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Social entrepreneurs with big ideas shortlisted for €775k prize fund

Social Entrepreneurs Ireland (SEI) says it continues to help people with big ideas to change Ireland.

Coder and social entrepreneur James Whelton.
Coder and social entrepreneur James Whelton.
Image: SEI

JOB CREATION, COMPUTER coding for kids and tourism initiatives are among the diverse ideas that this year’s Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Awards finalists have created successful ventures out of.

The eight shortlisted projects have been revealed and over the next three months they will compete for a share of the generous €775,000 prize fund. The awards recognise young organisations with innovative ideas for major social change in Ireland.

The winning businesses will be announced during a ceremony in October. Three will be chosen to participate in Social Entrepreneurs Ireland’s Impact Programme and will benefit from a support package of €200,000 each. The remaining five will participate in the Elevator Programme, worth about €35,000 to each venture.

Sponsored by DCC plc, SEI says the programmes help emerging entrepreneurs develop their initiatives so “they have a big impact in Ireland by effecting real social change”.

Picked from 200 applicants, the eight finalists include George Boyle of Fumbally Exchange, Lucy Masterson of Hireland, James Whelton of Coder Dojo, Trevor White of City of a Thousand Welcomes, Aviva Cohen of Neuro Hero, Emma Murphy of The Turning Institute, Rachel Cassen of LEAP and Tony Griffin and Karl Swan of Soar Foundation.

Speaking after the announcement of the finalists, Seán Coughlan said that at a time of “so much negativity, it is humbling to see the spirit, passion and abilities of these people who have new solutions for some of our social problems”.

Since 2005, Social Entrepreneurs Ireland has provided support to 150 social entrepreneurs, directly investing over €4m which has led to the creation of about 800 job opportunities.

The Finalists

Lucy Masterson, Hireland

Set up to address Ireland’s stubbornly-high unemployment rate, Hireland has challenged business owners to think about what they can do to improve their enterprise by hiring. Masterson wants to change the Irish mindset from one of firing to one of hiring. Since setting up, 4,202 jobs have been pledged.

James Whelton, Coder Dojo

Whelton wanted to address the gap in the education system around computer literacy and coding so set up free coding clubs for young people. Children are taught how to code and develop websites, apps and games by professionals who volunteer their time.

Emma Murphy, The Turning Institute

The Turning Institute provides therapist-designed and clinically-proven online programmes for adults with eating disorders. Murphy is a psychotherapist specialising in the area and has developed the online platform as a first step towards recovery.

Rachel Cassen, LEAP

Cassen’s LEAP initiative provides mentoring and training solutions to families who have a child with a disability and want to take control of their own support needs.

Aviva Cohen, Neuro Hero

In order to tackle the social isolation of those who have reduced communication abilities due to impairments, Aviva Cohen created Neuro Hero, a family support package that uses a series of web apps for mobile devices and PCs.

Trevor White, City of a Thousand Welcomes

White’s idea comes after asking Irish people to remember what is truly unique and positive about their country. His venture allows Dubliners to sign up as volunteer ambassadors and bring visitors to the city for a free pint or cup of tea. He says it promotes civic pride and encourages visitors.

George Boyle, Fumbally Exchange

An architect by profession, George Boyle founded Fumbally Exchange in Dublin’s Liberties to provide creative workspaces in key locations and sectors. She also runs mentoring, workshops, exhibitions, apprenticeships and other programmes.

Tony Griffin and Karl Swan, Soar Foundation

Based on an Australian venture which has been running for 17 years, Soar creates and delivers innovative programmes for young people of any background to share and learn, build self-confidence and increase their emotional awareness.

TheJournal.ie column by finalist George Boyle: ‘I never forgot that feeling of being part of a team’>

More: Got an idea? A successful Irish entrepreneur is giving away €20k>

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