Over €600K awarded to community and social projects

Innovate Together Fund

This is the second round of awards in the Innovate Together Fund as a response to COVID-19 by Rethink Ireland and corporate partners which include the Z Zurich Foundation, Oakfield Trust, Medtronic and Twitter; bringing the total fund to a record €5.6 million in 2020.

The 20 projects awarded cover areas of social innovation including Sustainable Ireland, Economic Recovery, and Community Outreach.

Minister of State for Community Development and Charities Joe O’Brien TD, Deirdre Mortell, CEO of Rethink lreland, Niamh McCarthy, Best Practice Manager at Barnardos, along with  Anthony Brennan, CEO of Zurich Ireland met to announce the awards.

At the announcement, Minister of State for Community Development and Charities Joe O’Brien TD said, ‘’I am delighted to announce the Innovate Together Round 2 Awards today. This fund is part of a suite of measures supported by my Department in response to COVID-19. The fund focuses on supporting community and voluntary organisations, charities and social enterprises as they adapt and innovate to provide their services to the most vulnerable in our communities. I would like to extend my congratulations and appreciation to all the awardees for their commitment and innovation in these challenging times.”

Deirdre Mortell, CEO of Rethink Ireland said, “This is a record funding announcement by Rethink Ireland; as a nation we have reacted extraordinarily to the crisis of COVID-19. The 20 charities, community groups and social enterprises awarded today have pivoted incredibly to adapt and not only to maintain their services but to enhance them. Thousands could have slipped through the cracks were it not for the incredible, agile response by organisations like Barnardos, Down Syndrome Ireland, Migrant Rights Centre Ireland and Inishowen River Guardians. Sustainable movements like Crann – Trees for Ireland and Cool Planet Experience are leading the way with their initiatives in the face of this year’s adversity. 2020 is ending, and we can now look optimistically toward a new year, and certainly an incredible future ahead for these innovative organisations.’’

Anthony Brennan, CEO of Zurich Ireland said, “The innovation displayed by the projects awarded funding today, shows once again the positive attitude and incredible resilience that community and social enterprises in Ireland have demonstrated throughout the COVID-19 crisis. With thanks to the Z Zurich Foundation, we are delighted to support the Innovate Together Fund and to promote a more equitable and sustainable society as part of our global community investment strategy. This investment helps to empower Irish communities to better protect themselves from risk, and to adapt and thrive in a rapidly changing world, and in particular deal with the changes driven by the COVID-19 pandemic.” 

In Round 2, 20 projects from all over Ireland are receiving cash grants from €20,000 to €200,000. The areas of innovation include Sustainable Ireland, Economic Recovery, Food Security and Community Outreach.

The children’s charity Barnardos are delighted to be one of those 20 awardees, with an €80,804 cash grant. Barnardos delivers services and works with families, communities, and other partners to transform the lives of vulnerable children who are affected by adverse childhood experiences. 

Suzanne Connolly, CEO of Barnardos said, ‘’The impact of COVID-19 has caused enormous anxiety among children in Ireland. The enhanced use of the virtual space in delivering services has become an essential tool in connecting with children and young people. Through the support of Rethink Ireland and the Innovate Together Fund, Barnardos will develop best practice guidance and a digital service delivery framework for its suite of children’s services.’’

The COVID-19 crisis is unlike anything Irish society has had to deal with before. It has seen the emergence of new social, economic, and environmental problems, which threaten the stability, sustainability, equality, and inclusivity of Ireland in which we all want to live and work. Innovation is the key to unlocking solutions to these challenges.

Hundreds of organisations in the community social and charity sector were adversely affected in the provision of their services. They were then forced to pivot and be innovative; all this costs money and that is why  Rethink Ireland collaborated with the Irish Government to create the Innovate Together Fund in May 2020. 

Details of the Dublin ‘Innovate Together Fund’ Second Round Awardees below:


Funding: €80,804

Barnardos delivers services and works with families, communities, and other partners to transform the lives of vulnerable children who are affected by adverse childhood experiences. The impact of COVID-19 has enhanced the use of the virtual space in delivering services. Through the support of Rethink Ireland and the Innovate Together Fund, Barnardos will develop best practice guidance and a digital service delivery framework for its suite of children’s services.

