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  • A collaborative working hub to overcome disadvantage, accessible community wellbeing supports and essential treatment for people with disabilities – the social enterprises working to achieve a fairer Ireland
  • Five trailblazing social enterprises awarded to accelerate change under Rethink Ireland’s €700,000 Step-Up Fund  

Five trailblazing social enterprises including a collaborative working hub to overcome disadvantage, accessible community wellbeing supports and essential treatment for people with disabilities are among the projects announced today under Rethink Ireland’s €700,000 Step-Up Fund. The Fund focuses on mid-level social enterprises operating successfully to provide vital services in communities across Ireland. Their impact is already evident in how the enterprises deliver valuable benefits to people who are most in need.   

Rethink Ireland has awarded social enterprises that are accelerating change nationwide, with a particular focus on communities in Galway, Cork, Limerick and Waterford. These social enterprises will receive a combination of cash grants and business supports to further expand their organisations, supporting people that are most in need. 

The Social Enterprise Step-Up Fund 2023-24 is a two-year fund created by Rethink Ireland in partnership with Tomar Trust and the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund. Rethink Ireland provides cash grants and business supports to charities and social enterprises working in Irish communities across the country. The Step-Up Fund focuses on elevated funding for social enterprises at the next stage and aims to directly impact the social enterprise ecosystem in Ireland, supporting and expanding this vital sector to drive change. 

Awardees announced today are:  

  • Benchspace, a collaborative working hub aimed at providing people from disadvantaged backgrounds with resources to start new ventures in Cork;  
  • Galway Community Circus, an accessible and engaging programme that reduces isolation and promotes empowerment in young people;  
  • St Gabriel’s Orthotics, a health initiative providing affordable orthotics to children and adults with physical disabilities to improve their participation and quality of life in Limerick;  
  • The Shona Project, a social enterprise with nationwide impact based in Waterford aiming to educate, empower, and inspire today’s girls in Ireland; and  
  •  The Urban Co-op, working in response to the displacement of nourishing food, reduced food awareness, security and increasing passive consumption in the disadvantaged areas of Limerick city. 

Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland said:

Social Enterprises are integral to driving equality in Ireland. Equality is fundamental to a sustainable economy and a just society. These community based social enterprises have developed successful models through which to deliver vital services in our communities, addressing inequality. We are delighted to support five organisations who are working at the heart of the social enterprise eco-system through our Step-Up Fund, working to support some of Ireland’s most marginalised groups in our communities.

Access to funding and business supports for already established initiatives is critical for the continuity and growth of scaling social enterprises in Ireland. Rethink Ireland set out a Manifesto for 2030 in 2021, detailing the Ireland we want – one that is fair, inclusive and sustainable. Today, I’m delighted that Rethink Ireland is awarding both funding and business support to five organisations who are actively working to achieve this vision.  

Maeve Cavanagh, Manager, Tomar Trust, said: 

We are delighted to partner with Rethink Ireland on the Step-Up Fund, which looks to promote a thriving social enterprise structure within Ireland. We want to encourage further philanthropy in Ireland, and continue to create a legacy which Tom and Marie Cavanagh believed in. The Awardees announced today are some of many organisations that are operating in this field and are growing their social enterprises, aimed at improving the lives of others. We are looking forward to watching them scale their impact over the next number of years.

Maeve Murphy, Operations Manager, Benchspace Cork, said: 

What started out as a group of people coming together back in 2017, wanting to build a future for creative graduates in Cork, has grown into a social enterprise that is leading the way in Ireland lowering the barriers for startups in the creative sector.

We are absolutely thrilled to be announced as an Awardee of Rethink Ireland’s Social Enterprise Step-Up Fund. We’re delighted that Rethink Ireland recognised our ambition to grow as a social enterprise and believed in backing us. We are looking forward to scaling our capacity and services to increase our impact in the Creative Sector in Cork and further afield.

The Step-Up Fund provides each Awardee with cash grants of up to €118,750, a business support budget worth €12,000, and a place on Rethink Ireland’s Accelerator Programme. 

Targeted supports in areas such as public procurement, developing service level agreements and scaling into new locations are just some of the areas that could make a significant difference to the scalability and sustainability of the awarded enterprises and thus their local social impact.