Bank of Ireland launches 2020 Begin Together Awards

The 2020 Begin Together Awards will focus on the resilience and recovery of towns impacted by COVID-19 pandemic.

Bank of Ireland has launched its 2020 Begin Together Awards, an initiative that will support towns across the island of Ireland as they reboot and recover from the impact of COVID-19.

With a total prize fund of over €200,000, this year’s Awards were fast-tracked to provide funding to the winning towns and urban villages by the beginning of October and directly assist their COVID-19 recovery.

There will be 21 awards up for grabs, with the overall winner receiving €50,000 and the title of Ireland’s ‘Most Enterprising Town’. This award was won by Kilkenny in 2019.

Now in its second year, there is also a prize of €20,000 for the winner of the ‘Rising Star’ award, which was won by Castlebar last year.

“This year, COVID-19 has presented the biggest challenge to our physical, mental and financial wellbeing in living memory, which makes that ‘can-do’ enterprising spirit more important than ever”

The annual awards, previously titled the Bank of Ireland National Enterprise Town Awards, recognise and reward the spirit of enterprise.

Local recovery

This year, the awards will bring business and community groups together to support local recovery and rebuilding as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted and the country gets back to work. The awards are also being held on an all-island basis for the first time.

Following the donation of €1 million in emergency funding to communities impacted by COVID-19 in March, Bank of Ireland will be injecting an additional €1 million to local communities and a range of organisations over the coming months, which will be disbursed primarily through the Begin Together programme. 

“Our experience has shown that incredible things can be achieved when communities, business groups and local authorities come together to meet their own challenges and make their own opportunities,” said Gavin Kelly, chief executive of Bank of Ireland’s Retail Ireland division.

“This year, COVID-19 has presented the biggest challenge to our physical, mental and financial wellbeing in living memory, which makes that ‘can-do’ enterprising spirit more important than ever.

“Through the lockdown, Bank of Ireland took immediate steps to support our customers and the national effort. Now, as the country moves to recovery, we’re focussed on practical initiatives that can help Ireland to ‘reboot’.

“Through the Bank of Ireland Begin Together Awards we are supporting businesses and communities across the island of Ireland as they restart and get back on their feet,” he concluded.

Reflecting the challenge that communities and businesses currently face as a result of the pandemic, this year’s competition sees the introduction of three special COVID-response awards: 

Local business and community response initiative (€20,000) 

A joint response by businesses and communities to manage the impact of COVID-19, particularly to help ensure that community life continued to function and vulnerable members of the community were supported.

Local town promotion initiative (€10,000)

A marketing/promotional initiative designed to help sustain the town during the crisis and restart the local economy as restrictions are lifted.

Local community enterprise initiative (€10,000)

A locally-run community enterprise that sustained employment, repurposed itself during the pandemic and was ready to operate on the easing of restrictions or a local enterprise initiative established specifically to ease the impact of COVID-19 on the local community.

The closing date for entries is 24 August. For more information on the awards, please visit the Bank of Ireland website.  

*The photo used to accompany this article was taken in February 2020, prior to the government’s social distancing guidelines*

By Stephen Larkin 

Photo: Bank of Ireland CEO Francesca McDonagh and Florence Marlow-Ward from Walkinstown pictured in February this year launching Bank of Ireland’s ‘Begin Together’ initiative which includes the Begin Together Awards in support of local enterprise across the island of Ireland

Published: 13 July, 2020