The Minister of State for Research and Innovation, Seán Sherlock TD, has been tasked with leading efforts to develop the social enterprise sector. This move comes following the publication of a Forfás report entitled Social Enterprise in Ireland – Sectoral Opportunities and Policy Issues, which showed that the sector has the capacity to double employment with the creation of an additional 25,000 jobs by 2020.
Among the recommendations in the report was the establishment of an Inter-Departmental and Inter-Agency group to develop the sector. Once up and running, one of the first tasks of this group will be to examine the recommendations of the Forfás report in more detail and determine how they can best be delivered.
Interestingly, a key finding from Forfás’ work is that social enterprises are not, in general, seeking additional State funding. What they need rather, are adjustments to some aspects of various policy areas including access to finance, procurement, capability building and ensuring supportive legislative frameworks would help to reduce barriers to social enterprises participating more fully in economic activity.
Speaking about his new role Minister Sherlock said: “The social enterprise sector has played a key role in Irish society and in the economy for many years… It is important that we build a framework through which social enterprises across the spectrum can obtain supports from Government Departments and agencies which are appropriate to their level of development, the nature of their activities, and their commercial ambition”.
He added: “I will be arranging for the establishment of an Inter-Departmental Group as soon as possible to develop the sector and to determine how the recommendations in the Forfás report can best be delivered. I invite those in the Social Enterprise sector to play their part in working with Government Departments and agencies to maximise the potential of the sector”.
Social enterprises are business models set up to tackle social, economic or environmental issues. Some social enterprises engage in trading or commercial activities to pursue their objectives and any surplus earned is re-invested in the social objective.