Rethink Ireland backs 110 social enterprises

Now in its sixth year, the Rethink Ireland Fund will focus on start-up and next stage social enterprises.

The €4.4m Rethink Ireland Fund has reached 271,279 beneficiaries by supporting 110 social enterprises in local communities since 2018.

Announcing its call for 2023 applications, the Fund will focus on start-up and next stage social enterprises, as well as the continuation of a business course across every Local Authority region in Ireland.

“Ireland is lagging behind Europe in backing social enterprises and one of our goals at Rethink Ireland is to harness the potential of these enterprises as innovators, employers and service providers in communities”

The €4.4m Fund, created in partnership with Local Authorities Ireland and funded by IPB Insurance and the Department of Rural and Community Development through the Dormant Accounts Fund, opened for applications today at Rethink Ireland’s Social Enterprise Development Fund Showcase, marking five years of the Fund.

Opportunities for social enterprises

The impact achieved to date under the Fund is set to accelerate change into 2023 with new opportunities for social enterprises to solve critical issues, and improve the lives of people and communities.

Rethink Ireland supports social enterprises that are focused on critical social change. Social enterprises can lead the transition to a more inclusive, sustainable and green economy. Any profit made by a social enterprise is reinvested back into the organisation’s social or environmental mission, allowing it to maximise impact.

“Our Social Enterprise Development Fund has had a transformative impact in local communities across Ireland over the past five years,” said Deirdre Mortell, CEO of Rethink Ireland. “This hard won impact highlights the opportunity to do more, and we are thrilled to announce the opening of the fund for applications again.

“Ireland is lagging behind Europe in backing social enterprises and one of our goals at Rethink Ireland is to harness the potential of these enterprises as innovators, employers and service providers in communities.”

Some of the achievements made by 2022 social enterprise Awardees of the Fund include a mentor-based supported employment program from Way to Work to assist young people aged 16 to 21 who have been in care; the creation of a Ukrainian language website by the Together for Razem Centre to provide real time information to reach 100,000 Ukrainian refugees; tripling of vital services to those with varying levels of disability for post-care support after being discharged from the HSE, through the No Barriers Foundation; and the provision of practical, moral and social support to Asylum Seekers, Refugees and other Migrants through KASI, a local NGO based in Killarney, helping more than 1,000 refugees in the County.

Minister of State with responsibility for Community Development and Charities, Joe O’Brien TD commented: “Since the announcement last year of a further €1.2 million investment into the Social Enterprise Development Fund for 2022 and 2023, I am delighted to see the great progress made by true innovators in our local communities around Ireland. Social enterprises supported through the Fund have made a significant impact over the past five years to address the needs of communities. The Government continues to prioritise social enterprises and the key role they play in society.”

