Helping to create an inclusive, healthy, diverse Cork city

Cork City Council is promoting civic engagement and building stronger social enterprises in the city in conjunction with the Atlantic Social Lab, Project EU Manager Juliette Crowley tells us more about the link up
Helping to create an inclusive, healthy, diverse Cork city
Aerial shot of Cork City. Picture: Tom Coakley

CORK City Council believes a vibrant city must have vibrant communities. The council wants to empower communities to help create an inclusive, sustainable, healthy, equitable and culturally diverse city.

The Council is working on many levels to achieve this. One such initiative which the Council is currently running is its’ “Shape Your City” initiative which promotes and facilitates voter registration for newcomers to the city. This initiative has already seen the Council hosting information stands in nearly 15 businesses and community groups across the city where many newcomers to the city have signed up to vote and many more have been made aware of their rights to vote in local and other elections.

Many newcomers are not aware that once they are residents in the city they are entitled to vote in local elections – they do not have to have citizenship and can come from any country in the world. Over the next few months the Council will continue inform on this and work with businesses and community groups to bring voter registration to many more newcomers in the city.

All of this is being done in conjunction with the Council’s EU funded Atlantic Social Lab* project which promotes the use of Social Innovation to meet social needs.

Cork City Council is one of nine partners from across Europe involved in this project and it has provided an opportunity for the council to drive this civic engagement initiative forward and also look in particular at new and innovative ways to promote civic engagement and involve more groups and communities.

The Atlantic Social Lab project has also provided the council with the opportunity to address issues being faced by social enterprises and ultimately create a stronger, more dynamic and robust social enterprise sector in the city.

It’s important to note that social enterprise in Ireland has the potential to grow significantly to generate at least 65,000 jobs and 5% of GDP (as stated in the Cork City Local Economic and Community Plan). Additionally, Cork City Local Community Development Committee (LCDC) has identified Social Enterprise as one of its priorities within the Local Economic Community Plan.

Through the Atlantic Social Lab project, Cork City Council aims to build on this potential and create a strong and growing social enterprise sector in the city.

The terms Social Enterprise might not be clear to all and there is no one single definition but it can be described as “an enterprise that trades for a social/societal purpose, where at least part of its income is earned from its trading activity, is separate from government, and where the surplus is primarily reinvested in the social objective”. Examples of Social Enterprises in Cork City include Deaf 2 Enterprises which is Ireland’s only dedicated employer of the Deaf community and Boomerang which was set-up to tackle the problem of mattresses going to landfill and being illegally dumped and to provide meaningful employment in an area of significant social disadvantage.

Paul Moynihan, of Cork City Council
Paul Moynihan, of Cork City Council

Cork City Council is fully committed to supporting social enterprises with Paul Moynihan, Director of Services in Cork City Council commenting: “Social Enterprise is not a new phenomenon in Ireland — Credit Unions, Agricultural and Housing Cooperatives have a long history in Ireland. And in Cork organisations like Northside Community Enterprises, Churchfield Community Trust and Meitheal Mara all spring to mind when you think of organisations that are managing to generate income from enterprise whilst responding to acute social or environmental issues. Cork City Council has a growing history of supporting the social economy and so when the opportunity arose to get involved in a European project called Atlantic Social Lab that would enable us to support new work in the area we seized that opportunity. We want to support the retention and expansion of existing social enterprises and the development of new social enterprises in the City.”

The work of the City Council through the Atlantic Social Lab project will ensure that social enterprises can emerge, grow and develop to meet the needs of the city. To this end, the City Council through the Atlantic Social Lab project and together with the Irish Social Enterprise Network (SOCENT), is running a series of events to provide training and networking opportunities to social enterprises across the city. These events cover issues such as Governance, Funding, Financing, Communications, Measuring Social Impact etc whilst also providing participants an opportunity for sharing problems and experiences and finding solutions. So far these events have drawn full attendance with participants coming from across the city and beyond. They are proving to be very engaging and popular events which give these social entrepreneurs the opportunity to listen to experts, share experiences and learn from each other.

Over the coming weeks the Evening Echo in conjunction with Cork City Council and the Atlantic Social Lab project will profile a number of these Social Enterprises looking at their aims and objectives and the groups and people that they benefit.

For more information on the Atlantic Social Lab project or to participate in one of their events contact Juliette_crowley@corkcity.ie If you want to get involved in the City Councils’ “Shape Your City Initiative” and host a voter registration stand in your business or community group contact stephen_murphy@corkcity.ie

MORE ABOUT ATLANTIC SOCIAL LAB

Atlantic Social Lab Cork City Council is one of nine partners from across Europe working on the European Commission (Interreg Atlantic Area Programme) funded Atlantic Social Lab (ASL) project. The Atlantic Social Lab project is a 30 month project which brings together local authorities, development organisations and universities from Spain, Portugal, France, the UK and Ireland.

The main focus of the Atlantic Social Lab project is to develop and promote social innovation to address growing social issues across Europe. By surveying and analysing social needs in the partner regions, the project will lead to a better understanding of the most urgent social needs and identify innovative pilot actions to meet these needs.

There are four specific areas being looked at in this context and they include the Green 3 Economy, Welfare Services, Public Engagement and the Social Economy.

Cork City Council, the Irish partner in the project, is looking specifically at two of these areas - namely the Social Economy and Public Engagement. As such Cork City Council is focused specifically on using social innovation to address issues being faced by social enterprises and finding innovative ways of stimulating civic engagement in the city.

Juliette Crowley is the EU Project Manager| Atlantic Social Lab Project |Community and Enterprise Section|Corporate and External Affairs|City Hall.

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