Department of Rural and Community Development.
20th November, 2017.
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
As a member of Government, there are times when you have to counteract pessimism, cast around for solutions and deliberately concentrate on the positive. And then, on evenings such as this, you find yourself blown away by the sheer quality of ideas and innovative solutions that are germinating in all corners of the country. Solutions to social challenges which we can all help trigger and grow.
Congratulations to all the winners here this evening and to all who participated in the ANIMATE programme.
I would also like to commend Basil Geoghegan and Emer Hunt for their support of the Dedicated Animate Award won by the Not So Different programme, based in Coolock, Dublin. A fantastic programme which will address barriers to education and employment as well as isolation and low self-esteem experienced by people on the autism spectrum and their families.
And, of course, a huge vote of thanks to Medtronic, for their altruistic support of the Healthy Community Awards and who, because of their generosity and social regard, enable us to be here this evening. And to be in a position to reward the nine winning projects which promote good health and wellbeing, and healthy lives for all.
Medtronic’s partnership with Social Innovation Fund Ireland is a shining example of how companies can bring funds and so much more to support communities. There is no doubt that hard cash is a vital element in growing social innovations, but it is also clear that mentoring, expertise and leadership are just as important to their development.
Social Innovation Fund Ireland, became operational in late 2014 from one of the four key recommendations from the Forum on Philanthropy and Fundraising. The Forum set out a vision of how the unique contribution of philanthropy and strategic charitable fundraising to Irish society could be reinforced, properly understood and valued.
We in Government take social innovation very seriously. So much so that it is embedded in the Programme for a Partnership Government that, through Social Innovation Fund Ireland, we will seek to raise a minimum of €50million to provide growth capital to Ireland’s best social projects and innovators and target solutions to some of our most critical social issues. Within this framework, every Euro donated in private giving is matched by a Euro from Government.
Together, we are working to make communities in Ireland happier, healthier and more inclusive. Whilst all the time being ably and professionally facilitated and steered (maybe even gently pushed?) by Deirdre Mortell and her team in the Social Innovation Fund Ireland.
And I am delighted to have the opportunity, here this evening, to acknowledge your good work and to congratulate you on the many programmes you are spearheading, all for the betterment of communities, the economy and the environment.
The variety and scope, and indeed the geographical spread, of the winning projects here this evening perhaps paints a better picture, than any Government report, of the challenges being faced by our citizens every day. And crucially how the solutions are out there too if we work together to harness the innovative talent and generosity of spirit that abounds in our communities and in the corporate sector.
The ANIMATE Programme is a great example of the power of partnership and co-operation as we look at innovative solutions for social challenges. This programme supports innovative early stage ideas to help them get off the ground, so to speak. The winners of an earlier Animate programme have all developed further, helped, in no small part, by the work of Social Innovation Fund Ireland.
Government, business and the social sector coming together to support innovation and share resources is a uniquely effective way to create opportunity and sustainable solutions for society’s benefit and well being.
Innovation involves challenging the status quo and taking new approaches. It requires focus on solutions that are capable of having widespread impact. Workable solutions! We are extremely fortunate in Ireland to have people ready and willing to do this. You are these people!
Henry Ford once said:
‘A business that makes nothing but money is a poor kind of business’.
In that context I would also like to commend the organisations and social enterprises which are delivering an immediate positive social impact to the community. Our Programme for Partnership Government includes a commitment to develop a vibrant and effective social enterprise sector. The Action Plan for Jobs recognises that all parts of society and of the community can share in, and contribute to, our economic renewal. In particular the Action Plan noted that there is a strong social enterprise base in Ireland, which has significant potential for job creation.
The work of bodies such as Social Innovation Fund Ireland and the examples of the awardees here today provide a valuable opportunity for us to stand back and take a critical look at the world in which we live. And in meaningful partnership, to creatively explore ways to improve our communities, protect our environment and create sustainable employment.
Once again, I would like to convey my congratulations to all the awardees and to say it is very gratifying to be in a position to support such originality and innovation. Especially when these qualities are applied to finding workable and sustainable solutions for a broad and very topical spectrum of social issues.