Our Purpose

The School for Social Enterprises in Ireland (SSEI) is the sole organisation in Ireland devoted exclusively to  leadership, management and business development programmes and events for the social economy sector. Founded in 2005, SSEI was formed as a strategic alliance between the University of Ulster and The Flax Trust, designed to promote sustainable community enterprise and economic development in Ireland.

Our Core Activities


In partnership with The Flax Trust and the Ulster Business School, SSEI delivers the Advanced Diploma in Social Enterprise. This is a one year social enterprise development programme designed specifically for individuals who wish to develop a new social enterprise or those in existing community organisations and charities who are trying to diversify their income streams through business development.

SSEI also delivers customised programmes in partnership with local councils and other support organisations.

Aside from customised and accredited development programmes, SSEI has created and delivered the acclaimed ‘Social Enterprise Means Business Masterclass Series’ in each of the last two years, building on the ‘Social Enterprise….Delivering the Big Society Masterclass Series’ in 2010. SSEI also co-hosted the European Conference for Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Belfast in September 2014.

SSEI’s current masterclass series is being delivered in partnership with Deloitte and a range of other partners and is exploring ‘What is on the mind of social enterprise leaders’.

Our Partners

Since its formation SSEI has enjoyed the support and collaboration of a range of social economy organisations, public sector bodies and private sector firms and will continue to build on these relationships to help deliver the social economy agenda for Northern Ireland:


SSEI operations are delivered through a social enterprise / private sector partnership with Podiem Ltd who specialise in enterprise, management and leadership development along with event creation and management services.

Our Chair – Professor Emeritus Ken O’Neill

KenThe School for Social Enterprises in Ireland is led by a board of directors which is chaired by Ken O’Neill.  He is Professor Emeritus of Entrepreneurship and Small Business Development at the University of Ulster. He is also Chair of the Centre for SME Development in the university’s Business School.

He sits on the Academic Advisory Council of the Chartered Management Institute, is a member of the Governing Body of Belfast Metropolitan College, a director of the Westminster-based, all-party SME group – The Genesis Initiative, and of the International Small Business Congress as well as a non-executive director of a number of not-for- profits and SMEs

His roles have included President of the International Council for Small Business, President of the UK Institute for Small Business Affairs, Board member of the UK’s CBI SME Council, UK Vice-President of the Institute of Business Advisors, member of the BBC Broadcasting Council for NI and Chairman of Young Enterprise (N.I.) Ltd.

He was the first person to be awarded The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion – Lifetime Achievement Award (2005) and his most recent books are  the co-authored ‘Understanding the Social Economy and the Third Sector’ (Palgrave Macmillan, 2nd ed., 2014)’ and Understanding Enterprise, Entrepreneurship and Small Business’ (Palgrave Macmillan 4th ed., 2013)

Our Alumni

Bursary Image 1Through our various accredited and customised programmes the School for Social Enterprises in Ireland has built an alumni network which includes some of Ireland’s most successful social entrepreneurs. These individuals regularly contribute to SSEI by giving of their time to inspire and inform current and existing participants across SSEI’s range of initiatives.