The Department of Education at Waterford Institute of Technology (WIT) recently hosted a seminar exploring the role of higher education in supporting the emerging social enterprise sector in Dunhill Multi-Education Centre, Co Waterford.WIT offers a level 7 Certificate in Social Enterprise Management commencing in January 2020 and the seminar, supported by the National Forum for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education, highlighted the growing importance of the social enterprise sector and identified practical ways in which Higher Education Institutes (HEIs) could support its development.
Five speakers addressed the conference, including: Dr Senan Cooke, Author of The Enterprising Communities; Tammy Darcy, Founder Shona Project; Laura Dennehy, Head of Development, Enactus Ireland; John Evoy, Social Enterprise Development Manager, Social Innovation Fund and Richard Gavin, Department of Rural and Community Development.
These thought-leaders challenged HEIs to support the development of a world-class social enterprise ecosystem by: (i) formally acknowledging social enterprise in institutional strategy and priorities; (ii) creating a community of practice to develop links between practitioners and academics; (iii) including social enterprise in curricula; (iv) offering incubation space and accelerator programmes to social enterprises; (v) linking social enterprises to government and EU agencies, philanthropists and HEI alumni. A key message of the seminar was the need for HEIs to conduct rigorous research to measure the impact of social enterprises, which would lead to greater recognition of the sector.
Speaking after the seminar, Dr Mary Fenton, Head of Department of Education, WIT said “It is a really exciting time for the social enterprise sector, which is on the cusp of real growth and development. Today was a first step in developing a community of practice, where over 50 practitioners and academics came together to discuss the potential for both to work together.
There was a real energy in the room and the challenge now is for HEIs to meet the needs and expectations of the sector in practical and meaningful ways.” She continued “I am confident that WIT and other HEIs will play a vital role in building the capacity of those working within the sector and in raising awareness amongst students of ways in which they could contribute to the sector as volunteers, employees or researchers.”
WIT offers a level 7 Certificate in Social Enterprise Management commencing in January 2020. This part-time programme enables people working in the social enterprise and community and voluntary sectors to develop their knowledge, skills and competencies as social enterprise managers.The seminar took place in Dunhill Multi-Education Centre, which is an example of best practice in social enterprise nationally.