Closed Fund

The SEFIT Challenge Fund

Closing Date
In partnership with:

The SEFIT Challenge Fund is a  €400,000, 10-month fund co-funded by the European Union and overseen by a collaborative effort between key partners Rethink Ireland, Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini, Municipality of Turin and Cork City Council. The fund is part of The Social Ecosystems for Fair and Inclusive Transitions (SEFIT) project, which brings together local authorities, social innovators, and communities to drive transformative change in the green and digital transitions for marginalised communities in both cities.

Informed by a series of direct engagements with citizens, third-sector entities, civil society representatives, and public administration officials in both Cork and Turin (see report here), the Challenge Fund will run in both Ireland and Italy and seeks to select social innovations operating in Cork and Turin that will address the specific challenges posed by the twin transition in either local context.

The Irish Challenge is described below. For more information on the Italian Challenge Fund see here.

You can see the full EU Guidelines for both funds at this link – the Irish Challenge Fund guidelines are outlined below.

The Irish SEFIT Challenge Fund’s goal is to support a fair and just green and digital transition by eliminating barriers marginalised communities face. It strives to achieve an equitable and inclusive future for all. This challenge is aligned with recent consultation conducted by Cork Council in order to draft the upcoming city Climate Action Plan. It engages community representation, marginalised leadership and partnerships between different sectors to address the complexity of the green and digital transition.

The Ireland-based Fund offers a package of cash grants, provided through Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini, and non-financial supports for at least 4 projects, to help them expand and increase their social impact.

This includes:

  • 4 cash grant awards of up to €50,000* 
  • The non-financial supports will include:
    • a place on the Challenge Fund’s Accelerator Programme;
    • bespoke business and capacity building supports designed in consultation with the successful projects on topics such as strategic planning, maximising your impact, communications, storytelling and fundraising;
  • Access to the partners’ networks.

* The Fund Approval Committee will decide how much money to award, which may be less than the amount requested. The final amount of the award will depend on how many organisations are selected.

Applications are now closed.

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

Each session will entail a short presentation followed by an open Q&A session, offering you an opportunity to bring any questions you may have regarding the application process to the Fund team.

Who can apply?

Projects must meet both Rethink Ireland’s criteria and the specific criteria for the SEFIT Fund, as set out below:

Rethink Ireland Criteria 

  • The project must address a critical social or environmental issue
  • The project must be innovative in an Irish context
  • The project must have the potential and desire to scale or replicate in Ireland 
  • 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 in the Republic of Ireland
  • Applicants must come from an entity that has a ‘not for profit’ legal form e.g., 
    • A company limited by guarantee
    • A co-operative
    • Charity
    • And other not for profit legal forms

SEFIT Core Criteria

  • Projects whose main impact takes place in Cork city, and
  • Projects providing solutions to address the green and/or digital transition, and
  • Projects that enable a fair and inclusive transition by empowering marginalised* communities through at least one of the following approaches:
    • Project leadership: Projects and/or organisations that are led by a member of a marginalised community
    • Project partnership: Projects and/or organisations that work in partnership with groups and/or institutions to address the barriers to the green and/or digital transition for marginalised communities
    • Community engagement: Projects and/or organisations that empower diverse community groups to play a major role in climate action and/or the digital transition, achieving a fair and inclusive transition. 

*Marginalised identities can include people who: are from Roma or Traveller communities, are migrants or seeking asylum, have a disability, are socio-economically disadvantaged or unemployed, are rurally isolated, are experiencing poor mental health or addiction, or identify as LGBTQ+. Please note, this list is not exhaustive as many individuals experience marginalisation. 

Advantageous criteria (Not Required)

The below criteria will be considered advantageous in applications, however organisations who meet the core criteria but do not meet the advantageous criteria are encouraged to apply. 

Projects incorporating the strategic priorities for the city in their solution will have an advantage, namely:

  • Built Environment and Energy: Projects/Organisations that engage communities with the issues of green energy and a sustainable built environment
  • Transport and Mobility: Projects/Organisations that focus on access to public transport and promote active travel
  • Natural Environment and Resource Management: Projects/Organisations that focus on protecting and nurturing the natural environment and biodiversity
  • Bridging the Digital Divide: Projects/Organisations that focus on addressing the gap in access to digital technologies for specific communities

*Please note: Projects do not need to meet advantageous criteria to be successful.

Which projects cannot apply?

