 18 July, Minister for Rural and Community Development Michael Ring, TD, launched the National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland, the Irish government’s first-ever policy document focused on social enterprise.

The policy outlines three key objectives: building awareness of social enterprise, growing and strengthening social enterprise, and achieving better policy alignment. These will be put into action over the 2019–2022 period.

At the launch, Minister Ring said the policy “will enable social enterprises to grow in scale, support jobs, and make a positive impact on individuals and communities in both rural and urban areas”.

Since the release of the policy document, the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) has expressed support for it. Chairperson of the ILDN’s working group on social economy, Pádraig Casey, congratulated the Department of Rural and Community Development(DRCD) for completing the policy, outlining precisely why such a “supportive framework” was welcome:

“Ireland is highly reliant on social enterprise, yet has the potential to create many more services and jobs in the sector. According to a 2013 Forfás report, Ireland’s social enterprise sector supports over 25,000 jobs, but has the potential to create at least a further 65,000. Before now, a framework has been lacking to drive this potential.”

The publication details a series of 26 policy measures that will act as checks and balances on the new strategy, including: providing social enterprises with tailored training in areas such as business planning, governance and digital innovation; identifying and cataloguing various funding schemes at national and EU level, and making this information widely available; and establishing a National Social Enterprise Policy Implementation Group, led by the DRCD and featuring representatives of relevant government departments, public bodies and social enterprise stakeholders.

Speaking at the launch, Paul O’Sullivan, CEO of Clann Credo, said that “…local development companies, working in collaboration with national support organisations, are ideally placed to deliver support for local social enterprise development”.

This was echoed by Casey, who added, “with 40 staff dedicated to assist social enterprises across the country, local development companies will play a central role in ensuring the success of the new policy”.

Thursday’s launch event had impressive social enterprise credentials. It was held in the Speedpak facility in Coolock [disclaimer: Speedpak is a social enterprise that packages Changing Ireland, and we’re very happy customers] and catered by Mugshot, a social enterprise set up to train ex-offenders as baristas and provide them with employment after release.

Interested in reading more about the state of Ireland’s community development sector? Check out our latest issue.

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