Last Monday morning an important new initiative was being celebrated in Tallaght, on the west side of Dublin.
FoodCloud, an online platform that connects leading retailers with surplus food to local charities, joined forces with Bia Food Initiative, the operator of food redistribution depots across Ireland. Bia’s new name is FoodCloud Hubs and together these organizations will tackle the issue of food poverty in Ireland and beyond, by offering "a solution for surplus food at every step of the supply chain".
I go to many entrepreneur focused events in Dublin and the topics up for discussion are usually some version of “how to’s” around funding and talent acquisition. Startup events rarely focus on social issues like environmental waste and food poverty, and they certainly never close out with a live performance from the renowned High Hopes choir, like the event did on Monday.
Businesses with a mission to create social change, called social enterprises, are becoming a large and important sector within the Dublin and Irish startup ecosystems. They’re experimenting with new approaches to old and intransigent problems and as such are important contributors to Ireland’s innovation coefficient. Still and all, we often don't consider these businesses as entrepreneur led or innovative, and we're slow to celebrate them alongside more traditional startup companies selling into, say, the financial, healthcare or education sectors.
We also mistakenly believe that these companies focus their activities exclusively on Ireland, when in fact, many of them like FoodCloud, CoderDojo, Pieta House, and ChangeX are scaling internationally, and have huge and global ambitions. Instead of growing larger and more profitable of themselves, the greatest social enterprises are aiming higher. They want to change “The System” and if they succeed they’ll impact the lives of not hundreds or thousands, but potentially millions of people each.
At the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland annual awards ceremony last week we were introduced to the newest cohort of social enterprises in Ireland, and on December 7th, Ireland’s Social Innovation Fund will announce the 2017 winners of their THINKTECH programme, Ireland’s first €1m Tech for Good fund.
Every city in the world has its own story of innovative enterprises. As it turns out, ours is hugely enhanced by the achievements - past, present and future - of Ireland's social entrepreneurs and their companies. By joining forces with them we can paint a deeper and richer picture of innovation from Ireland, for the benefit of one and all.