An International Business Model: The Challenges and Highlights

Visiting Dublin during 2022’s Global Entrepreneurship week to announce the first cohort of Social Enterprise Mark Holders at the renowned Rediscovery Centre was a Watershed moment. The event had a great celebratory atmosphere beginning with the launch of the Social Enterprise Mark Ireland and hearing of the support from Social Enterprise Republic of Ireland (SERI) for accreditation and how important it is in gaining credibility for the sector as well as the ensuring quality standards are set and maintained.   

I would like to celebrate each and every one of those social enterprises who all spoke so eloquently about what the award meant to them. The event included moving stories about the journeys that founders and their supporters had been on.

To quote the founder of Alex’s Adventure, Nicole Ryan, “Gaining the Social Enterprise Mark for Alex’s Adventure has been one of the highlights of my career”. The death of her 18 year old brother in an accidental overdose in a nightclub inspired her to change the world for the better and become his story teller and catalyst. She gave up her engineering career to speak across the country to young people and help them make the right choices leading to Alex’s Adventure drugs education programme.

More pictures and case studies can be seen on the Social Enterprise Mark Ireland website.   

For a small social enterprise such as ours, getting the international business model right is a challenge both for capacity and quality assurance. Our international delivery partners have been crucial in sharing their understanding of the local social enterprise community as well as what we are trying to achieve, i.e. a clearer standard for social enterprises to ensure there is a robust business model which will support businesses to make a real difference and tackle some of the world’s biggest challenges, e.g. global inequality and climate change.

We essentially want greater recognition of the social enterprise business model as part of the redistributive business solution in a world where business is often extractive. 

Social Impact Ireland team

Going forwards, we want to achieve sustainable scale through both a network of licensed partners and a network of peer assessors. Key to this has been our partnership with Social Impact Ireland, who have worked with us for the last three years to capacity-build and support a number of social enterprises as well as getting these businesses prepared for accreditation via the Social Enterprise Mark

This was a long journey given the different governance structures as well as the lack of recognition and relative youth of the social enterprise sector in the Republic of Ireland. It required patience and diligence from both sides, but I think it’s fair to say it was a true partnership that worked together to overcome what could have been insurmountable obstacles at times.   

In 2023 we want to build on our learning and, alongside building more partners, equip our Mark holders themselves to grow through a programme of trained peer assessors, who will help us spread the word and develop our own capacity to respond to the huge opportunities that international accreditation of social enterprise can bring.

Watch out for more in our newsletters and social media 

Siul Eile knock mealdown

Meet the Social Enterprise Mark Holder: Siul Eile

Siul Eile is a social enterprise helping communities come together to form walking programs and challenges using the under-utilised local environment in their own community and to develop a sustainable walking culture in their community.

We build walking programs using quiet country roads, forest paths, tracks and trails. It is designed for local communities to live quality healthy lives, socialise together and to combat isolation.

Siul Eile knock mealdown

When did your business become a social enterprise and why?

We became a social enterprise in 2017 after completing a social enterprise incubator program with Social Impact Ireland. The reason we choose the social enterprise route was we could see the positive impact our walking programs were having on communities.

What social needs are you trying to address and what types of social outcome are you striving to deliver?

Removing barriers to improving the health and wellbeing of communities. We are striving to deliver improved physical and mental health as well as creating more social opportunities through our walking programs and events.

What is your main reason for having our accreditation? What were your expectations?

The main reason for having the accreditation is it shows we are a bona fide social enterprise.

What does accreditation mean to you? What does it say about your business?

The Social Enterprise Mark means we can proudly showcase our social enterprise credentials. It makes our business stand out from our competitors.

What benefits has there been as a result of being accredited? E.g. did you find the assessment process useful? Do you feel the accreditation give you more credibility as a social enterprise?

The benefits of being accredited include the time out taken in the assessment process to take a deep look into the social impact and the business side of our social enterprise. The accreditation also gives us more confidence and greater purpose going forward when dealing with other organisations.

Are there any specific achievements/accomplishments that are linked to holding the accreditation?

We are one of the first social enterprises in Ireland to hold the accreditation.

What would you say to another social enterprise considering accreditation?

Go for it! The process is rewarding even before getting the accreditation as it looks into all the essential aspects of being a social enterprise operating at the highest of standards.

Find out more about Siul Eile by visiting their listing on our Mark Holder Directory, and find out more about our International Mark Holders on our website.

Siul Eile logo

What next

If you would like to find out more about becoming an accredited social enterprise please complete our Eligibility Quiz to find out more.