Entrepreneurs stepping up to the plate with solutions to social problems

Academy graduates can pitch for slice of €50k seed funding to pilot their idea
Entrepreneurs stepping up to the plate with solutions to social problems

At the virtual launch of the programme in June: Sara Dennedy (right), director of Impact, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, with Ideas Academy participants (clockwise top left) Toufik Messabih, Ruchi Palan, Gavin Timlin, and Melanie O’Driscoll. Picture: Mark Stedman

A record number of early-stage social entrepreneurs are stepping up with solutions to Ireland’s social problems. 

Sixty entrepreneurs this week graduated from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Ideas Academy including a campaign promoting blood donations among college students, a community radio station for ethnic minorities, and a sustainable shopping platform. 

Over four months, participants receive a range of supports to build skills and accelerate learning in core areas of importance — helping them to progress from idea to action. 

In 2020, the programme received a record number of 245 applications, from which 60 ideas were selected. Supported by Bank of America and the Lifes2Good Foundation, the programme was initially due to run in locations in the east, south, and west of the country, but was redesigned and delivered remotely this year due to the ongoing Covid-19 restrictions. 

The SEI Ideas Academy supports people with early-stage innovative ideas to solve social problems in Ireland. Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is a not-for-profit organisation, and since its foundation in 2004 has supported more than 375 social entrepreneurs.

Darren Ryan, CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, said: “Social entrepreneurs are society’s problem solvers.

"They are people with insight into social problems and the courage and innovation to step up with a solution. 

This year’s Ideas Academy participants have stepped up like never before to develop their ideas into actions and help those who need them most. 

We know how hard it can be to take those first steps so with this programme, we walk the journey with them.” 

The graduating social entrepreneurs will now have the opportunity to pitch for seed funding from a total pot of €50,000 to pilot their idea. Later this month they will pitch to a panel of judges, comprising of SEI staff, sector experts, and leading entrepreneurs. 

Andrea Sullivan, head of International Environment, Social and Governance at Bank of America, lead corporate sponsor of the Ideas Academy, said: “Supporting the next generation’s solutions to tackle societal issues is crucial to building a sustainable future for all. The 2020 Ideas Academy cohort can help pave the way and we look forward to seeing what these talented entrepreneurs can achieve.” 

Maurice McQuillan, CEO of the Lifes2Good Foundation, sponsor of the Ideas Academy West, said: “Now more than ever, we need new ideas to solve the existing and emerging social problems and we need social entrepreneurs driving these. Lifes2Good Foundation is delighted to support the Ideas Academy West. Through this we’ve seen first-hand the incredible impact social entrepreneurs make in their communities. We’d like to congratulate all the participants on this year’s programme.”

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland will launch its next call for applications in spring 2021. See Social Entrepreneurs Ireland for more.

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