– ILDN’s Dec 10 social impact competition taking place in “a world of greenwashing, pinkwashing” where public need reassurance

Changing Ireland spoke to Philip O’Donnell from the Irish Local Development Network (ILDN) about the network’s social impact awards competition, with cash prizes of €45,000 for social enterprises (details below).

The competition’s overall aim is to encourage social enterprises to monitor and measure their social impact. Philip works as the ILDN’s research, policy, and rural affairs officer and we asked why monitoring and measuring impact has now become so important.


“There are a few reasons for this. Firstly, social enterprises operate in an increasingly competitive environment. Whether they rely predominantly on grant funding or on traded income, invariably there isn’t enough money to go around, and they need to be able to prove to stakeholders that any money that they take in will yield value. They need to illustrate the organisation’s social impact,” he said.


Secondly, in a world of greenwashing, pinkwashing, etc., the public need to know that they’re not being hoodwinked by hollow claims. The level of trust in individual social enterprises is generally strong, because these social enterprises tend to be firmly grounded in their communities. However, it is important for the image of the sector as a whole that there is an evidence base to show that social enterprises are achieving real results.


Thirdly, social enterprises themselves need to know whether their strategies are working or not, and monitoring and measuring impact are central to this. Maybe those strategies need to be optimised, or maybe they’re yielding negative impacts in the form of unintended consequences – in any case, social enterprises need to know that what they’re doing is having the desired effect.


“Lastly, measuring social impact is a challenge for social enterprises. A survey in Scotland showed it to be the issue of single greatest concern for social enterprises there, and we regularly hear Irish social enterprises voice similar concerns. We hope that this competition will help to demystify measuring social impact, and show that there is no single ‘right’ way to measure or monitor impact,” he said.

The ILDN’s competition is supported by the Department of Rural and Community Development (DRCD) through the Dormant Accounts Fund. The ILDN is funded through DRCD’s Scheme to Support National Organisations and its member organisations have years of experience in upskilling others to develop and manage social enterprises.

ReStart team pictured at the Knockalisheen Direct Provision Centre gardening plot

One of thousands of social enterprises in Ireland: Enactus UL’s ReStart team pictured at the Knockalisheen Direct Provision Centre gardening plot in 2019 – Photo courtesy ReStart.


Asked has there been any competition like this before for social enterprises, Philip pointed to the Dublin City Social Enterprise Awards run by Dublin City Council, Inner City Enterprise and the Dublin City Local Enterprise Office. Changing Ireland covered the second year of those awards, in 2016, when €45,000 was presented in prizes to five winners. The prize fund this year was €60,000 shared among six social enterprises.

“Our initiative would differ slightly from theirs in that ours is more specific in its aims and scope – we want to showcase and promote good practice in the measurement and assessment of social impact,” said Philip.

“As well as using these awards as a way of providing direct financial support to our awardees, we are eager to gain research value from this initiative. Measuring and assessing impact is difficult, and we want to capture learnings from those that do it well, with a view to sharing those insights with the wider sector,” said Philip.

He pointed out that Rethink Ireland also provide grants and awards (https://rethinkireland.ie/our-funds/social-enterprise/) to promising/successful social enterprises to support their growth and development.

So get measuring your social impact and apply today for a chance to win. To access application forms and find out more about the ILDN’s competition, click on our story below for summary detials, or go directly to: https://ildn.ie/themes/socialenterprise/

€45,000 for social enterprises that show their impact – Deadline this Sunday, Dec 10