Press Release for launch of the Spark Student Social Enterprise Awards 2015

spark-awards-ie-Press Release

Igniting the spark – encouraging social entrepreneurship and innovation

Ged Nash TD, Minister of State for Business and Employment, today launched the 2015 national third level student Spark social enterprise awards. The SPARK Social Enterprise Awards are the product of collaboration involving Social Care Practice lecturers working at DIT, IT Sligo and IT Tralee. The competition, now in its second year, is open to accountancy, business studies, early childhood care in education and social care practice students attending 10 Institutes of Technology. The Awards are intended to facilitate, recognize and reward creativity and innovation among students working on a diverse range of social issues.

Using a problem based learning approach, the competition will involve student social entrepreneurs identifying a social issue and, facilitated by their lecturers, exploring and critiquing current responses and offering new ideas to address these issues. Creating a space for students to imagine, think, apply and act as social entrepreneurs is a valuable learning experience for them and could possibly result in a society changing innovation.  Last year’s competition attracted tremendous interest and outstanding entries.

Launching the Awards, Minister Nash said: “. I believe that students will benefit enormously from getting involved in exploring a range of complex social issues that are relevant to Irish society today and applying skills and innovative thinking they are acquiring through their studies in attempting to address them.  This is the type of critical thinking and entrepreneurship we are trying to encourage across society in my Department.”

Dr. John Pender, Senior Lecturer at the Institute of Technology, Sligo and a member of the SPARK Awards advisory board commented:
“The Spark Student Social Enterprise Awards seeks to imbue key characteristics of entrepreneurship – leadership, vision, creativity, tenacity and business acumen – and social innovation among third level students thereby allowing them to identify and agilely respond to increasingly complex social issues throughout their communities “.

This year’s Awards are generously supported and sponsored by The Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Ireland (CPA Ireland). Mr Eamonn Siggins, Chief Executive of CPA Ireland, noted: “CPA Ireland is delighted to be the proud sponsor of the SPARK Social Enterprise Awards 2015.  Social Entrepreneurship is a key growth area and we wholeheartedly support third level Institutes in their efforts to develop and foster social entrepreneurial skills in future graduates through this innovative competition. The introduction of business streams in this year’s competition will bring a pragmatic business influence to bear in ensuring that projects are considered with commercial sustainability in mind.”

Through participation in this experiential learning experience, students will develop team work, critical thinking, effective communication and leadership skills, all directly relevant to their future employability.  Outstanding competition entries will be shortlisted for generous prizes totalling €10,000 and assessed by a judging panel composed of Fr. Peter McVerry, Lucy Masterson (Social Entrepreneurship Ireland), Gail McEvoy (CPA Ireland), Conor Hickey (Crosscare), Laura Dennehy (Enactus Ireland) and Fulbright scholar and serial social entrepreneur Ruairí McKeirnan.  Entries to the competition close on Friday 24th April with the national finals scheduled to take place in Dublin during May.


For further information visit the SPARK Social Enterprise Awards website: or contact:

Dr. John Pender, Senior Lecturer, Institute of Technology, Sligo:

Ms Roisin McGlone, Lecturer, Institute of Technology, Sligo:

Dr. Colm O’Doherty, Lecturer, Institute of Technology, Tralee:

Ms Anne Marie Shier, Lecturer, Dublin Institute of Technology:

Ms Judy Doyle, Senior Lecturer, Dublin Institute of Technology:


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