History of The Wheel

The Wheel was an idea articulated for the first time in 1998 by people across the sector who felt that a connecting network would be a good idea for groups working both locally and nationally.
The initial spark for The Wheel came from an article that solicitor and founder of the Hospice Foundation, the late Dr. Mary Redmond, placed in a national newspaper in late 1998 on the topic of social entrepreneurship and what was needed to foster it in Ireland.

The Wheel has consistently kept true to its initial remit as a connecting mechanism across the broader community / voluntary / charitable sector.

Funding was secured from The Atlantic Philanthropies and five consultation conferences were organised throughout 1998 and 1999 about:
  • Whether it should exist at all?
  • What its role should be?
  • And what would it do in the sector?

The outcome was the establishment of a vision, mission and values which are still apt today.

An office with a CEO was established in October 2000 based in the Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups in Dublin.  In 2002 the office moved to a rented premises in the Irish Social Finance Centre in Dublin 8, and in 2010 the office moved to its current location on Fleet Street, Dublin 2, in the city centre. 

The Wheel has consistently kept true to its initial remit as a connecting mechanism across the broader community / voluntary / charitable sector.

We developed the initial 'founding workshops' into a full annual programme of learning and networking events. Upon invitation by the Government to become a Social Partner in 2003, we accepted and developed the representation element of our work with members and the wider sector. Over the years we have successfully advocated with Government for additional funding for the work that the sector does, for supportive charity regulation and for a more structured relationship between the sector and the state. More than 3,500 people attend our events annually and the profile of our membership base reflects the profile of the sector itself so we are well rooted to understand and promote solutions to the sectors’ needs.  

Initial seed funding in the founding years came from a multi-year funding agreement with The Atlantic Philanthropies and a one-off donation from the Michael Smurfit Foundation. The funding relationship with The Atlantic Philanthropies ended in 2007. Our business model for financial sustainability has three multually inter-dependent strands: 1) core funding from certain statutory grant programmes for specific training and capacity building services provided to the sector; 2) earned income from charitable services provided to membership, including membership fees; 3) donations and grants from companies, philanthropic trusts and public bodies to fund specific projects. 
Over the early years the number of people employed with The Wheel fluctuated between five and ten people, depending on projects and funding. Over recent years, this has grown to be a fluctuation between ten and fifteen people. See our Transparancy section [here] for more information on our current impact and on how we are funded. 
Our legal company name is Rotha (Irish for ‘Wheel’) which was registered as a legal entity in 1999.  We have had ‘charitable tax exemption’ with the Revenue Commissioners since 2009 and, along with all other similar charities, we are a ‘registered charity’ with the Charities Regulatory Authority (www.charitiesregulatoryauthroity.ie).