What purpose drove the establishment of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland?
Social Entrepreneurs Ireland was founded at the height of the last boom in 2004 because we weren’t solving social challenges quickly enough.
For some time we were seeing how entrepreneurs were playing a massive role in our economy. If you could empower individuals to start solving their own problems in their own community you could drive social change.
What were the biggest obstacles faced in the early days, and how were they overcome?
The biggest challenge is making the decision to do something that seems risky or foolish, which is based on a niggle that something in the world around you could be different.
Building the courage and conviction of making the decision is the hardest thing.
We can get caught up in how big something seems. But doing the smallest thing you can to get your plan off the road is key. Like hosting a small group session, testing in the street. Look at the guy who founded Coderdogo, he started a coding class in his own school. At the beginning, he wasn’t thinking that there’d be 875 classes in 60 countries around the world.
The other biggest challenge for all entrepreneurs is funds. This is particularly the case for Social Entrepreneurs as investment space for social ideas is small. Not many people will back a new idea that’s in the social sector. But its why we exist. So great new ideas have a chance.
Magic Wand Questions
If you were Taoisach for a day what would you do?
I would introduce some policies to encourage the same policies for entrepreneurship to social entrepreneurship. The same supports, talk about social entrepreneurship in the same way as the commercial space.
I’d give the same supports around the country like LOE & Enterprise Ireland so the same attitude and respect for social entrepreneurship would develop.
No one questions the role entrepreneurship can play in driving our economy. But we need to show how entrepreneurship can drive society and this needs to come.
If you were the CEO of a large corporate, what would you do?
I believe that all businesses have the potential to drive positive change in society. Customers want to buy from companies who have a positive impact & people want to work in business that do.
I’d drive the immersion of purpose into the organisation. To change practically and change how we talk about what we do. Ideally we’d make profit on the way but our core purpose is to achieve our bigger goal.
Will there come a time when all business models will encompasses purpose & profit?
In the past you would have two spectrums, business at one end and on the other you’d have charity. I think between the 2 points is a huge range of business models shaping an organization and the structure of supply chain.
I don’t think we’ll ever be in the middle but there’ll be fewer organisations in extremes – more people will be playing in between the 2 spaces. In future we’ll have a diverse range of options, but still have 2 on either side.
Please define what a great life means to you.
It’s different for everyone. I think, for me, give yourself space in life to do the things that really matter. For me, right now, what matters is my work and doing things that matter in that capacity.