Posted on Wednesday 23 May 2012 by Ulster Business

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County Armagh based Social Entrepreneurs Alan Brown and Shirley Agnew of Step by Step NI are one of ten awardees that will receive financial and business support from the 2012 Arthur Guinness Fund, it was announced at a reception in the Guinness Storehouse.

Step by Step NI which provides employment training for young adults with learning disabilities and care leavers will receive €50,000 over the next two years, part of a €700,000 investment by the Arthur Guinness Fund in 2012.

The project works in partnership with the local further education college and through the creation of ‘Restuarant 180’ in Portadown and the ‘180² Tea Room’ in Armagh, students are provided with unique training and employment opportunities enabling them to attain sustainable skills that will support their career development.

Over a two year programme, Arthur Guinness Fund awardees receive between €50,000 and €100,000 each depending on if they are ‘start-up projects’ which have been established in the past two years or ‘take-off’ projects which are at a more advanced stage in their development.

Created in 2009 as part of the Guinness 250th anniversary, the Arthur Guinness Fund builds upon the philanthropic legacy of Arthur Guinness and is designed to support social entrepreneurs in all parts of Ireland. To date, the Arthur Guinness Fund has awarded €1.65 million along with business mentoring to 20 projects across the Island of Ireland.

Social entrepreneurs are people who seek to address a specific issue or problem and try to meet the challenges in an innovative and creative way. The selected projects are committed to making a tangible impact by working to make society a better place for everybody.

Since June 2010, Arthur Guinness Fund awardees have had a positive impact on nearly 40,000 people. A study conducted by Diageo also found that:

  • Over the past two years, the Arthur Guinness Fund has supported 20 organisations with 85 full time employees, 136 part time employees, 34 full time volunteers and 1,541 part time volunteers
  • The 2010 group of Arthur Guinness Fund awardees have had a positive impact on 22,156 people since the start of their programme in June 2010.
  • The 2011 group have had a positive impact on 17,716 people since June 2011.
  • In total nearly 40,000 people have been positively impacted.
  • The Arthur Guinness Fund has delivered 10 group business workshops for awardees since July 2010 on topics including marketing, sales, social media, media training, personal development, insights, public relations, situational leadership and finance.

This year, 440 applications were received from social entrepreneurs all over Ireland. Applicants for support are grouped according to a number of categories including; Culture and the Arts, Skills for Life, and Technology and Social Media for Social Good. Each of the applications received went through a rigorous assessment programme with a number of stages.

The groups receiving awards focus on a broad range of areas, but with a strong focus on employment and getting people back to work. 

Commenting on the €750,000 funding over the next two years Michael McCann, Country Director, Diageo Northern Ireland said:

“Diageo is very proud of all the social entrepreneurs that are being recognised through the Arthur Guinness Fund in 2012. After a long process and very tough competition from many worthy applicants, ten awardees were chosen due to their outstanding potential to make a genuinely positive impact on society. The awardees are working to get people back to work, offering innovative solutions to mental health problems, enabling entrepreneurs and small businesses to work together and much more besides.

“The Arthur Guinness Fund, however, is much more than just providing financial support. Our initiative will also support the businesses through mentoring and working with people to bring their projects and ideas to the next level. We are delighted to help these organisations succeed and in these challenging economic times, we’re committed to helping society change for the better in communities across the North and South of Ireland.”

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