"Social Enterprise is underdeveloped at 3% of GDP and little is known in Ireland. The European norm for social enterprise is between 4% and 7% of GDP" he said. "The Social Economy comprises two key elements: social finance providers and social entrepreneurs. Social finance providers demand that all investments generate a financial and a social dividend. Social enterprises must therefore show that they can repay the loan and deliver a positive and verifiable social benefit. The Social Economy should not be confused with community and voluntary traditional endeavour. Rather it is an entirely different concept based on an exacting and rigorous business model" the Minister said.
"For the first time, a commitment to the development of social enterprise features in the Programme for Government. The Programme negotiated between Labour and Fine Gael pledges that: 'The Government will promote the development of a vibrant and effective social enterprise sector. We will instruct agencies to view social enterprises as important stakeholders in rejuvenating local economies. We will continue support for social innovation projects for young people through education, community and voluntary structures.' "With unemployment at a truly disturbing 14.7%, the Government must be prepared to support sound job creation ideas from wherever they come. Therefore, Government must give effect to the commitment in the Programme for Government through tangible measures. Social entrepreneurs cannot deliver on their own. A particular Government Ministry must take responsibility for the development of this area. Whether it is the Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation or the Department of Environment, Community and Local Government is yet to be settled on. Since it is critical that social enterprises have access to the existing support structures that are available to conventional SMEs such as County Enterprise Boards, Enterprise Ireland, Business Innovation Centres and so on, it may be best that responsibility is reposed in the Department of Enterprise, Jobs and Innovation" Pat Rabbitte said. "For example, that Department has a micro-finance fund for start up enterprises and there is no reason why social enterprises should not have access to that fund. Whatever Department is ultimately given responsibility, a special social enterprise unit must be established within that department so that the potential of this concept can be fully realised", Minister Rabbitte said.
Minister Rabbitte was speaking at the WINSENT (Wales Ireland Network for Social Entrepreneurship) Conference.
The WINSENT project is part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Ireland Wales Programme (INTERREG 4A)