THINKTECH Winners Announced

CoveneyMinister for Housing Simon Coveney: “To be in a position to support and encourage innovative solutions to such fundamental social challenges is what good government is about.” Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Four innovative projects which use technology to tackle chronic social issues like homelessness and food waste have been selected for Ireland’s first ever “thinktech” accelerator programme.

The €1 million fund, jointly supported by Google Ireland and Social Innovation Fund Ireland, is designed to showcase social enterprise and technical innovation.

Among the winning projects, chosen from 69 entries, was Dublin-based Foodcloud Hubs, which redirects surplus food from producers to foodbanks and charities using a simple app.

Click here to read the full article by Eoin Burke-Kennedy, Irish Times 8th December 2016  

Lessons from THINKTECH’S Workshop

From the time we opened the call for THINKTECH, our applicants have been eager to promote their projects to us. Having reached the final 11 of our selection process, we wanted to hold an event that would encourage finalists to start thinking about what they could get from the programme while having a little fun along the way. Like any organisation pitching to a client, it is easier to visualise the end product if one is immersed in it. This was to the role of THINKTECH’s workshop.

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Our three key speakers, experts in their own fields but largely new to the social innovation sector, provided our THINKTECH finalists with three key lessons that can be applied to any organisation from start-up to large business.

 

Ownership

Paul Murray, Investment Director of Atlantic Bridge opened the day with a segment called ‘preparing yourself for a programme’ full of tips on what to Ownershipdo and what not to do during a programme. A lesson that resonated with my colleagues and I as a key learning was the importance of ownership. While consultation and deliberation are important elements of any programme, being conscious and aware that any decision you make is your own, regardless of the outcome, is paramount to progressing your project and yourself as an entrepreneur.

 

Collaboration & Communication

 Following on from Paul, Google Ireland’s Abdullah Aydin prepared an engagement piece that had all our applGO3A9442icants form one team, electing a CEO, Vice President, line managers and painters. Each had an integral role to the success of the team yet each were restricted in communication, movement and knowledge of their other team member’s work. The image on the left  is the end product of this work and illustrates how effective communication and collaboration can create a ‘work of art’.   

 

 

Know yourself

Alex French, former Animate mentor & Interim CTO of FrockAdvisor, discussed the importance of not only having a roadmap for your project but incorporating a technology roadmap as well. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses, particularly with technology, is of utmost importance. Know your ability and don’t outsource what you are good at. Armed with this knowledge our finalists were tasked with designing a new App: HugFinder – the uber/halo for Hugs. While the basic concept of each app design remained the same, certain features varied amongst the groups. We look forward to seeing a version in the App store very soon.

Lessons in Practice 

2015 Animate Awardee Dara Connolly closed the proceedings by explaining his experience with Animate.  Dara is a true example of someone utilising all aspects of a programme. While his ideas of growth at the beginning of Animate may not have been the same as those he left the programme with, his openness to feedback, strong ability to collaborate,and commitment to his objectives allowed him to succeed and take ReCreate to the next stage.

 

What’s the value of a workshop for a Selection Process?

NCollage of Wsaturally a Workshop does not yield the information that a formal interview does, nor can it compare to the detailed explanations, anecdotes and data-driven results that are so paramount to a strongly written application. However, it does provide you with a lens into the person and the team that can often go unnoticed in paper applications.

 Those who are willing to engage, and take on board the lessons given will be the same projects that will have clear objectives, asks and plans when they enter a programme.

 

 

 

 

A few thoughts about Social Innovation in Ireland

As we approach the end of the THINKTECH screening stage, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on some of the application trends we’ve noticed and what this means for the Social Innovation sector in Ireland moving forward.

Data, data, data….

data

The standard of application writing for THINKTECH was high. In many ways the application form acts as an elevator pitch to people who know nothing about your project, in this case, our screeners. Sometimes less is more, and researched or measured data provides confidence that you fully understand the issue you’re trying to solve and can clearly demonstrate the impact of your project to date.

