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Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Social entrepreneurs work tirelessly to improve society


Social Entrepreneurs Ireland is searching for people with the ideas and commitment to drive change, says its CEO Darren Ryan.

JOHN Kearney is a social entrepreneur from Cork. In 2009 he saw first-hand that people in rural areas were suffering and lives were being put at risk in medical emergencies because the services didn’t exist to reach people quickly enough.
He had an innovative idea to tackle this problem and created Irish Community Rapid Response (ICRR). 

Working with communities all over Ireland, ICRR has recruited local GPs and medical professionals to volunteer their time to respond to emergencies, to ensure that people get the best care possible, as quickly as possible.

This idea has now scaled up across the country and recently took to the skies, with air ambulances added to the ground fleet. 
The service improves outcomes and saves lives. There are people alive today because of John’s idea and, crucially, because he acted on that idea.
John’s work was important because in any medical emergency there is a limited window of time to take action in order to ensure the best possible recovery. This is known as the ‘Golden Hour’, and every second that ticks by is critical.

In Ireland today, we are facing our own ‘Golden Hour’ as a country. 
As global and domestic challenges collide, and the pace of change in society increases, we need to act now if we want to ensure Ireland is tackling its social problems quickly enough. The faster we can respond to the challenges we face as a country, the better the outcomes.
Unfortunately, at a time when we need a rapid response, the systems and approaches to solving social problems can be slow and bureaucratic, and too often vested interests take precedence over society’s interests.

Thankfully, there are people all over Ireland who are stepping up to channel frustration with the system into positive social change.
 Rather than focus on fighting the old, social entrepreneurs like John Kearney focus all their attention on building the new.
A social entrepreneur sees a problem in their community, and responds by coming up with an innovative idea to solve it. They are the perfect antidote to any stagnating system.
When faced with a social challenge, social entrepreneurs say ‘enough!’, roll up their sleeves, and focus on solving the problem. They are society’s rapid responders. 
After they solve a problem in their own community, like any good entrepreneur, they want to solve it across the country. All over Ireland today there are social entrepreneurs working tirelessly, behind the scenes, to improve our society.

Another example is John Evoy from Waterford who saw that men were being negatively affected by the rising rates of unemployment, and isolation from their community.
He saw the problem, and stepped up to deliver the lifeline. Men’s Sheds — a place for men to come together and work on meaningful activities. John worked to support communities all over Ireland to set up Men’s Sheds, and there are now 350 sheds around the country, with 10,000 men using them every week.

The letters and emails continue to flood into Men’s Sheds HQ with notes of thanks and stories of the lives saved and improved, because now there is a place for those men to go.
Two other social entrepreneurs teamed up in response to the growing impact that technology is having on our young people. Alex Cooney and Cliona Curley from Dublin founded CyberSafe Ireland to empower children, parents and teachers to navigate the online world so that children can be stronger, smarter, and safer online.

We can’t afford to delay in providing children with this support, as every day that goes by, new technologies emerge that put children at risk. They are tackling this social problem which is a new frontier for our society, and like any entrepreneurs they are delivering fast, effective, innovative solutions.
These are just three stories, out of more than 200 social entrepreneurs we have supported over the last 12 years at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, a list which also includes FoodCloud, Grow It Yourself, and CoderDojo.
Now we are looking for more rapid responders. We are currently searching the country for the people with the best ideas to tackle social problems in Ireland.

The national suggestion box is open; you don’t have to wait for someone else to tackle a social problem, you can step up today, and apply for our support.
And for those who share our sense of urgency to tackle these problems but don’t have an idea themselves, we are building a fund which will directly support social entrepreneurs who are implementing a new way of doing things in Ireland.
We can all play a part in this movement.

This is the kind of fresh thinking that Ireland needs today. These are the kind of people that we need to get behind, as a country, and we need to move quickly, to give these social entrepreneurs the best chance of success, for the best possible outcome for Ireland.

Darren Ryan is the CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland. The 2017 awards application process, supported by DCC plc, is now open for applications at www.socialentrepreneurs.ie. Closing date is March 29.