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Social entrepreneurship in Ireland

Social entrepreneurship is a hotspot. We think it will get bigger and bigger as a choice of doing business and as a way of live. It adds to the wonderful start up eco system we already have in Ireland. Here is a sample of concepts and entrepreneurs who decided to apply their entrepreneurial skills to sovling some BIG social problems. They are also the Social Entrepreneurs finalist and we will be following them over the coming year. If you have  way to help and support them, do.

John Evoy – Irish Men’s Sheds Association

“A grassroots organisation that empowers thousands of men across the country to help themselves”

Many men in Ireland have found themselves grappling with unexpected challenges in recent years. Increased unemployment and social isolation has resulted in mounting pressures at home and in their personal lives, all of which have severely impacted on the mental well-being of thousands of men right across the country.

Determined to find an efficient and effective way to help this group, John travelled to Australia in 2009 and experienced first-hand the transformative power of men’s community involvement – the idea for the Irish Men’s Sheds Association (IMSA) was born. The IMSA supports the setup, running and maintenance of over one hundred and ten Men’s Sheds around the country. These Sheds offer men a place to gather, encouraging social interaction, improving the quality of life for those involved.

Operating on the philosophy that men don’t talk face to face, but shoulder to shoulder, the IMSA today supports thousands of men through the provision of safe, friendly and inclusive environments where they can work on meaningful projects, in their own time and in the company of other men, all with the primary objective of advancing the health and well-being of all those participating.

 Krystian Fikert – MyMind

“Providing those in need with fast, affordable and quality mental health care”

Originally from Leszno, Poland, Krystian immigrated to Ireland in 2004 as a qualified psychologist and psychotherapist. With one in four Irish people affected by mental ill-health at some stage in their lives, Krystian became concerned at the inadequacies of Ireland’s mental health services to cope with the increasing demand and felt he needed to do something about it.

Krystian established MyMind in 2006 with the goal of offering flexible, inexpensive and accessible mental health care for all. Using both web-based and in-person supports, MyMind delivers early intervention and prevention, providing life-changing results for the users of its service. A key component of the MyMind model is that clients are able to see a professional within a few days of the initial contact, and that drug based treatment should only be prescribed when absolutely necessary.

MyMind currently works with over fifty fully qualified and accredited professionals, operating two centres in Dublin and one recently opened centre in Cork. Since 2006 MyMind has supported over 5,000 clients, running in excess of 600 sessions per month and has already made massive strides in reducing the stigma attached to mental illness.

Natasha & Toby Haslam Hopwood – The Galtee Clinic

“Improving outcomes for children in the care system”

Residential care in Ireland is provided to children whose needs cannot be properly met through foster care. In many cases these children require highly specialised and focused attention to address the effects of their difficult start to life. However, despite significant investment in this area, children are not achieving the sorts of long terms successes that they desperately deserve.

When Toby started working as a Clinical Psychologist in the area of Residential Childcare with the HSE, he began to wonder if things could be done differently to help these children achieve better results. Combining his professional knowledge with Natasha’s extensive business background, they purchased a smallholding farm as a base to establish their newly developed programme. The solution they developed was based on a European model of care described as ‘social pedagogy’. This model incorporates key principles around education and care, and the belief that the child is in charge of his/her own life.

Committed to an evidence based approach to working with children in care, The Galtee Clinic has established a highly qualified and experienced multidisciplinary team working to create a safe and secure setting for children to live in while they participate in their innovative and effective programme. Natasha and Toby hope to demonstrate the potential to create real and lasting change in the lives of hundreds of children nationwide.

Peter Johnson – Jobnet

 “Helping a new kind of jobseeker in the Irish market”

Unemployment continues to be a pressing problem in Ireland, increasingly so in recent years. What is particularly striking about the current economic downturn is that we are now seeing large amounts of highly skilled, experienced and qualified professionals and graduates facing the prospect of long term unemployment. Recognising that a job isn’t just about the pay-check, Peter set about creating a programme aimed at helping this new kind of jobseeker in the Irish market.

Peter joined the Jobcare organisation five years ago, serving as Centre Manager and Job Club Leader. He set about designing and developing a new programme for the organisation, responding to the emerging trend of highly-skilled professionals and graduates finding themselves without a job. The Jobnet programme launched in early 2011, combining the expertise of Jobcare and the resources of business to help this group of people get back on their feet and into employment.