One of the key learnings from NPC’s ‘Stories & Numbers Report ‘ is the concept of using a ‘theory of change’ model for data collection. This model focuses organisations on inputs, outputs, and necessary outcomes to achieve success. Understanding these elements can often highlight ‘what’ data to collect, and ‘how’ to best measure impact. 

Joined up thinking?

Joined up thinking

Whilst there was a significant spread of social issues identified by applicants, there were a number of projects that aimed to tackle these issues in similar ways. We’d obviously love to back as many projects as possible but realistically many applicants are going to be disappointed.

 

Funding is a constant challenge for the non-profit sector and one wonders what happens to some of these applicants after a prolonged period of time without funding? Many will have well-developed funding strategies in place, but the worry remains that some applicants may fall off the social innovation cliff face.

So what can be done to keep these innovators in the sector? The answer may lie in a regular forum that brings innovators together under social issue. Universities, Enterprise hubs and Hackathons offer a well-established base to provide a platform for social innovators. If brought together by social issue, flexibility and an open mind could unlock a ‘super-idea’ amongst a number of  social innovators. As the famous seanfhocail goes – Ní neart go cur le chéile.

Can Ireland strengthen as a social enterprise hub?

collaboration

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Could social enterprises become the new heartbeat of communities across Ireland? Over 53% of THINKTECH applicants identified themselves as social enterprises. The Forfás Social Enterprise in Ireland Report 2013 stated that an estimated 30,000 people are employed by social enterprises in Ireland. To reach the mean EU level by 2020, social enterprises would have to account for 65,000 jobs which provides a massive opportunity for the sector.

However, the sector faces many challenges. The term ‘social enterprise’ is not defined as a legal entity by law. There are also funding and governance issues that hamper the progression of the sector.

What if we looked to our Scottish cousins as a model of success where the Community Interest Company (CIC) model has flourished? This model allows flexibility for companies to be limited by guarantee or shares but are bound by common principles of asset locks and dividend/interest payments to shareholders. 

In summary, sometimes the best innovations have already been conceived at home or quite often abroad. The test for Irish innovators then becomes a matter of having an open-mind, being flexible, and maximising aspects of that innovation for the local environment. 

By Eoghan Ryan, THINKTECH Project Manager

 

Trends of THINKTECH Applications

On 31st July 2016 the call for applications closed for THINKTECH, this date also marked the beginning of the selection process – the most exciting time of year for us at Social Innovation Fund Ireland.  During this process, we get our first introduction to many projects and gain insights into the great work being done around Ireland to address social issues. From the applications, we learn who is doing what, where they are doing it and in many cases the motivation behind their desire to enact change.

Below are four of the most interesting trends that emerged from our THINKTECH Applicants.

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1. Is Ireland becoming a Hub for Social Enterprise?

One of our core beliefs at Social Innovation Fund Irelands is that  ‘Just as entrepreneurship is critical to innovating in an economy, those who lead the best social enterprises or charities, are critical to innovating in our society’. 

In comparison to other European Countries, Ireland has been rather slow to adopt the Social Enterprise business model. Yet in recent years the sector has been gaining some momentum and the number of THINKTECH Applicants identifying as a Social Enterprise (53% of all applications) is an encouraging statistic for the growth of the movement.

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2. Where are the applicants from?

Dublin accounted for two-thirds of all THINKTECH Applicants, which given the specific technology requirement of the application, and Dublin dominance as Ireland’s technology centre, is not unexpected. What is encouraging is the increase in applicants from Galway, Limerick and Wicklow when compared to our open call for Animate in September 2015. As well as this, there is an emergence of idea owners and social innovators from Kilkenny, Wexford, Sligo and Roscommon.

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3. What issues are they addressing?

A wide variety of social issues are being addressed by THINKTECH’s applicants with many addressing more than one issue either through design or effect. Issues affecting Children and Young People emerged as the dominant social issue (18.8%) followed by promoters of social inclusion (16%).

 

 

4. Is the sector male dominated?

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From our Applications, it seems both Men and Women are as likely to play a leading role in the social innovation sector. 

