Social Innovation Fund Ireland’s Launch and Awardee showcase

On Wednesday, January 27th 2016, together with An Taoiseach, we will mark the launch of Social Innovation Fund Ireland, and showcase our first four Awardees.

A strong field of social innovations

It sounds so simple “showcase our first four Awardees”. The simplicity of this statement masks enormous depth and complexity in order to choose just four Animate Awardees from a field of 58 applications, submitted in just 4 weeks, to an organisation that no one has ever heard of. When we launched the call for applications for the Animate programme, our very first programme, in early September 2015, we targeted early stage social innovations.

How did we select them?

To be selected, we first sought projects that were innovative solutions to critical social or environmental issues in the Republic of Ireland.  After that, we looked for projects that were early stage (but already existed), where the innovation was scalable, and the applicants wanted to scale or spread it around Ireland.  We wanted to see some evidence that the innovation works, and that the leadership have the skills to take it to the next stage. Finally, we sought evidence that the Animate programme (and it is a programme not a grant) would add value to the project, at this time. Timing was an important element of the final decision.

So who decided?

All 50 projects that met the criteria were screened by a mixture of staff and external stakeholders against our criteria. Those 13 projects that were ranked as Strong Candidates were invited for interview. Interview panels consisted of a mix of Social Innovation Fund Board members and external experts, ranging from entrepreneurs to doctors to social sector leaders.  A minimum of four people interviewed the candidate(s), and reached a consensus on their ranking as Strong, Potential or Weak candidate following interview.  At this stage, references were checked and the final due diligence checks completed.  Final decisions were made by the Board of Social Innovation Fund Ireland. We are proud that the selection process combined expert opinion with senior leaders across sectors, as well as crowdsourcing the earlier stage screening.

What did we learn? Or did we learn anything?

As we already believed, we learned that there is no shortage of amazing innovations tackling key issues all around Ireland.

We had 58 applications from half the counties in Ireland, tackling a wide range of social issues from children / youth to education to healthcare to environment.

You might be surprised at the level of consensus that can be found between crowdsourced opinion (against fixed criteria) and expert opinion (using the same criteria). In fact, this time around, in no case did their views diverge.

The quality of the applicants was superb. Several other projects in fact met the quality standards we set, but simply did not secure an Award based on the competition they faced. Next time, they could make it. Check out our Twitter feed @SInnovationIRL for a profiles of some of these.

A nation of talented social innovators

It is with great joy that I can say that we live in a country that is indeed full of people and communities that invent solutions to our critical social issues. All kinds of people – young old, rich, poor, educated or not. However, there is also a huge need to provide more supports to enable these – at all stages of development. As a country, we are building an infrastructure of supports, but these supports have less value and are less available that supports to develop equivalent businesses. 

If we believe that innovation is core to our economic recovery.  Then it’s not hard to believe that social innovation is core to our social recovery. We are a society, not an economy. Without a social recovery, or with too long a time lag, it is no recovery at all. 

Social Innovation Fund Ireland’s showcase of the Animate Awardees will take place on 27th January in Dublin city centre. It will also be livestreamed on our YouTube channel from 4pm or follow the event on @SInnovationIRL.

Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Social Innovation Fund Ireland