Closed Fund

Education Innovation Fund 2020-2023

Supporting innovations that tackle educational disadvantage in Ireland

COVID-19 is a massive disruption to Ireland’s education system. It exposes already vulnerable people to further educational disadvantage. It widens inequality and makes educational opportunities even harder to reach.  Now is the time for swift action.

This is why Rethink Ireland has created the Education Innovation Fund 2020 – 2023.  The Fund seeks to improve equal access to education and promote economic empowerment. 

We created the Education Fund with the support of the Department of Rural and Community Development (via the Dormant Accounts Fund). We will match funds raised by applicants and we will provide cash grants and a variety of business supports.

How does it work?

This Fund has three strands:

1. Transitions in Education

The pandemic affects people making ‘transitions in education’.  For example, students sitting their Leaving Certificate this year experienced increased anxiety. 

Making a transition in education can include; starting early learning care and school; moving from primary to secondary school; and moving to further education, training and employment.

This strand also welcomes projects using the Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

2. 21st Century Models and Methods of Education

A 21st-century education gives learners the skills they need to succeed. It also helps them to grow their confidence in practising those skills. It teaches skills such as motivation, creativity, collaboration, critical thinking and social-emotional learning in an educational setting. 

This strand welcomes paradigm-changing approaches to primary and secondary education.

3. Reversing the Effects of Poverty on Educational Outcomes

It is well-documented that poverty affects educational disadvantage. People living in poverty face more stress and anxiety during this period of uncertainty and high unemployment. Educational guidance at this critical time can have a lasting impact on employment opportunities in the future. 

This strand will focus on projects that tackle educational disadvantage. It welcomes projects that provide holistic support to marginalised groups of people on their education journey. It will support projects which address the intersectionality of educational disadvantage through early intervention, all the way through to adulthood. 

The deadline for applying to the Education Innovation Fund is 5:00 pm on Monday, 8th March 2021. Please apply here.

What does the fund offer?

Rethink Ireland matches philanthropic funds raised* by successful applicants to provide:

  • A 50% cash ‘uplift’ on funds raised* 
  • A strategic non-financial supports package to help organisations expand and deepen their impact
  • A place on Rethink Ireland’s Accelerator Programme 
  • Project performance and impact management
  • Access to Rethink Ireland’s networks.

* Applicants must provide evidence to verify the private funding has been secured

Funding requirements

You will be required to provide a ‘Donor Letter of Commitment’ when submitting your application. 

The minimum commitment accepted is €20,000 and the maximum commitment accepted is €200,000. The minimum period for this commitment is two years with a maximum commitment of 3 years.

If you are successful, you will be asked to provide further evidence to verify the private funding you have secured.

How the funding process works: 

  • These private funds are paid to Rethink Ireland annually
  • Rethink Ireland provides evidence of committed donor funds to Government
  • Government releases funding to Rethink Ireland 
  • Rethink Ireland provides an uplift of 50% on the donor funds and makes a grant to the successful applicant

For example: If an applicant raises €60,000 in private funds over 3 years (€20,000 per year), Rethink Ireland will provide an uplift of €30,000 (€10,000 per year). The total Rethink Ireland cash grant will be €90,000 over 3 years (which is €30,000 per year).

Please note, the Rethink Ireland Board will decide how much money to award successful applicants. This may be less than the amount requested. The amount awarded to each applicant will depend on how many organisations are selected.

Who can apply?

We invite applications from organisations that support children, young people and adults who are socially excluded, marginalised or living in poverty. Organisations will also be working to mitigate educational disadvantage in Ireland. 

Projects that support the following target age groups are all eligible to apply to this Fund:

  • Pre-school population  (0-4 years)
  • Primary (5-12 years)
  • Secondary (13-18 years)
  • Young adults (19-24 years)
  • Adults (25-64 years)

The Fund will especially focus on projects that:

  • work to reduce educational disadvantage 
  • encourage innovative ways of overcoming educational disadvantage
  • address systemic obstacles in education 
  • fill current gaps in education support across the lifespan.

For this reason, we particularly welcome projects which support:

  • members of the Traveller community
  • Roma people 
  • people experiencing homelessness.



Rethink Ireland Criteria

  • The project must address a critical social issue – in this case, educational disadvantage
  • The project proposed must be innovative in an Irish context
  • 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 must provide evidence that it is up and running, or has been tested at least in a minimal way
  • The project must be based on the island of Ireland and make its main impact in the Republic of Ireland
  • Applicants must come from an entity that has a not-for-profit legal form, e.g. a school, charity, social enterprise, voluntary organisation or Higher Education Institution

Education Fund Criteria 

The project must indicate progress along, or retain a position on, the National Framework of Qualifications or Early Learning and Care. 

The project must address educational disadvantage in a manner that is new, or that complements, or adds to, the existing innovations in The School Excellence Fund DEIS (Department of Education and Skills), the Department of Children and Youth Affairs’ Let’s Get Ready Programme and the Tusla Education Support Services.

The project must meet the criteria outlined in the below strands. 

Strand 1. Transitions in education 


Projects must support marginalised people going through educational transitions, such as: 

  • moving from home to early learning and care services
  • moving from early learning and care services to primary school 
  • moving from primary school to secondary school 
  • moving from secondary school to tertiary education 
  • moving from education to employment, inclusive of adult education, upskilling, and reskilling projects (including Recognised Prior Learning projects. 

Advantageous Criteria

  • Projects which encourage collaboration across sectors


Strand 2. 21st Century Models and Methods of Education


Projects should meet one or more of the criteria below:

  • Projects that focus on providing ‘21st-century skills’ such as creativity, critical thinking, communication and collaboration
  • Projects that are trialing emerging educational practices, such as innovative learning strategies and alternative assessments.

Advantageous Criteria 

  • Projects which encourage collaboration across sectors


Strand 3.  Reversing the Effects of Poverty on Educational Outcomes


Projects should meet one or more of the criteria below:

  • Projects which support interventions that provide academic, social and community support to improve outcomes for people experiencing disadvantage
  • Projects which advocate for system change within education settings to maximise educational attainment and quality early education.

Advantageous Criteria 

  • Projects that employ a holistic approach to intersectional education supports 
  • Projects which encourage collaboration across sectors


Which projects cannot apply?

  • Projects seeking funds for capital items such as buildings, vans, renovations, or equipment
  • Projects where research is the primary activity
  • Projects promoting or aligned with a political party
  • Projects that only accept participants of a particular faith or religious denomination
  • Projects where the main impact is outside the Republic of Ireland
  • Projects led by people under 18 years of age.

Which applicants cannot apply?

  • Applicants under 18 years of age 
  • Commercial companies 
  • Rethink Ireland staff, directors and their immediate family members.

How do we apply?

This fund has now closed for applications.