Inner City Enterprise

What is a Social Enterprise?

social enterprise
social enterprise
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Social enterprise was borne of the community and voluntary sector, when they offered the services to local communities that were not being provided by government or private entities. They are businesses with a social or environmental impact. Their main aim is not to benefit the pockets of the owners or shareholders but rather to better society, to support disadvantaged groups and to change vulnerable people’s lives. They offer goods and services and are part of the wider economy. Given the areas a lot of social enterprises operate in they have developed and sustained themselves by being innovative, entrepreneurial and people centric.

In Ireland, the Social Enterprise sector is growing. More than ever entrepreneurs are taking a more considered approach to the businesses they set up. They look at the climate crisis or at the plight of the homeless. They react to recent events like the rising unemployment figures due to the COVID 19 pandemic or other major issues affecting Irish society and they ask themselves how they can help to make a positive change. Ireland is recognised as one of the most charitable countries in the world, ranking 5th in the recent tenth edition of the CAF World Giving Index in 2020. Social enterprise is already responsible for at least 25,000 jobs and €1.4 billion in economic activity However according to the often quoted Forfas Report 2013 there is potential to increase these numbers to 40,000 jobs and €4 billion in economic activity.

Major government departments are now looking to social enterprise to support employment and other community development needs. In the Department of Justice’s recent strategy Working to Change 2021 -2023, they highlight Social Enterprise as one of three key pillars to help people with criminal convictions to rejoin the workforce.  The Government’s National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland 2019-2022, lists local enterprise offices and partnership companies ,who are funded directly by the government, as having a remit within their funding to promote and encourage social enterprise growth. This momentum includes a strong push from Europe through funding opportunities and international support structures such as the European Social Fund.

Given this momentum it comes as no surprise that more and more people living on our small island look to social enterprise to enable them to earn a living in a more conscientious way. Here are some of the brilliant social enterprises that ICE have been lucky to have worked with and offered support to.

PACE - The Mug Shot

Prisoners Aid through Community Effort or PACE is an organisation that has been in operation for over fifty years. PACE works in the area of recidivism prevention and offers a range of support services to those with a criminal conviction.  They strive to positively change the attitudes of potential employers and communities regarding former prisoners, who are trying to turn their lives around. One of their main goals is to prepare people for progressing into mainstream employment or self-employment. PACE has several social enterprises that offer training and job experience, as well as creating jobs for people who have experienced prison or probation and find it difficult to secure employment. One of their Social enterprises is the Mug Shot,  their coffee cart and catering business. 

The Mug Shot, offers barista coffee, tea and snacks, and is located in the Four Courts, Dublin City Centre. As a social enterprise, their social mission is to create training, work experience and employment for their clients who have criminal convictions. Their clients receive training to become baristas and are supported in furthering their career in the hospitality industry or becoming self-employed. The cart provides full-time jobs for two baristas and since it opened in 2018, it has provided work experience to an additional twelve people.

The Grow Dome Project

The Grow Dome project is a brilliant example of a social enterprise that works as both a green business and a social impact business. Grow Dome a high-tech greenhouse which doubles as a social and educational space for members of the local community to use free of charge. Their first geodesic grow dome was erected on derelict land in September 2014, in Dublin’s Liberties. They currently have two domes operating. These 100-metre square installations are used to grow plants such lettuce varieties, herbs and microgreens. They use harvested rainwater and hydroponic techniques, and the domes are intended to be a focal point of the community, offering meeting space for mothers and babies groups, support groups and even small school tours.

The Great Care Co-Op

The Great Care Co-op is Ireland’s first care workers cooperative and is led by migrant women with decades of experience in the Care industry. This amazing social enterprise wants to change how care is being provided in Ireland, by using a human rights and equality approach. They provide a more client centric care service, with consistent care, facilitated by a locally based care team who live in the same area as their clients, and who know of the local amenities available to their clients. Great Care Coop offers better terms and conditions for their care team, they invest profit back into the organisation, improving carers’ jobs by investing in further training and contributing to pensions.


Many social enterprises operate in the circular economy. In a circular economy, waste and resource usage are minimised, i.e., the value of products and materials is maintained for as long as possible through good design, durability and repair. This means that when a product has reached the end of its life, its parts are used again and again to create further useful products (Waste Action Plan, Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications 2020-25)

ReCreate is a well-established, fantastic social enterprise working in this space. The Recreate team collect unwanted, unused, surplus or end of line materials from companies and bring them back to their premises in Dublin 12 for creative reuse. Their “Warehouse of Wonders” then offers access to schools, creches, community organisations and indeed even businesses, to all these great materials, through a very affordable subscription model. ReCreate run workshops in creative reuse, and provide employment, and jobs experience as part of their social impact. They help local businesses produce less waste, help schools and communities to stretch their budgets and their imagination, and help the environment by reducing waste and carbon footprint. To date they have diverted 909 tons of waste from landfill, offered 73 work experience placements and have over 1000 active members. And the Warehouse of wonders is a brilliant space for kid’s workshops and school tours!

Aspire Productions

Aspire Productions operates under the umbrella of Aspire Ireland. They produce high quality and affordable media services, in an innovative and cost-effective manner while providing real work in media and business industries for people with Asperger Syndrome.

The Aspire productions team is made up of a talented cohort of media graduates, most of whom have a diagnosis of Asperger Syndrome. The team has a unique outlook on the world, and this translates into the way that they work with clients and how they create the end product. Their vision is to make the media industry autism friendly and their mission is to enable people with Asperger Syndrome to secure successful employment while pursuing their passion in creating great quality media.

Dublin City Social Enterprise Awards 2021

The Dublin City Social Enterprise Awards was established by Inner City Enterprise (ICE) and Dublin City Council with the support of the Local Enterprise Office Dublin City in 2015. These partner organisations recognised that there was a gap in the market for small flexible grants to kick-start the creation or development of social enterprises in Dublin City. The awards granted to the successful applicants allow them to further develop their plans and activities and bring the benefits of their social enterprise to more individuals and communities. 

This year a fund of €50,000 is available to provide a number of financial awards for Social Enterprises who are at start-up or in the development phase. You can find out more information about the awards, application process and criteria here.

ICE supports for Social Enterprises

The ICE team have worked supporting social enterprises since 2015.  We have provided 25 financial grants to start up and growing social enterprises, a range of training and networking opportunities and access to high quality business mentors. We continue to strive to promote social enterprise as a successful mechanism to solve many societal issues, to create meaningful employment and benefit both communities and government alike.

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