Echoing the words of Dublin start-ups Commissioner, Niamh Bushnell, in 2015, on the role of women in tech ‘Change is coming……more women entrepreneurs (will be) taking big risks, more women talking bigger’, 54% of THINKTECH’s lead applicants are female compared to male applicants who accounted for 46%.

 

As we move on to the next stage of our selection process, we are excited to uncover further insights and get to know our applicants better.  

Make sure to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to keep up to date with us on our THINKTECH Journey.

By Aisling Redmond, Communications and Programmes.

Learnings from THINKTECH Talks

THINKTECH IRL ImageAs we approach the THINKTECH Call for Applications deadline, it seems fitting to look back on the 5 short weeks since the amazing Launch at Google Foundry on June 21st, and Minister Coveney’s call to action for the social innovation sector. He called on everyone in the room and all innovators to ‘make this a success’ and ‘demand more of Government’ as a result of that success.

At the THINKTECH Talks we asked our speakers and audience participants about the barriers and opportunities facing the social innovation sector. The energy and enthusiasm in Cork, Galway, and Dublin was infectious as views and ideas were shared and debated. The following are the three common challenges that were raised at each destination;

Language

It’s often taken for granted but the importance of communication between innovators and tech entrepreneurs is apparently a key challenge. ‘It felt like we were speaking a different language’ was a shared story in Galway. Clear objectives and a common understanding of the social issue at the beginning of projects can often provide the bedrock for a successful working relationship. 

Lack of Forum

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A regular time and location for tech entrepreneurs to meet with social innovators is currently lacking in Ireland. There are often one off ‘Meet-Ups’ but their sustained reach to the social innovation community is stunted. A periodic, meaningful event where social innovators can pitch ideas and accumulate the necessary skilled team members would provide a massive boost towards creating a thriving eco-system.

Non-profit financial market

Finally, the lack of a clearly defined path for passionate social innovators can often deter great ideas from developing. Appreciating how far down that path you are with your idea can allow innovators to approach the right people at the right time, and apply for the correct funding or programmes at the right time. In addition to our ‘language’ learning above, if borrowing language from other sectors – start-up, early stage, growth stage, and market ready – provides clarity then let’s do it.

THINKTECH offers the largest fund and support programme to innovations with tech at its core then ever before. There are other programmes that offer fantastic supports and cash grants to ‘ideas’ at an earlier stage. Appreciating how far up the ‘Idea Readiness ladder’ you are will assist making the right decisions at the right time.

 

We’ve spoken with a huge number of potential applicants and the tech based ideas to solve social issues are truly outstanding. We’ve already received some fantastic applications and will no doubt receive an increasing number as the deadline looms large. Enjoy the Bank Holiday weekend and don’t leave it till the last minute to apply!

By Eoghan Ryan, THINKTECH Project Manager 

Why THINKTECH Talks?

The official launch of THINKTECH,  a 1 million euro project to support and grow ideas for a better Ireland.Created by Social Innovation Fund Ireland with support from Google.org, and the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government, the unique THINKTECH challenge will identify innovative ideas that use technology to create positive social impact in IrelandPhoto Chris Bellew / Copyright Fennell Photography 2016

We were delighted and honoured when Minister Simon Coveney T.D. launched THINKTECH at Google Foundry on June 21st. He spoke passionately about his hope that this programme could become the catalyst for a thriving social innovation system. A system that will become the best in the world for scaling ideas to making real, measurable change for Irish people. He challenged us all to embrace this opportunity and demand more of Government through successful delivery of the programme. Never ones to shirk a challenge, we’re on the road this week to start the conversation about the social innovation landscape and explain more about suitable technology based ideas eligible to apply for THINKTECH.

Who can apply?

Social Enterprises, not-for-profits and charities can apply for THINKTECH who have ideas with technology at its core and can demonstrate that it can scale and grow across the Republic of Ireland.

We are asking that applicants clearly demonstrate that their ideas have proof of concept (TRL 4-7). Have you tested it? What were the results? Does it have measurable impact? One of the key objectives of Social Innovation Fund Ireland is that we create a culture that funded ideas have gone through a rigorous testing process. The more you tell us, the better!

