WALK and its subsidiary, Walkinstown Green Social Enterprises (WGSE), provides education, training and employment opportunities for people with disabilities, autism, and other barriers to employment through the operation of the Green Kitchen Café and the Green Garden. Through these programmes, WGSE provides a bridge to mainstream employment and has supported people into work with 51 different employers, including the Houses of the Oireachtas, Compass at Google, Facebook, Accenture, Tallaght University Hospital and Costa Coffee.

Interview with Austin O’Sullivan, Director of Resources & Organisation Development

What motivated you to set up your organisation?

Walkinstown Green Social Enterprises CLG was set up in 2014 by Joe Mason, CEO of WALK, in close cooperation with Dublin City Council. Its purpose was to provide a social enterprise community hub that would provide inclusive pathways to employment for adults with intellectual disabilities and for those in our community who were furthest from the labour market. The motivation to set it up came in response to a desire from the people supported by WALK to have a paid job. Our social enterprise comprises the Green Kitchen and Garden Shop, which offers training and employment opportunities that provide a bridge to mainstream employment.

What impact has Rethink Ireland had on your organisation?
Rethink Ireland provided us with access to the Accelerator Programme, which increased our knowledge on how to operate as a viable enterprise and how to measure our social impact. They also provided a consultant to develop a sustainability strategy which focussed on identifying our market and
provided a grant of €10,000 towards a marketing campaign which has been very successful in helping us develop a sustainable business. In 2020, we were awarded a major grant of €225,000 over three years to extend our programme to adults with autism who require specialist interventions. This project uses new technology to help participants learn work-related tasks and reduces dependence on one-to-one job coach supervision.

What are your plans for the future of your organisation?
Our social enterprise has recently commenced on the production of a new strategic plan for the next three years. We will be looking to develop our model of action learning and to offer more person centred options for participants.

What advice would you give to budding social innovators?
Our advice would be to ensure that you have a sustainable business model, to collaborate with other social enterprises and to consistently listen to your target group to ensure that what you are doing meets their needs.

I’m really lucky to be chosen for this project and I get lots of help and I don’t want to waste this opportunity so I will work hard and try new things – Programme participant