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Rethink Ireland Launch Their Social Enterprise Start-up Fund

The Social Enterprise Start-up Fund is an €800,000 Fund which will be delivered over two years: 2021 – 2022.

Backing the social enterprises that are making a positive impact on the social and economic fabric of their community.

The Social Enterprise Start-up Fund is an €800,000 Fund which will be delivered over two years: 2021 – 2022. The Fund was created by Rethink Ireland in partnership with the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund. The Department of Rural and Community Development was established in 2017 to provide a renewed and consolidated focus on rural and community development in Ireland.

The consolidation into a new Department of both policy and supports in respect of the community and rural development provides the means for a greater focus on creating vibrant, inclusive and sustainable communities. The Department has responsibility for ensuring arrangements for strong oversight of the charities sector through facilitating the Charities Regulatory Authority in carrying out its independent statutory role. In July 2019 the Department also published Ireland’s first National Policy on Social Enterprise. The Policy is the Government’s framework to develop the sector in the years ahead of both in terms of scale and impact.


The objective of the fund is to support social enterprises at the start-up / early stage of their life cycle, to embed strong business principles and, in turn, deliver social impact, create jobs and inspire an emerging, next generation of Irish social enterprises.

The Fund will provide critical support to the most innovative and impactful start-up social enterprises across Ireland, supporting them to:

  • Build a plan to grow their social enterprise,

  • Map their key stakeholders and customers,

  • Create networks within the social enterprise sector,

  • Increase their financial sustainability,

  • Communicate their vision and mission to a wider audience.


In 2021, the fund offers (up to) 25 Awardees:

  1. Cash grants

  2. A place on the Accelerator Programme

  3. Business supports

Cash grants

In 2021, the Fund will support up to 25 social enterprises with cash grants of €9,000 each.

The Accelerator Programme

All successful applicants will win a place on Rethink Ireland's National Accelerator Programme specifically designed for social enterprises. The Accelerator Programme is designed to equip social enterprises with the tools and techniques needed to expand their business skills and deepen their impact within their communities. It provides training from best-in-class experts across the private, non-profit and public sectors. Training is provided across a range of functions including business modelling, financial sustainability and vision, and mission. By joining the programme, organisations will also gain access to a peer network of the best social enterprises in Ireland.

Business supports

The Accelerator Programme also includes business supports tailored to the needs of each organisation such as strategic planning, business modelling, and communications.


Rethink Ireland is inviting applications from social enterprises (projects) that are at an early stage of their development and are looking to fully establish themselves in the market.

Rethink Ireland Core Criteria

  • The project must address a critical social issue*

  • The project proposed must be innovative in an Irish context

  • The project must be based on the island of Ireland and must make its main impact in the Republic of Ireland

  • The project must have potential and a desire to scale or replicate in Ireland (it may also have potential internationally, but this is not a requirement)

  • The project has passed the idea stage, i.e. has completed some market research, developed a prototype, made at least one sale, etc.

  • Applicants need to be of a not-for-profit nature. Legal forms include e.g. a company limited by guarantee, a co-operative, a trust, and other not for profit legal entities**

  • If your organisation has charitable status then it will meet the eligibility criteria

If you have another legal form, but meet the definition of social enterprise under the National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland, the Fund may be able to support you. they will ask you further questions about this on the Application Form.

* In the context of this Fund, a clear ambition, supported by some research or a clear plan, to impact a critical social issue shall be deemed sufficient.

** Where the proposed social enterprise is developed as a partnership, it is sufficient if the lead applicant is operating as a not-for-profit organisation.

Social Enterprise Start-Up Fund criteria

The project must be a social enterprise which:

  • Had income levels of less than €100,000 in the previous year

  • Has some traded revenue***

  • Does not have unrestricted reserves in excess of 10 weeks of operating expenditure (including via a parent organisation)

***Traded income is income which is generated from the sale of goods and services. It includes contracts (service level agreements) with state bodies or other state/semi-state bodies where clear deliverables are completed in exchange for a fee. It does not include fundraising income, donation income, or cash grants from government / philanthropic organisations.”

Existing Rethink Ireland Awardee Eligibility

  • Past and current Social Enterprise Development Fund Genesis participants are eligible to apply

  • Past awardees that have been recipients of cash grants are ineligible, except where they are the parent organisation, the applicant is entirely different, and is run separately by a new project lead

  • Existing awardees in receipt of funding from Rethink Ireland are ineligible


Applications open from Thursday, July 15th

Applications are open from Thursday, July 15th until 1 pm on Tuesday, August 3rd. Applicants are invited to complete a short application form. Based on this application, Rethink Ireland will identify a shortlist of applicants who have met the required criteria and award up to 25 cash grants from the shortlist.

Other important dates

Application Clinic

An application clinic will be held via webinar to support potential applicants with any questions they may have on Tuesday, July 20th at 11 am – 12 pm at the following webinar link.

Announcing winners

The Social Enterprise Start-up Fund will inform the successful applicants by September 2021, and the public awards announcement will follow.

The Accelerator Programme

The Accelerator Programme will take place between October 2021 and January 2022. During this period the awardees are expected to attend workshops, about once per month, and to meet with their consultants on a regular basis.

For more information, and to apply for this fund, please click HERE.


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