What projects are suitable?

To quote our CEO Deirdre Mortell from the launch “you tell us”. Use the application form to tell us how technology allows your idea to scale across the country and solve social issues. There’s no right or wrong. If you’re unsure then please don’t hesitate to contact me – eoghan@socialinnovation.ie. We want to help you make the most out of your idea!

Some great examples of ideas that used technology to scale and grow from Europe are as follows;

Assistive technologies – Open Bionics, UK

Open web platforms – We ThinkQ, based in Germany

Apps – 7CupsofTeas, UK

Join the conversation and submit that idea

We want to start a national conversation about social innovation in Ireland. The THINKTECH Talks are not only a chance to provide further information about the programme, but an opportunity to engage with people all across Ireland with innovative ideas, the social and tech entrepreneurs, social enterprises and people with a genuine passion for solving social issues. We want to better understand the current challenges facing the social innovation sector so we can better enable ideas scale and grow in order to maximise their impact. 

Join us in Cork (July 5th), Galway (July 6th), and Dublin (July 7th), to join the conversation with our fantastic panel of speakers and together start the journey towards surpassing the challenge laid down by Minister Coveney T.D.

For further details on how to apply for THINKTECH click here

By Eoghan Ryan, THINKTECH Project Manager

THINKTECH launched 21 June 2016 by Minister Simon Coveney T.D.

Minister Simon Coveney T.D. Launches €1 million THINKTECH initiative to use technology for social good in Ireland

The official launch of THINKTECH,  a 1 million euro project to support and grow ideas for a better Ireland.Created by Social Innovation Fund Ireland with support from Google.org, and the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government, the unique THINKTECH challenge will identify innovative ideas that use technology to create positive social impact in IrelandPhoto Chris Bellew / Copyright Fennell Photography 2016

21st June 2016: THINKTECH, a €1 million project to support and grow ideas for a better Ireland, was today officially launched at Google Foundry by Minister for Environment, Community & Local Government, Simon Coveney, T.D.  Created by Social Innovation Fund Ireland with support from Google.org and the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government, the unique THINKTECH challenge will identify innovative ideas that use technology to create positive social impact in Ireland.

Social Innovation Fund Ireland and Google.org believe that technology has the power to transform our lives for the better. Successful participants will have access to an award fund of up to €750,000, which consists of €600,000 in grants and up to €150,000 worth of support and mentoring, plus a package of Google supports. They will also enter a five-month programme with Social Innovation Fund Ireland with support from Google.org.

The official launch of THINKTECH,  a 1 million euro project to support and grow ideas for a better Ireland.Created by Social Innovation Fund Ireland with support from Google.org, and the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government, the unique THINKTECH challenge will identify innovative ideas that use technology to create positive social impact in IrelandPhoto Chris Bellew / Copyright Fennell Photography 2016CEO, Social Innovation Fund Ireland, Deirdre Mortell said: “We are delighted to team up with Google.org for THINKTECH. This project shines a light on the potential for social enterprises to use technology to solve critical social issues and create a better Ireland. Since Social Innovation Fund Ireland’s launch in January this year, the organisation has grown from strength-to-strength, and through this collaboration with Google.org & the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government, we have been able to provide a €1 million Fund and a unique platform to promote social innovations.  This project also highlights the benefits of private and public sector organisations working together to make a better Ireland.”

The official launch of THINKTECH,  a 1 million euro project to support and grow ideas for a better Ireland.Created by Social Innovation Fund Ireland with support from Google.org, and the Department of Environment, Community & Local Government, the unique THINKTECH challenge will identify innovative ideas that use technology to create positive social impact in IrelandPhoto Chris Bellew / Copyright Fennell Photography 2016

Jacquelline Fuller, Director of Google.org said We are proud to support THINKTECH, which is the first of its kind in Ireland and look forward to seeing great projects and supporting the winners through the five-month programme which Social Innovation Fund Ireland will run in 2017.”