2022 Awardee Project Descriptions and Achievements:


Awardee Locations Bio
Way 2 Work Ireland Dublin Way 2 Work Ireland is a mentor-based supported employment program developed in collaboration with Tusla to assist young people aged 16 to 21 who have been in care. The organisation promotes and supports opportunities for young people to engage in training, education, and work, as well as establishing specialised and individual training and employment programs to enable young people to achieve full autonomy in their life and overcome poverty and marginalisation. Of the ten young people that availed of Way2Work’s services in 2022, three have secured full time employment, two have begun training placements that will see them qualified to work in the construction industry and two have secured interviews for full time employment and volunteering opportunities. Two clients attained certifications in vocational training. As a result of Rethink Ireland funding and non-financial support the service was able to build partnerships with five DEIS schools in Dublin and are in communications with a number of other schools throughout the county. Partnerships with private businesses and training providers have also increased.   
Together Razem Centre Cork Together Razem Centre supports those in the Polish and Eastern European migrant community facing problems related to marginalisation, exclusion and isolation in Ireland. The centre offers advocacy, social and legal advice, mental health support and educational programmes for children and adults, enabling the Polish community to be a more cohesive part of the Irish community. One of their key goals is to provide reliable information in Polish, Ukrainian and Romanian about current Irish and European affairs through a website which is the only one of its kind in Ireland today. In response to the arrival of Ukrainian refugees into Ireland, Together Razem created a Ukrainian language website to provide real time information and available support in conjunction with their Polish and Romanian language websites.
No Barriers Foundation Donegal No Barriers Foundation assists those with varying levels of disability who find it difficult to find appropriate post-care support after being discharged from the HSE, their lack of aftercare support resulting in increased social marginalisation as well as physical and mental comorbidities increasing readmission rates. The No Barriers Foundation addresses this lack of accessible and affordable ongoing rehabilitation and health support for their target group, by providing ongoing specialist support services in an affordable manner in a socially inclusive gym environment. As a result of Rethink Ireland funding and non-financial supports, the service has expanded their workforce and tripled their revenue from service delivery in a financially sustainable manner. 
KASI Kerry KASI is a local NGO based in Killarney and has been providing practical, moral and social support to Asylum Seekers, Refugees and other Migrants since 2000. Their work evolved from providing the necessary services and support to the new communities like providing information, practical help – filling in forms, advocacy work, referrals, outreach work; to organising various social and integration activities; to in recent years setting up social enterprises to create employment through training, placements and employment in the project itself. Their latest social enterprise, the community garden, connects all their social enterprises but has also proven to be the most fruitful ground for migrant community integration into the wider society through shared gardening experiences. As a result of their time spent on SED 2022, KASI have employed a full time gardener and have established a 10 – week gardening workshop that will run consecutively until summer 2023.
Generation Ireland Meath Generation Ireland promotes job opportunities for people who face structural hurdles to employment. They accomplish this through a prepare-place-support model, in which they provide classes and subsequent help to job seekers in industries where there is a high need for workers, developing the modules together with potential employers. They have also launched two new programmes: IT Support with Cyber Skills and Retrofit Advisor – the first Green skills bootcamp of its kind in Ireland. Since their engagement with Rethink Ireland, the project has expanded across Ireland and adapted to deliver bootcamps nationally.  
Common Knowledge Clare Common Knowledge empowers people with the skills and solutions needed to address some of our most basic needs for a sustainable life: affordable, sustainable housing and greater self-sufficiency at home. They do this through hands-on learning programmes, research and community initiatives focused on areas like building, growing and making. Their founding team has taught 200+ people through their ‘Build School’ since 2020, and in 2022 will expand their reach significantly.
Books at One Dublin Books at One is a network of community bookshops run by local people to address the social and economic decline that many areas in Ireland are experiencing. The absence of investment in facilities for intergenerational socialising outside of pubs and sports clubs is a key emphasis for the organisation. Books at One is currently opening a new store in Dublin, as well as developing engaging activities for local schoolchildren, teachers, and families to enjoy and benefit from free reading events and workshops. Through SED funding and support, the service has undertaken staff training in the areas of HR, volunteer management and event organisation. They are also in the process of developing a programme of community and outreach events relevant to each of their three local communities. Books at One have also reduced the barriers to reading for pleasure where opportunities are limited through economic circumstances, lack of access and motivational disadvantage by providing exciting events and free books in a disadvantaged area.
An Mheitheal Rothar Galway An Mheithal Rothar focuses on providing bicycles to those who do not have access to cycling, particularly those who are unable to participate in the Bike to Work program, while also creating an impact on the areas of employment and sustainability. Their one-of-a-kind approach combines recycling and waste reduction with delivering affordable bikes, as well as personalised information sharing and problem solutions for each user. Multiple workshops and sessions were held with staff and consultants.  They defined their theory of change and strengthened their strategic plan, giving the goals more specific definition with targets, milestones etc. 105 bikes were diverted for reuse between July and November 2022, 20 of those have been sold; 8 are ready (2 at AMR’s shop for sale, 6 for University of Sanctuary students in need); 14 are in the process of being refurbished and 63 in storage for refurbishment.

Main image at top (from left): Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland , Alistair Aitken, Manager, Books at One, an SED Fund Awardee social enterprise, John Kearns, CEO, IPB Insurance and Marilyn Catapat-Counihan from KASI, Killarney Asylum Seekers Initiative

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