Social Economy Community gather at WIT’s Growth Hub to consider the European Commission’s Social Economy Canvas and Action Plan

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The Social Economy Community gather at WIT’s Growth Hub to consider the European Commission’s Social Economy Canvas and Action Plan

Over 80 participants gathered in person and online at Waterford Institute of Technology’s newly established Growth Hub on Thursday 7 October at an event to increase the visibility of the social economy and build networks of stakeholders at regional and local level.

The event, titled ‘Mapping a Social Economy Eco-system – The Higher Education Institutions (HEI) Perspective’ was attended by European and national policy makers, local and national government representatives, social economy and social enterprise educators, support organisations, and social enterprise owners from across Ireland.

The event was the first to take place in the hybrid facilities of the Growth Hub, offering the perfect opportunity to showcase the technology-enabled virtual presentations from International speakers and simultaneous in-person and online break out rooms.

The purpose of the event was to enhance awareness of and engagement with the EU Social Economy Canvas as an educational tool.  The Social Economy Canvas was developed by the EU Policy lab as a visual sense making framework to map or build projects and activities that are economically sustainable while being regenerative from the social and environmental perspective. The Canvas enables communities, entrepreneurs, support agencies and social investors to engage with and co-design a better future and to contribute to the development of better policies identifying common challenges and opportunities.

The event was designed as an active workshop where participants gained the chance to discuss the benefits and challenges associated with building a Social Economy eco-system by working on the Canvas in theme-informed groups.

Keynote speakers at the event were Alessandro Rancati, Social Economy Canvas Specialist at the EU Policy Lab and Patrick Klein, Head of Sector Social Economy and Social Enterprise at the European Commission. Both speakers attended virtually.

Alessandro Rancati began with a demonstration of the Social Economy Canvas where he highlighted the benefits of mapping the social enterprise ecosystem which ‘helps people know where they want to go’. Patrick followed with details of the European Commission’s Social Economy Action Plan which will be launched in December (2021). Patrick highlighted the important role of social enterprise when he said ‘To look beyond a crisis makes a more prosperous society and social enterprises are a key element to transform society’. Both speakers were followed by an interactive Q&A, facilitated by coordinated in-person and on-line room managers.

Funded by the T&L National Forum for the enhancement of teaching and learning in Higher Education and supported by the European Social Economy Regions initiative, this collaborative event was led by Prof Felicity Kelliher of WIT’s Growth Hub, Sinead O’Higgins of Europe Direct Waterford and Liz Riches of Waterford Social Enterprise Network.

Dr Margaret Tynan, WIT Growth Hub Lead noted ‘It is fitting that our first Growth Hub event addresses Social Enterprise. Supporting students to engage in Social Enterprise activity is an important role for the Growth Hub, and it is an area our students are keen to get involved in’.

Sinead O’Higgins, Manager of Europe Direct Waterford said: ‘Europe Direct Waterford is delighted to be a part of this event helping to bring together the regional social enterprise community and to show the important connection between EU institutions and citizens. As a Europe Direct centre we strive to offer relevant information on EU policies and priorities and to play a role in facilitating people’s easy communication with the European institution’s policy makers so that our regions can have a voice in the ongoing EU-wide conversation on the future of Europe. We will continue to work with Waterford Institute of Technology and the Waterford Social Enterprise Network to offer information, support and networking opportunities to our social enterprises’.

Liz Riches, Waterford Area Partnership said ‘We provide supports to the Waterford Social Enterprise Network (WSEN) under the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Programme (SICAP). We have worked closely with Europe Direct Waterford, and WIT over the last number of years as part of our efforts to raise awareness of the Social Enterprise sector in Waterford.  The importance of building an ecosystem of supports that respond to the identified needs of local social enterprises such as Dunhill Eco Park, Ballybeg Greens and Cill Barra Sports & Leisure Centre, from the local to the global is a consistent theme of our work. The role of the teaching and learning community, a key collaborative component of that support, was explored here today’.

Prof Kelliher noted ‘It has been a pleasure working with Europe Direct Waterford and the Waterford Social Enterprise Network on this event. Our collective goal is to ensure the social economy is not only visible but strongly supported in the Waterford Region. This community generates up to €1.4bn in economic activity and addresses many challenges faced by Irish society each year. Higher Education Institutes including WIT have the potential to meaningfully support the regional social economy eco-system. The goal today was to offer teaching and learning support for the SE community and supporting stakeholders as they mobilise the EU Social Economy canvas in Ireland. The WIT Growth Hub team are delighted to support this initiative.’


GROWTH HUB is a Higher Education Authority Human Capital Initiative Pillar 3 collaborative project involving Technological University Dublin and Waterford Institute of Technology. Led locally by Dr. Margaret Tynan, our mission is to encourage growth and entrepreneurial mindsets among our students. Email: for further details.


EU Social Economy Canvas: A visual sense making framework inspired by design. It helps to capture a visual image of macro-assessment of social economy in Europe while supporting practitioners’ development of new ideas for a regenerative economy at micro-level. This project is in collaboration with the Directorate-General for Internal Market, Industry, Entrepreneurship and SMEs. See: EU Policy Lab | Social Economy Canvas (


European Social Economy Regions (ESER): Launched in February 2018, the ESER initiative is a response of the European Commission to the growing need to increase the visibility of social economy and build networks of stakeholders at regional and local level. See:


Europe Direct Waterford: The Europe Direct Waterford Centre is based in Central Library in Waterford City. It is part of a community of 424 Europe Direct centres around Europe whose purpose is to reinforce the important connection between EU institutions and citizens helping to explain how Europe is combating the COVID-19 pandemic, boosting recovery through NextGenerationEU, and tackling the green and digital transitions. The Europe Direct network provides timely and factual information on European matters, but also seek to engage with citizens regarding the state and future of the European Union. You can find out more at: @eudirect on facebook and twitter. Email Sinead O’Higgins at

Waterford Social Enterprise Network is coordinated by Waterford Area Partnership, who offer development opportunities for local community groups and individuals. Email:

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