Support infrastructure for Charities and Social Enterprises

The community and voluntary sector requires an infrastructure-of-support to provide training, advice, information, mentoring and support-services that address needs in the areas of:

  • board development, governance, and leadership;
  • strategy development;
  • general management: human resources, operations, financial and accounting, information and communications technologies, and other management areas; 
  • regulation;
  • fundraising and funding.

The infrastructure-of-support should also provide:

  • shared services and specialist advice in the areas of secretarial services, legal services, accounting services, and incubation supports for new organisations;
  • one-stop-shop information on services and training advice;
  • policy development information and advice on sectoral issues and engaging in dialogue with other sectors.

There is a need for an independent support infrastructure for charities and social enterprises.

Although some of these services are provided in parts of the country, they need to be available to all community and voluntary organisations – at local and national levels. There is a need to map the services that are presently available and to identify the ways in which the gaps can be filled. There is also a need for substantially increased multi-annual government funding for the delivery of these supports.


Independent advice and guidance required on regulation of charities

The Wheel believes that community and voluntary organisations will require independent advice and guidance in their dealings with the proposed Charities Regulator.   Given that the Charities Act identifies a support role for the Charities Regulator, The Wheel would caution that the Regulator may experience conflicts of interest as it is required to simultaneously regulate AND support charities. There is thus a need for an independent support infrastructure for charities. To protect the independence of the community and voluntary sector, the support-infrastructure should be located in the sector itself.

Social Enterprises 

  1. Social enterprises are non-profit, community and voluntary organisations that that engage in commercial activity for social and/or environmental purposes; they are committed to social justice. Social enterprise has three key components: Innovation, Enterprise and Finance.
  2. Social enterprise can contribute significantly to achieving the economic growth and employment objectives set out in Jobs and Growth 2011 as well as the green economy agenda set out in Developing the Green Economy in Ireland, if supported in the right manner. Social enterprise can also contribute to meeting the European Commission’s Integrated Guidelines, particularly in respect to innovation and the social economy.
  3. Countries that recognise and value social enterprise as part of the ‘real’ economy have achieved significant growth in employment and output in the sector while addressing genuine social and environmental needs.
  4. Social enterprise in Ireland has the potential to grow significantly to represent 5% of GDP and to generate at least 65,000 jobs.
  5. But the sector is underdeveloped - representing only 3% of GDP - and in need of appropriate support, both from within and from the wider policy and support infrastructure. It needs to be ‘mainstreamed’ into the greater economy. Government needs to recognise that social enterprise can contribute to helping Ireland work its way out of the current crisis. The sector itself needs to realise that it must work together if meaningful progress is to be achieved.
Main Recommendations
The measures proposed by the Social Enterprise Task Force to drive the growth and development of social enterprise envisage:
  • The development of an enabling policy framework, which would see the social enterprise agenda adopted and driven by the department with responsibility for enterprise;
  • Incorporating social enterprise into the economic, planning and development strategies of local authorities;
  • Including a social enterprise remit within existing enterprise funding mechanisms;
  • Enhancing the existing support structures for the business sector so that they are accessible and capable of also providing support to social enterprise4. The key agency for providing support to social enterprise at local level should be the County & City Enterprise Boards (CEBs);
  • Developing the use of social clauses in public and local authority procurement policy and supporting social enterprises to build consortia and to tender for public contracts; and
  • Developing a range of flexible finance options including equity-type instruments.

The information above is excerpted from the 'Adding Value, Delivering Change - The Role of Social Enterprise in National Recovery' report. Download the full report here (pdf, 2.42MB).