Closed Fund

Social Enterprise Development Fund 2023

In partnership with:
Deirdre Mortell, CEO Rethink Ireland, Alistair Aitken at Books at One, John Kearns, CEO IPB Insurance & Marilyn Catapat-Counihan from KASI at the Social Enterprise Development Fund 2022 Showcase

Rethink Ireland is delighted to welcome applications to the sixth year of its trailblazing €4.4m Social Enterprise Development Fund (2018 – 2023) in partnership with Local Authorities Ireland and funded by IPB Insurance and the Department of Rural and Community Development through the Dormant Accounts Fund.

This Fund focuses on continued seed funding for start-up social enterprises, elevated funding for enterprises at the next stage and offering a business course across all Local Authority regions in Ireland.

Please join us for our application clinics to find out more and answer any questions that you have:

Find out more about the Start a Social Enterprise Business Course here.

What is the Social Enterprise Development Fund?

The Social Enterprise Development Fund was created in 2018 by Rethink Ireland in partnership with Local Authorities Ireland and funded by IPB Insurance and the Department of Rural and Community Development through the Dormant Accounts Fund with the aim of finding and backing social enterprises that add to the social and economic fabric of their community by way of social impact. 

What is this Fund’s objective?

The objective of the Fund is to find and back social enterprises that add to the social and economic fabric of their community by way of social impact. 

The Fund will provide critical support to the most innovative and impactful social enterprises across Ireland, helping them to:

  • Increase or establish their social impact
  • Increase their traded income
  • Create (more) jobs
  • Develop long-term, effective and sustainable solutions.

What is a social enterprise?

A social enterprise is a business that works primarily to improve the lives of people. Its business is social good.

Social enterprises are organisations whose mission is to have a positive effect on society.  Social Enterprises are at the heart of facing the greatest social challenges in Ireland. They are professional and experienced, and use business skills and clever thinking to bridge the gaps in our society.  The money they make from their work is used to grow what they do so that they can reach all the people in society who need their help.

Social enterprises are innovating every day by inventing and developing solutions to Ireland’s most pressing social issues. They are creating meaningful jobs, tackling inequalities and supporting community development. We believe there is a need to foster and invest in these social enterprises to allow them to grow and spread their solutions throughout the country.

What does the Fund offer?

The Social Enterprise Development Fund 2023 provides the opportunity to participate in a Start a Social Enterprise Business Course which will open on February 1st, as well as the chance to receive an award including a cash grant, business supports budget and a place on our Accelerator Programme. The addition of the business course offering ensures that the Fund provides vital supports to a wider number of social enterprises across the sector tailored to their stage of development. 

In 2023, the fund offers (up to) 8 Awardees an Awards package of €30,000:

  1. Cash grants for up to 8 Awardees of €22,500 
  2. A Business Support budget worth €7,500
  3. A place on the Accelerator Programme

Cash Grants

Up to 8 Social Enterprises will receive a package of supports worth a maximum of €30,000 each in total. This will include cash grants of €22,500, paid in two instalments upon delivery of agreed milestones.

Business Support Budget

In addition, Awardees will receive a budget for business supports worth €7,500 each. Business supports will be tailored to the specific needs of each project and carried out by approved consultants, focusing on creating social impact in line with their theory of change and strategic plan.

Accelerator Programme

All successful applicants will win a place on Ireland’s first National Accelerator Programme specifically designed for social enterprises. The Accelerator Programme will equip social enterprises with the skills they need to scale and deepen their social impact.

The intensive and practical six-month programme provides training from best-in-class experts in the private, nonprofit and public sector on key functions such as Strategic Planning, Impact Measurement, Financial Management, Governance, Business Modelling, Pitching, Storytelling and more.


“Rethink Ireland helped us set out clear indicators for growth across our social,

economic and environmental impact. The marketing support helped to generate leads in almost every county in Ireland. After working with Rethink Ireland our

vision changed from working on a regional level to becoming a national

social enterprise”.

Martin Ward, Bounce Back Recycling


“I know we’ll be able to deliver on our ambitious strategic plan because we’ve such a great foundation now in terms of our structure, which was why it was great getting the non-financial support as well the cash. For us the mixture of the two was just perfect and we were delighted with both.”

Helen Nolan, Spraoi agus Spórt


Who can apply?

Applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Meet the definition of social enterprise as outlined above
  • Have a clear social mission that addresses a critical social issue
  • Generate income from goods or services
  • Have a not-for-profit legal form, e.g. companies limited guarantee
  • Are separate from the Government and state agencies
  • Reinvest any surplus into achieving their mission
  • Are already up and running
  • Have their main impact in the Republic of Ireland
  • Have not previously completed a multi-year Fund with Rethink Ireland
  • Have the potential to scale or replicate in Ireland
  • Have the potential to create additional jobs
  • And are innovative in an Irish context

*Social enterprises can sit within larger not-for-profit organisations, such as charities and voluntary organisations

Advantageous Criteria (this is not required) 

  • Projects/social enterprises that have a positive effect on Ireland’s Green Transition through their activities/interventions

This criteria applies if your project/social enterprise tackles issues related to the environment and green transition such as carbon reduction, biodiversity, sustainable agriculture, pollution and/or the just transition. 