 

 

 

 

Find out more about THINKTECH on its dedicated page here

Find out about our link to Government here

 You can watch all the excitement of  THINKTECH launch at our Youtube Channel

 

Deirdre Mortell, CEO, on THINKTECH, Social Innovation Fund Ireland’s newest programme

 

In the first of our Video Blog series, Deirdre Mortell, CEO of Social Innovation Fund Ireland, explains our newest Programme THINKTECH.

THINKTECH is a €1 Million fund to support and grow ideas for a better Ireland. Created by Social Innovation Fund Ireland with support from Google.org and the Irish Government. It identifies ideas that use technology to solve critical social issues and create opportunities for everyone.

THINKTECH will be launched on Tuesday 21st June at 8am in Dublin. If you would like to join us email us at hello@socialinnovation.ie for an invitation.

What’s your idea for a better Ireland?  

Social Innovation Fund is included in the Programme for Government as Animate closes with a Showcase & Pitching event

 

Animate, Social Innovation Fund Ireland’s first programme, and Ireland’s first Non Profit Accelerator concluded with a Showcase & Pitching event on 18th May 2016 at The Irish Architectural Archive on Merrion Square in Dublin. The event was co-hosted by Philanthropy Ireland and Social Innovation Fund Ireland.

Having participated in a four month long programme from January to April 2016, the four Animate Award winning projects, pitched to a small invited audience in Dublin. Each project specifically described what they need to take their projects to the next stage.

For each project, that vision is different. 

 

Recreate has identified how to grow its model from a single Warehouse of Wonders on the M50 to enable it to promote creativity through re-use all around Ireland, through an extensive growth planning process. Recreate sought a new van to collect the unused materials it re-uses, with over 150,000 km on the clock, at a cost of €25,000. Watch the Recreate pitch here.

Thriftify described how its v1 software is now fully tested and moving to version 2 requires its next stage software development. Testing version 1 through Animate has established that the profit per donated book for a charity shop can grow by an average of €6 per book. Taking the software to the next stage will enable it to be scalable to larger charity hsop chains enabling it to enter the UK market as well. Thriftify requires €80,000 to do this and pay for flights to UK to begin sales and customer building. 

Carebright outlined how it has not signed a contract with HSE for funding, and has secured a loan from Clann Credo, it is ready to proceed to start building its Community Village, Ireland’s first dementia friendly housing model specially designed for a rural community. Having raised €3.5 million, they have just € 1 million left to raise, in order to secure the landscaped the gardens, farm, and sensory garden, plus other requirements, as they reminded us yet again, that the Community Village is a home not a nursing home. 

Save a Selfie has completed version 1 of its app, which is now available on IOS and Android phones, and has commenced a campaign with Order of Malta and other volunteers to upload selfies with defibrillators and other life-saving devices such as life rings. Save a Selfie seeks €20,000 to tale the app to the next stage, enabling all life saving devices that have been uploaded to be tagged with smart tags, enabling local volunteers to carry out regular checks that they are still in place and in working order. This will change Save a Selfie from an educational app to a lifesaving app.

Bernard Kirk of Philanthropy Ireland invited the audience to consider how they could help, and pledge their support – a donation? Pro bono services? A meeting?

What does it take for these early stage projects to be positioned for the next stage?

In our view, I takes 3 things, and we designed Animate to deliver these –

  1. A clear plan and priorities for the next stage
  2. A clear funding requirement
  3. Stronger networks – access to funding & other networks.

The room responded with tremendous energy, funds, meetings and pro bono services were all pledged.

Inspiring pitches were the order of the day as one guest noted, “All the presentations were great but I nearly gave Sean my credit card.”

Social Innovation Fund Ireland is delighted to be included in the Programme for Government, which pledges scaling up the Fund from €5 million to €50 million during the lifetime of this Government.

We look forward to the next challenge, and to taking social innovations to the next stage of scale.

