Minister Joe O’Brien welcomes announcement of EU funded project to establish a National Competence Centre for Social innovation in Ireland

30th June, 2021

Minister Joe O’Brien welcomes announcement of EU funded project to establish a National Competence Centre for Social innovation in Ireland


Joe O’Brien TD, Minister of State at the Department of Rural and Community Development, has today welcomed the announcement by an Irish-led international consortium of a new EU funded project to promote social innovation and cross-collaboration across Europe.  The objective of the project, which will take place over two years, is to establish a sustainable and responsive National Competence Centre for Social Innovation (NCCSI) in each of the partner countries.

Led by Rethink Ireland and Genio Trust (Ireland), the consortium also incorporates partners from Portugal, Bulgaria and Cyprus.

As part of their application, the European Social Fund (ESF) Managing Authority in Ireland endorsed the collaboration of Rethink Ireland and Genio to act as a National Competence Centre for Social Innovation in Ireland. The ESF+ Programme for 2021-27 will include support for social innovation and the work of the Centre in building the national ecosystem for social innovation will be key to this support.

Welcoming today’s announcement, Minister O’Brien said:

“Under the direction of Rethink Ireland, this project is an excellent example of collaboration and partnership, bringing together a number of key organisations operating in an international context to develop social innovation.

“Government is firmly committed to developing social innovation and social enterprise, and believes that they are key to addressing emerging social, economic and environmental needs in a sustainable manner.”

The project has been granted €650,000 from the European Union, through the European Social Fund and the European Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI).

In conjunction, a commitment of at least €60,000 has been allocated to the project by the Department of Rural and Community Development towards budgetary costs.

The aim of the project is to facilitate an international, cross-sectoral network of stakeholders and promotors who will provide support for social innovations in each country.

Among the target outcomes of the project include the strengthening of transnational cooperation, strengthened public policy to support innovation, improving conditions for testing, replication and/or upscaling of social innovations and the increased likelihood that social innovation projects become ‘scale ready’. It is also envisaged that through supports for capacity building and knowledge transfer, each country will be able to overcome and address any gaps in the social innovation ecosystem.

The Minister continued:

“Social innovators are an important part of our wider social enterprise ecosystem. They develop concepts, ideas or businesses for social good and are often assisted through philanthropic or corporate donations, supporting them, kick-starting them and enabling their ideas to be tested in a real environment.

“The development of a National Competence Centre will greatly enhance the ability of our social innovators to respond, adapt and develop to the merging needs of our communities.

“By continuing to work closely with stakeholders, my Department reaffirms its commitment to social enterprise and social innovation as key drivers of an inclusive and sustainable recovery.”

Further information on this project can be found at:


For further information contact

Notes to editor: 


The consortium consists of Rethink Ireland, the Genio Trust (Ireland), Cohesion and Development Agency (Portugal), Portugal Social Innovation and Mission Unit, The Change Foundation (Bulgaria), BCause Foundation (Bulgaria), Cleantech (Bulgaria), Bulgarian Center for Not-for-Profit Law, The Business Institute (Bulgaria), the SYNTHESIS Center for Research and Education, and the Centre for Social Innovation (Cyprus).


Social Enterprises

Social enterprises are businesses that work primarily to improve the lives of people. Their core objective is to achieve a social, societal, or environmental impact. Like other businesses, social enterprises pursue their objectives by trading in goods and services on an ongoing basis. However, surpluses generated by social enterprises are re-invested into achieving their core social objectives, rather than maximising profit for their owners.

They frequently work to support disadvantaged groups such as the long-term unemployed, people with disabilities, the Traveller community, etc., or to address issues such as food poverty, social housing, or environmental matters.


National Social Enterprise Policy

Ireland’s first National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland 2019-2022 was launched by the Department of Rural and Community Development on 18 July 2019, with the objective of creating an enabling environment for social enterprise to grow and contribute more fully to Ireland’s social and economic progress.

The Policy is focused on three main objectives:

  1. Building Awareness of Social Enterprise
  2. Growing and Strengthening Social Enterprise
  3. Achieving Better Policy Alignment