Dearest longstanding EN readers and with a special salutation to the newest members of our change-making community, it is with great joy that we introduce one of our newest members: Social Enterprise Republic of Ireland (SERI). We had the pleasure of sitting down in July with none other than Tammy Darcy, CEO of SERI. Tammy gave us a clear overview of what SERI does, who they are and what they plan to do in the future. As a new member of EN, we are excited to see the positive change and social impact that SERI can bring about in Ireland and Europe as well as collaborating with them throughout these endeavours.
Where did SERI originate?
One of the first things we learnt about is who SERI is, where they were born from and what their raison d’être is. Tammy detailed the story behind the establishment of SERI noting its roots in the work the Irish Government undertook to establish a National Social Enterprise Policy in 2019. This initiative brought together a group of expert individuals who are engaged in social enterprise in Ireland. After 2019 however, this expert group was disbanded. In their work, they noted two key problems in the Irish social enterprise ecosystem which may resonate with social enterprise stakeholders in other contexts: there is a need for information about social enterprises in Ireland to be collected through some form of census; and the lack of a common definition or understanding of what a social enterprise is. They also noted the issue that there is a gap between those social enterprises who consistently do get funding and those that don’t. Furthermore, they highlighted the importance that not everything should be based on competition but rather geared towards fostering greater opportunities for collaboration. Spurred on by this work on the National Policy and having identified cutting issues, these key individuals went on to launch SERI.
Activities and Members
SERI is driven by a desire to represent the social enterprise sector in Ireland – being led by practitioners, that is to say social entrepreneurs themselves. SERI has a council of practitioners that input directly into their work and the organisation. This inclusion of practitioners at the heart of SERI fosters a deep awareness and understanding of the ecosystem. It also allows for the development of effective strategies and policies that strike at the core of the issues social enterprises face. SERI is still however a new organisation and while this awareness, strategy and policy is strong, there is still a need to focus on the development and implementation of the organisation and its goals. To achieve their vision and objectives, SERI is committed to working closely with partners in Ireland – both in the Republic and in Northern Ireland – as well as internationally at the European level. While EU interest and activity in the social enterprise sphere is well received, Tammy noted that the impacts of EU social enterprise policies are perhaps not always so evident to those working on the ground. Working together with us at EN and with other international bodies such as GECES and the WEF, there is hope that this concern can be resolved.
What is next for SERI?
Procurement is one of the big issues that Tammy mentioned SERI will be focussing on. While Buy Social may be of interest in Ireland, there is still a lot of work to be done to get the sector ready for the demands corporates will be placing on it. SERI is working on a 5-year plan to build the capacities of the social enterprise sector ensuring that it is not being asked to run before it can walk. Beyond the social enterprise as a sector however, Tammy noted that there is a need for social impact to be included as a consideration in the wider economy by all enterprises, not just social enterprises. This is also something EN believes is of great importance and yet another area we look forward to collaborating with SERI on.
After talking with Tammy, we are even more excited to welcome SERI into the EN community. We eagerly look forward to collaborating in many areas and on many projects – both within Ireland and at the European level to drive positive change and to ensure that the digital and green transition is undertaken putting people and the planet at its centre.
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