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Although the Young Social Innovators Ireland programme - aimed at unlocking the power of young people to effect change - first piloted back in 2001, it has not been until more recently that social innovation has gained mainstream popularity as a concept in Ireland. In part, this heightened awareness is linked to the financial and economic crisis which has underscored the need for and value of social innovation in Ireland.

Social innovation is time and context specific. That means it can mean different things in different context. What might not seem innovative in one country, may be groundbreaking in another. The political and cultural background is important to understand. There are also a wide variety of organisations involved in this field, each have different perspectives. So, the purpose of this page is to demonstrate a variety of views on what social innovation means to different kinds of organisations in Ireland.

The voices from Ireland:

In 2011,  NorDub Co (the North Dublin Development Coalition) supplied a summary of social innovation in Ireland, which demonstrates the role of academic institutions and other organisations in encouraging the development of the field of social innovation.

"Many 3rd level organisations in Ireland are providing space for social enterprises or education programmes. Dublin City University (DCU) and DCU Ryan Academy for Entrepreneurship currently offer an (MSc Management in Innovation and Social Enterprise). University College Cork currently offers a Diploma and an MBS in Social Enterprise. In Jan 2009, Trinity College Dublin’s Centre for Non-profit Management launched the Initiative in Social Entrepreneurship, an intellectual centre for research, education and dialogue on social entrepreneurship in Ireland. Social enterprise education and research is growing all the time."

The profile goes on to explore the number of organisations which have been working for several years in Ireland to create the right environment to realise the potential of the social innovation sector, for both local economic development and employment opportunities:

"The North Dublin Development Coalition (NorDubCo) was setup in 1996 to promote the economic and social development of the North Dublin Region

The Social Enterprise & Entrepreneurship Task Force (SEETF) was setup in 2009 to promote social enterprise and social entrepreneurship as a viable part of the Irish economy and has helped to put social enterprise on the political agenda for the first time with the publication of its report Adding Value – Delivering Change : The Role of Social Enterprise in National Recovery (June2010). (an online and social media platform and network), was established by SEETF to develop a network of social enterprises and create a forum for the social enterprise community in Ireland."

The full contribution is available to read here, with more information on the sectors with the field of social innovation in Ireland.

In 2015, Sophie Reynolds from Nesta, provided an updated account on social innovation in Ireland which highlights how the economic crisis stimulated the development of social innovation, with a focus on homelessness.

"In the aftermath of the economic and financial crisis, issues related to homelessness, housing and related services have all been adversely affected. There have been increases in evictions and repossessions, growth in waiting lists for social housing and increased indebtedness in relation to key utilities such as heat and water. To address these challenges various homeless service providers and local authorities have applied social innovation principles to better meet the needs of those experiencing homelessness in Ireland. Examples include a cross-organisation partnership between Dublin Region Homeless Executive (DRHE), the Central Statistics Office and a number of homeless service providers to work in a more joined up manner. The multi-agency collaboration has resulted in a number of concrete outcomes: the 2011 Census included rough sleepers for the first time; CSO published a thematic report on homelessness - which aimed to inform homeless policy in a more data and evidence-driven way; and the DRHE developed a ‘real-time’ database which tracks user service journeys and bed occupancy across the Dublin region, and flags if someone has been in homeless emergency accommodation for longer than 6 months."

The contribution goes on to share some key examples of social innovation in Ireland:

"Consensus is an applied research project that explores trends and solutions for sustainable household consumption in Ireland (North & South), with involvement of researchers from Trinity College Dublin and the National University of Ireland, Galway. Led by Trinity College Dublin, SHARECITY  is the first global study of emergent and burgeoning food sharing in cities – from redistributing surplus food from retailers to charities and community kitchens,  to web-based platforms identifying surplus crops as potentially transformative means to shift urban food systems onto more sustainable pathways."

Read more examples in the full contribution here.