How can you apply for Awards?

Stage 1: Applications open from 16th January to 24th February 2023

Applications are open from Monday 16th January until Friday 24th February 2023. At this point, applicants are invited to complete an application form. Based on this initial form, Rethink Ireland will identify a shortlist of applicants who have met the required criteria. These applicants will be invited to an interview.

We will hold the first application clinic on Friday, 3rd February from 1pm to 2pm under this link.

Stage 2: Interviews 

Finalists will be invited for an interview which will take place between Monday March 27th and Thursday, 6th April 2023.

Frequently asked questions

What is expected of Awardees?

Awardees will be expected to take part in a six-month Accelerator Programme, with a minimum of two days per week devoted to working on your awarded social enterprise. The business course will be delivered virtually over  two months for approximately six mornings (10am-1pm). A half day in person seminar will also be held if allowed under restrictions. 

Can you make more than one application? 

Yes, there is nothing stopping your organisation making more than one application for separate social enterprises. However, it is very unlikely that we will fund more than one social enterprise from any organisation. Please note that you cannot apply with the same social enterprise for both the business course and a SED cash grant.

What do you mean by innovation?

At Rethink Ireland, we define social innovation as the successful delivery of new approaches to meet social needs more effectively and sustainably than those currently available.

Just as innovation is necessary for economic growth, we believe innovation is critical to societal and economic progress.

What do you mean by income created?

Traded income is that 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.

If your social enterprise is part of a bigger (parent) organisation, you may need to differentiate between the income generated by both entities. This could be done via management accounts for the social enterprise specifically.

What can cash grants be spent on? 

The cash grant must be spent on the project that won the award. The specific use of the cash grants will be agreed between Rethink Ireland and the Awardee. 

Cash grants may not be used to pay off debts or purchase vehicles, land or buildings.

Who will decide who wins the awards? 

 Final decisions are made by the Board of Rethink Ireland.

What projects are not eligible?

  • Projects seeking funds for scholarships
  • Projects seeking to fund capital items – buildings, vans, and so on
  • Research projects
  • Party political projects
  • Projects that screen beneficiaries in or out by faith or religious denomination
  • Projects that do not provide a benefit to people or the environment, for example, projects that benefit animals only
  • Projects where the main impact is outside the Republic of Ireland

Who is not eligible to apply?

  • A person who is younger than 18.
  • Any staff member from Rethink Ireland, IPB Insurance and Department of Rural and Community Development staff, Directors and their family members. Family members include siblings, parents, spouses or civil partners or children.
  • Any consultant currently working with Rethink Ireland
  • Commercial companies, sole traders and individuals
  • Government/statutory agencies. If your project or organisation receives some funding from a state agency you are still eligible to apply.
  • Individuals, statutory or public bodies, local development companies, LEADER companies, companies limited by shares, and organisations that are funded 100% by state bodies or agencies and continue to be in receipt of that funding.
  • Past awardees that have been recipients of cash grants are ineligible, except  where they are the parent organisation and the project is entirely different.

Terms and Conditions

By applying for the Social Enterprise Development Fund, you agree to the following terms and conditions.

  • You are 18 years of age or older.
  • You have given full and truthful information, both verbal and written, at all stages of the application and selection process.
  • You are eligible to apply. This means that your organisation meets the criteria for Rethink Ireland and, as described.
  • You have the right to apply. This means that you hold the necessary rights to carry out the project.
  • By sending in your application, you accept these terms and conditions and our Privacy Statement. If you do not comply with these terms and conditions, you may be disqualified and may have to return any award granted.
  • Rethink Ireland will hold the personal details which you submitted with your application form. We will only share this information with the third parties administering the application and selection process unless we agree otherwise with you. Please see our Privacy Statement for full details.
  • The Awardees must take part in publicity about the grant. Rethink Ireland reserves the right to publish the names of organisations that are successful in their applications.
  • If you decline an award or if the award is taken back because you did not comply with the terms and conditions, the Directors may select an alternative Awardee.
  • Rethink Ireland reserves the right to disqualify any entrant, to change the terms and conditions without notice, or to cancel the application process at any stage.
  • You consent to the Government of Ireland Statement on Public Finances if selected as a winning applicant

How can I get more information about the Fund and the application process?

We will run application clinics, providing you with an overview of the application process and what to expect and to give you a chance to ask any questions you may have.

Alternatively, you can email us at with any unanswered questions you may have.

To apply for a SED Cash grant please complete the application form here

Please contact should you require further information.