KEHLAN KIRWAN: Entrepreneurs from Galway to Saudi Arabia are using technology innovations to tackle social problems

Social entrepreneurs rarely get the coverage they deserve.

Businesses driven by a social-changing agenda have become incredibly important to the fabric of the business community.

Driven by a need for positive change on important issues, these businesses have been my favourite from this year.

Of course, this list is not exhaustive so I took the ones that caught my eye in 2016. We’ll start our look right here in Ireland.

Mobility Mojo was created through the frustration of people with a disability in trying to find hotels and other places that were accessible to them.

The app allows people to rate the places they have visited on how easy or difficult it was for them to get around or gain access to the properties.

It is a joined-up way of solving fragmented information on where people can go.

Founded by Noelle Daly, Stephen Cluskey and Joe Connaughton, the app will be a very important tool for people with disabilities to move with greater freedom and plan holidays or trips that suit their needs.

They recently won €20,000 from Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and will now be part of the Elevator Programme to grow and scale the app.

Higher education is an expensive business, particularly in the US where fees run into the tens of thousands of dollars.

It is no surprise that scholarships are a much sought after way of funding education.

Up stepped Christopher Gray with Scholly, an app which links scholarships with potential students.

After his own struggle to get a scholarship, Mr Gray realised that over $100m of US scholarships go unawarded each year.

This began a journey for the many people who were able to tap much cheaper education.

After his appearance on Shark Tank , an ABC network version of Dragons’ Den, the app received 80,000 downloads in a few hours and over 850,000 in total this year.

There are many people who have been helped by the app.

Founded by Ellen Chilemba when she was just 17, Tiwale supports women in business and vocational studies in the African country of Malawi.

Through Tiwale, she helped to support 40 female-led firms, and created a fabric design project which helps fund Tiwale’s many initiatives.

Primary school education is free in Malawi, but secondary school is not.

One in every two Malawian girls are married before they are 18, which restricts access to further education for many women in the country.

Through Tiwale, people are learning new business skills and finding ways to help their local communities.

Lujain Al Ubaid goes against the stereotypes of her homeland of Saudi Arabia.

She is the face of Tasamy for Social Entrepreneurship, a social support company that funds and encourages projects in her country.

Though it is generally believed to be a wealthy country, nearly 15% of the population are below the poverty line.

Tasamy is also developing a platform for home-based businesses owned by women to receive and take payments online.

Only 19% of the Saudi workforce are women.

Through social entrepreneurship, Ms Al Ubaid is challenging perceptions at home and abroad.

Alison is an e-learning provider and academy based in Galway with over eight million users.

Founded by Mike Feerick, the platform has opened the possibility of education to millions of people around the world.

From inner cities to rural outposts, education and learning have been brought to places which may otherwise have remained out of reach.

They are also disrupting the traditional model of education where it is no longer necessary to be in a classroom to learn the skills to move up the educational ladder.

It also aims to “democratise” education in countries where it is prohibitively expensive to get any sort of schooling, allowing access to affordable and meaningful education, and 2016 was another year of growth for the west of Ireland company.

Inclov was founded by Kalyani Khona and Shankar Srinivisan. This Indian-based app helps people looking for love.

But it is different because it is designed for people with disabilities and health disorders and aims to link up people with specific needs.

Unlike Tinder or other apps, they don’t match people based on localities.

It recently released an updated version of the app to include Andriod users

The app plans to have video calling for the hearing impaired and voice commands for people who have restricted upper body movement.

This could tap a global market.

Social entrepreneurs are helping to solve social problems.

Through them, we are seeing that it is possible to tackle issues that are big or small.

More importantly, they show that no problem cannot be tackled.

They are people who care deeply.

In turn, they provide hope and ideas for millions of people.


Overshadowed by its giant neighbours it may be, but the smallest of the main Blasket islands, Beginish, is no less impressive in its own right.The Islands of Ireland: The miracle of Beginish

‘The days of our years are threescore years and ten — Psalm 90How to tell an animal’s age in a heartbeat

We often hear how nature will do well, even come back from the brink of extinction, if given a chance and some human help.Birds of prey on the rise

In our country we still have places that bear no evidence of disturbance by man, that are in their pristine state and rich with all the elements that feed the spirit and deliver us into the world beyond the skin of the time and circumstances we live in.Unique ambience of Dursey Island under threat

More From The Irish Examiner