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Celebrating the 2023 Ideas Academy!

Reflections from Programme Manager Éabha Harper McKeever

Eabha Harper Mckeever talking at the ideas academy event
Éabha Harper Mckeever, Programme Manager of the Ideas Academy, speaking at the Graduation on Monday evening

It’s been a pleasure and a privilege to lead on the design and delivery of the Ideas Academy this year. As we are coming to the end of the programme, I’d like to reflect on the amazing progress I’ve seen each of the 30 projects make over the last three months.

Graduating class of 2023
The 38 participants of the 2023 graduation class alongside CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland, Tim Griffiths

30 projects, 38 Participants, endless dedication

This year’s programme drew over 135 applications from all corners of Ireland. After a comprehensive review process involving many members of the Social Entrepreneurs Ireland team and our wider community, 30 projects were chosen.

I’ve been in awe of each participant’s openness and engagement in the programme. We had an average of 98% attendance during the three months.

It takes a lot of guts to research a social problem effectively. It involves challenging your own assumptions, reaching out to strangers for interviews, asking open questions and actively listening to the needs of your beneficiary. This process then leads to interrogating the idea that you’ve come up with to see if it will actually solve the problem and benefit the user. This can be a challenging task!

I’m very proud of each participant for taking on the challenge and learning more about themselves and their target groups. Ultimately this work will stand to them as they will create a more effective solution!

Four modules over the course of three months

The first module of the programme focused on understanding the social problem. Each participant was introduced to the design thinking process and asked to conduct empathy research, including observing the social problem and how people experience the problem as well as interviewing those who are connected to the social problem. Once this was done, each project worked on constructing a problem statement and started to ideate together on how that problem might be solved.

For the next module, we entered a creative ‘ideation’ space where each participant worked to come up with lots of different ideas to solve the problem, these could be big ideas, small ideas, blue-sky thinking ideas or more grounded ones. The task at hand was to narrow down and select the idea that has the most potential to make an impact on the social problem.

Our third module provided information on social media and fundraising, which are both vital areas to support the growth of your project. Each participant was presented with information on how to reach your target audience, how to plan your social media content in advance, what different types of funding are available currently and how to reach financial sustainability.

The final module of the programme covered how to pitch ideas through the art of storytelling and how to tailor a story depending on the audience and context.

I’ve been delighted to receive such positive feedback about the programme, we’ve seen participants making connections with each other, reaching out to stakeholders and even going on the radio to talk about their idea!

The graduates at the Graduation event on Monday, 25 September. 

Meeting the participants 1-1

I’ve so enjoyed working with each of the 30 projects during our training days, group learning sessions and 1-1 calls. I am so inspired by each and every one of them for identifying a social problem and using their creativity and compassion to come up with a solution to that problem. We know there are a lot of new and growing social problems in the country at the moment, and I feel so lucky to be supporting people who are standing up for what they believe in and making a positive social change in Ireland today.

The cumulative power of people

I’d like to say a big thank you to our facilitators: Claudia Gerratz, Eileen Diskin, Emma Murtagh, Reneé Mackey and Clare Murphy and a special thank you to Lucy Barlow, our Programme Assistant for supporting me in the delivery of this programme!

My advice to the 2023 graduates going forward

The advice I would give to the 38 graduates is this – at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland we know that the journey of a social entrepreneur can sometimes be a lonely experience, and I hope now we have introduced you to a community of changemakers. As storyteller extraordinaire and fellow alumna of SEI Clare Murphy says ‘Find your tribe’ to help combat any impostor syndrome or loneliness that emerges. Keep in touch with us at Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and with all Ideas Academy alumni.

Congratulations to all of our graduates!

Meet the 2023 Ideas Academy Graduates
Ideas Academy graduates with Tim and ursuala from Bank of america
The Ideas academy Graduates picture with Tim Griffiths, CEO of Social Entrepreneurs Ireland and Ursula Mapley, COO Bank of America

The 2023 Ideas Academy is kindly supported by Bank of America.

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