Migrant Rights Centre Ireland

Funding: €137,327 

The Migrant Rights Centre Ireland (MRCI) is a national organisation working to promote the rights of migrant workers and their families at risk of exploitation, social exclusion, and discrimination. ‘Harnessing Change’ will empower workers across Ireland in the agri-food sector to tackle exploitation and poor conditions of employment to improve lives. It will also support undocumented migrants to regularise their status through a forthcoming regularisation scheme.

Coolmine Therapeutic Community

Funding: €73,868 

Coolmine Therapeutic Community is a leading addiction treatment centre working with the most marginalised in Irish society, providing a range of evidence based community, day and residential services. They are committed to a vision of recovery for all, which strives for an enhanced quality of life rather than mere abstinence from drugs and alcohol. They are a registered charity and were established in 1973.

Early Learning Initiative, National College of Ireland

Funding: €127,650 

Early Learning Initiative (ELI), National College of Ireland, provides parent and child learning support programmes in marginalised communities. ELI’s specialisation is in Home Visiting, where specially trained local people connect with families to engage parents in their child’s learning from birth. ‘From Couch to Screen’ supports the pivot of Home Visiting to a blend of face-to-face engagement, virtual visits and online learning. This will continue to encourage success in school, career and life.

Mental Health Reform (MHR)

Funding: €67,500

Mental Health Reform (MHR) is the leading national coalition on mental health, campaigning to drive progressive reform of mental health services and supports in Ireland. MHR holds expertise in eMental health and has been helping sectoral organisations develop innovative responses to the COVID challenges. ‘Frontline Screener’ enhances utilisation of eMental health via the development and piloting of a digital screening tool for trauma related and other mental health difficulties.

Irish Theatre Institute

Funding: €23,590

Irish Theatre Institute (ITI) is a resource organisation dedicated to the strategic development of professional theatre in Ireland. Its primary purpose is to foster the best possible environment in which artists, nationwide and at all stages of their careers, are supported to create their most ambitious and excellent work. ACCELERATE, a professional development, upskilling and mentoring programme, addresses information and skills deficits for freelance professional theatre artists challenged by COVID-19.

Enactus Ireland

Funding: €47,280

Enactus is a leadership and skills development programme for third level students. Experiential learning through social enterprise development, provides the medium for enhancing the skills required for the Future of Work, while positively impacting our communities. The Enactus Ireland ‘Future Skills Now’ project addresses skills development for students from groups underrepresented at third level. They provide tailored supports, preparing these students for the future of work, and supporting them to become changemakers in their communities.


Funding: €26,526

Headway is an internationally accredited, non-profit disability organisation providing programmes in the community for survivors of Acquired Brain Injury and their families. The ‘Headway Online Learning Programme’ will address the rehabilitation needs of people who can’t access traditional face to face learning opportunities. Injury survivors will be supported to access blended and remote learning technologies delivered via three regional “hub” locations.

Sex Workers Alliance Ireland

Funding: €20,168

The Sex Workers Alliance Ireland (SWAI) are a front-line, sex worker-led organisation that advocates for the human rights, safety, and self-determination of sex workers in Ireland. They work from a non-judgmental, harm reduction, and rights-based perspective and their peer-to-peer model is unique in Ireland. SWAI is comprised of and represents some of the most marginalised and vulnerable people in Ireland.

Pictured: Rethink Ireland Announce €1.3 million in Awards for 20 COVID-19 Community Response Projects through the Innovate Together Fund. Pictured at the Announcement are Minister of State for Community Development and Charities Joe O’Brien TD , Anthony Brennan, CEO, Zurich Ireland, Niamh McCarthy, Best Practice Manager at Barnardos and Deirdre Mortell, CEO, Rethink Ireland

Pic: Marc O’Sullivan

Sarah Brooks

Sarah Brooks

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