Jobnet offers a professional environment tailored to the specific needs of the individuals it engages with. The programme empowers jobseekers to market their skills and to learn how to network effectively, helping themselves to find employment. The programme is delivered over a seven week period, delivering key messages in confidence building, reinvention, up-skilling, network building, targeted job searching and taking advantage of local opportunities.

Graham Jones – Solas Project

 “Reducing the likelihood of reoffending through pre and post-release support”

 As a criminal defence solicitor, Graham had the opportunity to meet many young people caught up in crime. Despite their different stories, Graham noticed a common trait that they all shared – wasted potential due to a lack of direction, support and ambition. He set about to fundamentally change how this group of people saw themselves, empowering them to dictate their own future.

The Solas Project Prison and Probation Programme was established to help young offenders make real and long-lasting change to their lives after release. Through mentoring and skills building, Solas Project helps participants to develop self-awareness and encourages personal responsibility, both of which dramatically reduce the likelihood of reoffending in the process.

Using a five-step programme, engagement commences in prison six months prior to the end of an inmate’s sentence through a series of meaningful activities, with support continuing right through until eighteen months after release. Participation in the programme is entirely voluntary and is targeted at 16-25 year olds. Solas Project intervenes early and helps those who are willing to turn their lives around, ensuring that these young people can begin to contribute to society and to ultimately fulfil their true potential.

John Kearney – Irish Community Rapid Response

 “Enhancing local emergency services and saving lives”

Living in rural Ireland, John is well aware of how scarce emergency services can be for isolated communities around the country. With so many outdoor activities and adventures to avail of, many of those living or holidaying in rural Ireland can sometimes find themselves in serious accidents, many of which can result in life threatening injuries. Rather than waiting for a cash strapped government to provide solutions, John decided to develop his own.

Initially established in West Cork, Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR) enhances local emergency services by providing a ‘second tier’ of first responders to emergency situations. Funded by the communities they operate in, ICRR provides a team of volunteer doctors that can be called upon to respond to emergencies in advance and in addition to the national ambulance service. All of their volunteers are highly skilled and possess a wealth of experience in dealing with trauma and critical care.

To date, the ICRR has responded to over three hundred call-outs, dealing with approximately five hundred patients so far. They have since expanded their operations into East Cork and are now looking to take their innovative model to the national level. With an average of two lives saved per month, ICRR is providing a priceless service to the people of rural Ireland right when they need it most.

Brian McCormick – Adtruism

“Providing an easy and innovative way to fundraise online”

 Despite only recently finishing his Law Degree in UCD, Brian is by no means a stranger to entrepreneurship. Incorporating his first technology company while still in secondary school, technology has always been a fascination of his, and certainly more than just a hobby.

The idea for Adtruism was born out of a desire to tackle an emerging culture of ‘slacktivism’ online. ‘Slacktivism’ refers to a modern day trend where online users are under the impression that liking, sharing or commenting on a video or online post, amounts to actually supporting a cause in a tangible or meaningful way. While recognising that raising awareness is important, Brian felt these people could do more to support the organisations they clearly identified with.

Adtruism acts as a disruptive technology that allows anyone with a website to effortlessly support their favourite charity by placing a small customisable advertising widget somewhere on their site; with all revenue generated going straight to the charity of the site owner’s choosing. By allowing website and blog owners to raise awareness and funds for causes they are passionate about, Adtruism provides a tangible and quantifiable way of making an impact. Adtruism guarantees that 100% of the revenue generated by their widgets goes to the charities themselves.

Mags Mullarney – Move4Parkinson’s

 “Educating, inspiring and empowering people with Parkinson’s to achieve a greater quality of life”

 When Mags was diagnosed with Parkinson’s, she was terrified. Not knowing what to tell her children, she thought her life was over. However, after the initial shock she determined she was unwilling to just accept her fate without question and began to research what she could do to take charge of her life again.

What Mags discovered was that despite there being approximately 11,000 people with Parkinson’s in Ireland, there is little understanding and virtually no investment in services for those impacted. Furthermore she realised those affected themselves tended to be ‘passive recipients’ of their healthcare, and were slow to take charge of their own lives following diagnosis. Determined to empower people with Parkinson’s to improve their quality of life, Mags established Move4Parkinson’s with the clear goal of educating and informing others on how to become more active in their own care.

Move4Parkinson’s incorporates a ‘5 Elements’ framework that helps to simplify self-management into a number of key areas. The Move4Parkinson’s philosophy encourages people with Parkinson’s to choose programmes that best fit their specific needs and requirements, helping people to ensure they understand the choices available and encouraging them to try approaches that they might not have previously considered.


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