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Groundbreaking Social Enterprise Census Highlights Sector's Remarkable Growth and Impact in Ireland


Dublin, Ireland - May 25, 2023 


Social Enterprise Republic of Ireland (SERI) is pleased to announce the findings of a groundbreaking census of social enterprises in Ireland, ‘Social Enterprises in Ireland: A Baseline Data Collection Exercise’.


Commissioned by the Department of Rural and Community Development and conducted in collaboration with SERI, ILDN and Amárach Research, the census highlights the impressive growth and impact of social enterprises in Ireland as well as challenges facing the sector.


Survey results: A growing, impactful sector


  • There are 4,335 social enterprises operating in communities across Ireland. 


  • Social enterprises are spread across various sectors, including Childcare, Community Infrastructure & Local Development, Health, Youth Services & Social Care, and Heritage Festivals, Arts & Creative Industry, collectively fostering community well-being.


  • Employment figures highlight the significant role played by social enterprises as employers in Ireland. Presently, these enterprises provide jobs to 84,382 individuals, constituting 3.7% of the Irish workforce.  


  • Volunteers are critical to the success of social enterprises, contributing to activities, decision-making, and community engagement. Approximately 74,825 people actively volunteer in the social enterprise sector, including 30,324 as board members. 


  • Financially, social enterprises demonstrate their entrepreneurial approach to sustainability, with a total income of €2.34 billion. Notably, 84% of these enterprises rely on diverse income sources, including trading and grants.


Survey results: the funding challenge


  • A significant proportion (40%) have an annual income of less than €100,000 with a median annual income of all respondents of €180,000. The median annual income reduces to €80,000 in the case of rural social enterprises.


John Logue, CEO of SERI, said: 


"The release of the Census represents a significant step forward in recognising and understanding the contributions of social enterprises in Ireland. It’s crucial that we use the census data to inform policy development and continue to develop a supportive ecosystem for social enterprises - particularly in relation to their financial sustainability. SERI believes this should be a key focus in the next National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland expected later this year.”


For media inquiries, please contact:


Megan Jones

Communications, SERI

083 4837951


Background Information:


What is a social enterprise?


A social enterprise is an enterprise whose objective is to achieve a social, societal or environmental impact, rather than maximising profit for its owners or shareholders.

It pursues its objectives by trading on an ongoing basis through the provision of goods and/or services, and by reinvesting surpluses into achieving social objectives. It is governed in a fully accountable and transparent manner.


These characteristics make social enterprises different from enterprises that operate for private profit. But they also sometimes make it difficult for social enterprises to access the type of support that is available to other enterprises to improve their business models. The need for improved access to appropriate support for social enterprises has been highlighted by stakeholders on many occasions and this Policy seeks to address that gap.


Social enterprises are part of the wider social economy and make a valuable contribution to the social and economic progress of Ireland through the creation of jobs and through the delivery of a broad range of services in areas such as homecare, child care, employment activation, retail, hospitality and catering, environmental services, and social housing. They are innovative, entrepreneurial and are increasingly utilising new technologies and creative approaches to address social, societal or environmental challenges.


About SERI


Social Enterprise Republic of Ireland (SERI) is a national representative body for social enterprises in Ireland. Their mission is to be a champion for the sector, and their members, representing and promoting our collective voice nationally and internationally.


About the Census

In the framework of the National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland 2019 – 2022, the census was commissioned by the Department of Rural and Community Development on behalf of the Government of Ireland to the Consortium formed by Amárach Research, Social Enterprise Republic of Ireland (SERI) and Irish Local Development Network (ILDN). 


The Baseline Data Gathering Exercise on Social Enterprise in Ireland provides us, for the first time in Ireland, with concrete evidence concerning social enterprise in Ireland, including the numbers of social enterprises and the areas they operate in. The report clearly shows how significant this sector is for Irish society and the economy.


In July 2019, the first National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland was launched, marking a step change in Ireland’s approach to social enterprise. It aimed at developing the sector in terms of scale and impact. Its development provided us with an unprecedented opportunity for policy in Ireland to be implemented in a coordinated and integrated way that supports the social enterprise sector as a whole. 


A key priority of the policy was the need to gather data on social enterprise to understand its economic and social impact in more detail. Establishing the size, reach and impact of social enterprise in Ireland is essential to inform future policy development.

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