A new €650,000 social innovation fund has been launched by Rethink Ireland for innovative projects that empower communities, tackle poverty, and promote social inclusion in Clare, Limerick and Tipperary.

The Ignite Midwest Fund, the first of its kind specifically for the Midwest, has been created by Rethink Ireland in partnership with several private donors from the region including the Parkes Family Limerick, the Community Foundation for Ireland, and is matched by the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund. There will be a minimum of five awardees with the fund now open for applications until 29th March 2021.

Speaking to mark the launch of the Ignite Midwest Fund, Minister of State for Community Development and Charities Joe O’Brien TD said: “The objective of the Ignite Fund is to spark meaningful social impact in the Midwest of Ireland by providing support to some of the region’s most innovative not-for-profit organisations including charities, community groups and social enterprises. I am delighted to launch the Fund, which is supported by my Department and several private donors. We are all united in the belief and potential of community development and social inclusion initiatives in tackling poverty and social exclusion.”

Ignite Midwest, Rethink Ireland’s second regional fund, is open to projects based in Clare, Limerick or Tipperary, or national organisations with a Midwest branch or focus. Projects must focus on tackling inequality, poverty and/or social exclusion, or on empowering their communities. There will be up to seven awards in total, two of which will be specifically for projects using music as a means of enhancing wellbeing and promoting social inclusion in the region.

Deirdre Mortell, CEO of Rethink Ireland, said: “In 2019, we ran a nationwide €550,000 Ignite Fund which awarded six innovative projects spread all over the country. This year, with the support of our donors, we are able to focus our efforts with a fund of €650,000 specifically in counties Clare, Limerick and Tipperary — counties that are feeling the challenge of the rural-urban divide and where inequalities have only been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. Social innovation is vital to change this and to create a more inclusive society.

“We thank the Department of Rural and Community Development and the local philanthropists for their belief and support. I encourage those fitting the criteria to apply and we look forward to working with the awardees and supporting their life-changing projects.”

Awardees will receive a package of supports to the value of between €55,000 and €75,000 each. The blended support package includes a cash grant, business and capacity building supports, and access to the Rethink Ireland Accelerator Programme.

Ralph Parkes, whose family is one of several in the region making a philanthropic donation to the Fund said, “The Ignite Midwest Fund presents an opportunity to tackle poverty and empower communities through the exceptional and innovative community groups that exist across counties Limerick, Clare, and Tipperary. The Parkes Family are delighted to support this financially as we believe in the power of philanthropy, the power of community, and we are dedicated to giving in more meaningful ways. We hope to see local projects emerge that are working with those experiencing socio-economic disadvantage or isolation, and apply to be part of this 2021 funding initiative.”

Awardees of the 2019-2020 Ignite Fund included Northside Family Resource Centre in Ballynanty, Limerick City, whose ‘Community and Family Services’ project addresses the impact of trauma as a result of living in deprivation and poverty for children and their parents; and The Shona Project’s ‘Online Community’, an interactive platform designed to educate, empower and inspire young Irish girls.

For further details on the Ignite Midwest Fund and to apply, visit rethinkireland.ie/current_fund/ignite-midwest-fund-2021/

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