MINISTER for Research and Innovation Seán Sherlock has addressed the Wales-Ireland Social Entrepreneurship Network (WINSENT) entrepreneurship event in Dublin’s Civic Offices.
Minister Sherlock said: “Social Enterprise represents an area of great opportunity to contribute to the creation of community-based jobs and to assist in economic recovery. The Social Enterprise Task Force Report of 2010 has already highlighted this potential publicly.
“Perhaps the most striking finding of that report was that in Ireland social enterprise is significantly underdeveloped – comprising only 3% of GDP, compared to a European norm of 4-7% of GDP. There is potential, therefore, to create thousands of new sustainable social enterprise jobs, providing services in and by local communities.
The Government is strongly committed to developing social enterprise and, as part of the Government’s Action Plan for Jobs, has given Minister Sherlock responsibility for the Social Enterprise Agenda. Minister Sherlock has tasked Forfás with the completion of a detailed study and Forfás have been specifically asked to examine ‘actions required, in funding, procurement, etc., by Government and other relevant bodies and agencies to create jobs in this sector. Forfás will report on their findings to Minister Sherlock in the autumn.
The EU Commission has also recently announced a Social Business Initiative, to provide new funding and public procurement initiatives for development of social enterprises at national level.
Minister Sherlock said “Recent developments at EU Commission, government and local community level indicate a far clearer appreciation of the role that social enterprise and social entrepreneurship can and must play in tackling the effects of the current recession.
“The Commission’s initiative includes a commitment to revise public procurement procedures across Europe to allow social enterprises greater access to the public procurement process and proposes a new regulatory regime to facilitate development of private investment funds, specifically targeting social businesses. These are areas the Government here will examine very closely in our own work and policy development.
“The Government will also be examining how funding mechanisms available from this source can best be utilised to promote and develop social enterprise in Ireland. Local authorities and local planners will have an important role to play in assisting social enterprise development in their local area.
Minister Sherlock praised the Wales-Ireland Social Entrepreneurship Network (WINSENT) project for facilitating a greater understanding of social enterprise and social entrepreneurship, during its three-year programme in South County Dublin, Kildare, Meath and the Isle of Anglesey and Denbighshire in North Wales.
Minister Sherlock said “It is promoting development of a vibrant response to the economic challenges we are facing, by developing innovative, sustainable socially-motivated services to local communities, in areas such as environmental and recycling, child care, mental health and healthcare, community food and healthy-eating programmes, the arts and music education and social housing.