2017 promises to be a progressive year for social enterprise in Ireland following the announcement by the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Regional, Rural and Gaeltacht Affairs of a national policy for social enterprise.

Minister Ring’s priority “will be to ensure that the full spectrum of social enterprises is recognised in a national framework and, as far as possible, that appropriate supports are available to those along that spectrum,” according to a spokesman for his Department.

Finance is a key enabler for social enterprise. In Ireland the Social Finance Foundation acts as a wholesaler for finance providers to social enterprises and the broader community sector. Providers include Clann Credo and Community Finance Ireland.

The announcement follows a separate launch in on 22nd December 2016 of the EaSI Capacity Building Window by EU Commissioner Marianne Thyssen.

This new initiative is designed to help micro-credit and social enterprise finance providers develop their businesses further so that they can increase the supports they can provide to micro-borrowers and social enterprises.

The EU Programme for Employment and Social Innovation (EaSI) provides support to financial intermediaries that offer microloans to entrepreneurs or finance to social enterprises that would not have been able to gain finance otherwise due to risk considerations.

The initiative, as well as an increased range of EU financial supports recently approved for the sector, points to the EU’s increased commitment to social enterprise. This is further highlighted by Commissioner Thyssen’s recent declaration that “making a social market economy real entails that we create conditions which nurture socially and societally responsible and sustainable businesses.”