Arthur Guinness Fund and Ireland’s social entrepreneurship upsurge

3 Feb 2012

A scene depicting the Irish Men's Sheds Association, which was one of 10 Arthur Guinness Fund awardees in 2011. From left: George Boyle, Jamie Regan, Stuart McLaughlin, John Evoy, John Kearney, Denis Roche, Oisin Scollard, Robin Blandford

The 2012 Arthur Guinness Fund has received applications seeking financial support and mentoring from a record 400 social entrepreneurs and community groups spanning the island of Ireland. Technology and Social Media for Social Good is a new category added to this year’s fund.

The other two categories in this year’s fund are Culture and the Arts and Skills for Life.

Applications for support were submitted from every county on the island, with 361 coming from the Republic of Ireland and 39 from Northern Ireland.

The fund itself was set up in 2009 as part of the Guinness 250th anniversary. Its aim is to carry on the philanthropic legacy of Arthur Guinness by supporting Ireland’s social entrepreneurs who are setting up new ventures or community groups, with the aim of making a social impact.

David Smith, country director, Diageo Ireland, explained that the next step of the evaluation process will involve a rigorous assessment programme, with a number of stages.

Ten projects were selected for support in 2010 and 2011. To date, the Arthur Guinness Fund has awarded €1.65m to 20 projects across Ireland, said Smith. He said that applicants can receive up to €100,000 in financial support, and that choosing the individuals or organisations from these 400 applicants will be a challenge.

However, Smith explained that the fund is more than just about giving money to social enterprises. He said that another core aim of the fund is to give people business mentoring coupled with financial support to help people take their projects to the next level.

“Arthur Guinness Fund awardees are working to create employment opportunities for the disabled, help former prisoners return to work, get entrepreneurs and small businesses to work together, and much more.”

He said that, especially in light of the present economic climate, the fund also aims to play a role in helping projects carry out social change for the better in communities across Ireland.

Recently, Guinness also announced a global partnership with Ashoka to enable the deployment of the funds to new social entrepreneurial projects around the world.

Ashoka is a social movement Bill Drayton founded in 1980 as a global movement to facilitate social change around the globe and support social change makers. Ashoka also has an Irish base.

Another entity that invests in and supports social enterprises in Ireland is Social Entrepreneurs Ireland.

Carmel Doyle was a long-time reporter with Silicon Republic