Projects that are not eligible to apply are:

  • Projects where research is the primary activity
  • Projects seeking funding for capital assets (such as buildings, vans or equipment)
  • Projects promoting or aligned with a political party
  • Projects that only accept participants of a particular faith or religious denomination
  • Projects focused on animal welfare 
  • Projects based outside the Republic of Ireland
  • Projects led by people under 18 years of age
  • Projects that are an idea (only) and that have not yet started

Which applicants cannot apply? 

Applicants that are not eligible to apply are:

  • Applicants under 18 years of age
  • Commercial companies, sole traders and individuals
  • Any staff member from Rethink Ireland, Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini, City Council of Turin and Cork City Council, Directors (where relevant) and their family members. Family members include siblings, parents, spouses or civil partners or children.
  • 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.
  • Any consultant currently working with Rethink Ireland.

If my organisation has previously been in receipt of an award from Rethink Ireland, can I still apply?

Yes. If you have previously been funded by Rethink Ireland, you can still apply. Previous awardees must be able to demonstrate they have performed well on a previous programme and capture in the application form how the new funding being applied for is a logical continuation from the original investment, fitting the new Fund criteria in particular.

If my organisation/project is currently in receipt of an award from Rethink Ireland, can I still apply?

Projects on one of our Funds that have cash grant payments remaining before the commencement of the new fund programme are not eligible to apply.  Organisations on one of our Funds that have cash grant payments remaining before the commencement of the new fund programme are still eligible to apply with a different project and different project lead.

If my project is currently in receipt of Irish or EU public funding, can I still apply?

No double funding is allowed. Applicants must not be and not have been funded by national or European public funds for the same activities included in their application. Applicants can apply to other call for financial support under the SEFIT programme. However, a single applicant shall not benefit double/several financial supports for the same project. The SEFIT partnership may carry out the necessary control actions with other EU-funded projects to verify that there is no double funding ongoing.

Is this just for large-scale, national organisations?

No, it is not, and indeed we welcome applications from organisations of all sizes once it is a not-for-profit organisation with a legal form (see criteria above).

Can I apply for this funding even though I am still on the ideation stage? 

Unfortunately no, this fund needs to see proof that the project is up and running or at least has been tested and shown results in some way.

Can organisations make multiple applications? 

Yes, there is nothing stopping your organisation from making more than one application for separate projects. However, due to the competitive nature of this Fund and its selection process, it is very unlikely that we will fund more than one project from any organisation. We encourage organisations to submit one strong application rather than multiple applications.

If my organisation is funded by a Government/state agency (HSE, TULSA etc) are we eligible? 

Yes, you can apply if you are in receipt of funding from a government or state agency. However, if your organisation is 100% funded through state sources then you are not eligible to apply to the Fund.

Is it possible for organisations to collaborate in an application (e.g. a community development organisation and an educational provider)?

They can – one organisation should take the lead and this lead organisation should satisfy the not-for-profit legal form eligibility requirements noted above.  Partnerships will be required to state the legal standing and registered name of each partner and provide a draft Memorandum of Understanding between the partners. Please refer to the eligibility criteria to ensure that your project is eligible for funding.

What does the fund offer?

  • Cash grants up to €50,000 across 10 months 
  • A business supports package
  • A place on our capacity building Accelerator Programme
  • Project performance management

What can cash grants be spent on? 

The cash grant must be spent on the project that won the award and must be ring-fenced for work you are undertaking. The specific use of the cash grant will be agreed between Rethink Ireland and the awardee.

The funding may be used to cover operations/staff costs but you must be able to demonstrate in your application how this is facilitating you to run the project that you are applying for. Cash grants may not be used to pay off debts or for capital items such as renovations, or for vehicles, land, buildings or large equipment. 

What non-financial supports will be provided to successful applicants?

Rethink Ireland’s non-financial supports have been called our ‘secret sauce’ that help projects to really develop their capacity and sustainability, in addition to the benefit of the cash supports. Non-financial supports will include:

  1. Each Awardee’s project lead and potentially other relevant staff will take part in the Fund’s Accelerator Programme The Accelerator programme will consist of a series of interactive training workshops on topics such as strategy development, measuring and maximising your impact, communications and storytelling, diversity and inclusion and fundraising.
  2. Awardees will also get some bespoke 1:1 business and capacity building supports from expert business/non-profit consultants in areas such as impact management, theory of change and strategy development. Supports will be designed in consultation with the successful projects.
  3. Awardees will also get access to Rethink Ireland’s networks and have the opportunity to develop networks and contacts with the other Awardees of the Fund which are often very valuable in the longer term.