* you can watch each projects individual pitch at our Youtube Channel: Youtube.com/c/SocialInnovation.ie

The issues at the heart of 1916 are still relevant in today’s Ireland

The decade with 1916 at its heart was shaped by citizen action and the mobilisation of the Irish people. The cultural and social movements of the early 20th Century, like the social innovations and enterprises of today, were driven by a desire to address the critical social, economic, cultural and political issues of the day, and to bring about change and transformation. As we celebrate the Centenary of 1916, we look back on the awakening of a powerful idea that ordinary people and their actions can drive real change at local and national level, and ask whether we can see parallels with the movements in Ireland today.

The 1916 era was a period of social, cultural, and political ferment, with many of the leaders involved in multiple issues and organisations. The women’s movement was gearing up to fight for the vote, Conradh na Gaeilge was offering access to Gaeilge and to Irish dancing and culture on a county by county level. The cooperative movement was organising farmers to improve prices and livelihoods and rolling out empowerment programmes to regenerate rural life. In the cities, the ITGWU was collectivising workers to demand better pay and conditions.

All of these were critical issues for citizens at the time.

Poverty in Ireland – both urban and rural – was crippling and pervasive. One third of Dublin’s population, including over 20,000 families, lived in single-room homes in crumbling tenements. The poor quality of the housing was recognised officially: a 1914 enquiry revealed that 28,000 tenements were unfit for habitation, even if the official response to the crisis was minimal.

The economic climate was dire. Dublin’s workers were mainly unskilled and working on day rates. Employers exploited the huge labour surplus to drive down pay and conditions. Income security was almost non-existent for the masses. Rural unskilled workers did not fare any better – landless farm labourers had poor prospects and no security either. Urban working class women generally had three employment options – as shop girls, domestic servants or prostitutes. Urban ladies preferred country girls for their domestic help – they had a reputation of being more pliable.

By the standards of today, politics had no democratic legitimacy. All women and all men without property had no right to vote. The Westminster Parliament was both distant and unrepresentative. There was, however, an engaged public debate, reflected in the number and variety of publications in circulation. Inghínidhe na hEireann had a weekly publication, “Bean na hEireann”, the Gaelic League had “An Claidheamh Soluis” and the Irish Agricultural Society published “The Irish Homestead”. Countless others periodicals were also circulated weekly and monthly.

Printed publications were the social media campaigns of 1916.

While the conditions for the masses in 1916 bear no relationship with today, the issues they represent take new forms in 2016.

Housing, while largely resolved in the mid-20th century through mass building of social housing around the country by the new State, is a critical issue once more, particularly in Dublin and other urban areas. Market failure requires urgent solutions and fresh thinking. To achieve meaningful progress in tackling this crisis, public, private and social and investment all need to be mobilized in support of innovative approaches to policymaking and its implementation.

Gender equality manifests itself through the drive for equal representation of women & men in political life and leadership positions more widely – business, trade unions, state agencies, and in community life. Has Women for Election, a non-partisan movement of women and men for equal representation in politics, replaced the suffragette movement of 1916?

Collective organisation remains strong today in the form of the Irish Farmer’s Organisation, the credit union movement, though weakening in the trade union movements. Where can we see innovation here? Uplift.ie, a People Powered Community, launched itself just a year before the centenary of 1916, bringing the power of technology together with people power to enable collective responses to the social, economic and political issues that matter to Irish people today. It’s online, it’s free, and it’s at the click of a button.

Of course, new issues emerge every day that require a response. Ireland, like every other European country, is an aging society, and we must respond with innovation. Carebright, a social enterprise in Croom County Limerick, has developed the first dementia friendly housing model for a rural environment, and will start to implement it shortly. At Social Innovation Fund Ireland, we were proud to offer them one of our very first Animate Awards. We will continue to find and back the best social innovations that address our critical social issues here in Ireland.

If we keep doing the same thing, we will get the same results. The leaders of the early 20th century movements understood that, and it remains true today. They looked to transform the lives of Irish people tackling crucifying poverty, class issues, gender inequality, and access to culture using innovative ways & means that engaged the citizen population as a whole. Our social innovators and new social movements are stepping up every day as we move further into the 21st century.

Deirdre Mortell & Aisling Redmond

Disclosure: Deirdre Mortell is a director of Women for Election and Uplift.