What is expected of Awardees?

The project lead will be expected to take part in the six-month Accelerator Programme, which includes attending approximately 6 workshops and spending time working 1:1 with a business/strategy consultant. Project leads will be expected to spend a minimum of two days per week working on the awarded project and working towards agreed goals.

How do we apply?

What is involved in completing the application form?

The application form asks you for information about:

  • your project and organisation
  • the problem your project tackles
  • what makes your project different from others
  • who it benefits
  • how your project meets the fund conditions
  • how you test or evaluate how well your project is doing 
  • referees
  • other details
  • It also asks you to send us financial documents (listed below), a signed Declaration of Honour, and a short video about your project (this is optional).

What kind of video do we need to submit? (Optional)

Don’t worry – you don’t need to produce a high quality or expensive video. You can use a smartphone or tablet. We just want to hear you telling the story of your project in 2 – 3 mins max. Please tell us:  

  • who you are
  • why you are applying for the award
  • the problem/issue your project is trying to solve
  • how you will do that 
  • how your solution is innovative or creative. 

You can then upload your video to YouTube or Vimeo and password protect it if you wish. You can insert the URL link and the password in the application form.

What financial information do we need to submit with our application?

  1. The documents you need to complete depend on whether you are applying in relation to a project within an organisation or you are applying as an organisation as a whole:
    • If applying for a project within a larger organisation, the project’s management accounts and the organisation’s most recent audited/full accounts are needed.
    • If applying for an organisation as a whole, the most recent audited/full accounts are needed.
  2. All applicants must outline how they intend to use the funds from Rethink Ireland if successful and upload a proposed budget. A spreadsheet template is provided in the relevant section of the application form.

How do we upload our project budget (planned income and expenditure)?

In the relevant section of the application form you will be provided with a link to a budget template in excel. Please click on the link provided and DOWNLOAD this document to your computer. Then fill in your financial information and save the document with your project’s name and then upload it in the relevant section of the application form. 


We have tried to make the application process as accessible as possible but we understand that there may still be some difficulties for applicants. If you have access needs or are struggling with the application form, please contact

What happens after we submit our application?

  1. Applications will go through a rigorous selection process (for more information see below).
  2. Interviews will take place online between the 13th-17th May
  3. Successful applicants will be informed by mid-June
  4. The cash grants will be delivered in two parts and are tied to agreed performance milestones. 
  5. The Accelerator supports will be designed in consultation with the awardees and reflect organisational/project needs. 
  6. The Fund will close in May 2025.

How does the selection process work?

The selection process is very rigorous and consists of a number of stages:

  • Stage 1 – Open call for applications –  late February – April
  • Stage 2 – Internal and external reviews of all applications – April
  • Stage 3 – Interviews for shortlisted applicants – May
  • Stage 4 – Due Diligence/Governance checks on short-listed applicants – May
  • Stage 5 – Final decision by SEFIT Fund Approval Committee – June

Who will decide who wins the awards?

All applications will be reviewed thoroughly through a rigorous process. The SEFIT Fund Approval Committee will make the final decision on successful applicants and the number and value of the final awards given.

How do applicants find out where they are in the selection process?

We will contact all applicants by email to let them know whether or not they have been shortlisted and invited to interview.  Interviews will be conducted via online video link. When final decisions have been made on the successful applicants, we will contact all shortlisted applicants by phone or email to let them know whether they have been successful.

Terms and Conditions of the Fund

By applying for The SEFIT Challenge 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.
  • Where relevant, applicant organisations must be fully compliant with guidelines, regulations and legislation applicable to their project, for instance, Children First guidelines and child protection regulations.
  • Successful applicants must comply with the obligations that the European Commission set in the Grant Agreement with FGB, including, among others:
    • Avoid conflicts of interest (Article 12 GA).
    • Maintain confidentiality (Article 13 GA).
    • Promote the action and give visibility to the EU funding (Article 17 GA).
    • Liability for damages (Article 33 GA).
    • Allow the Agency, the Commission, the European Anti-fraud Office (OLAF) and the Court of Auditors to exercise their powers of control on documents, information, even stored on electronic media, or on the recipient’s premises.
  • Successful applicants must provide information on the innovation activities undertaken (non-confidential), for communication and dissemination purposes, to the SEFIT consortium partners.

If you have further questions, please contact us at: