Ino Tool

Project website:



Building trade union support for social economy start-ups

The project partners in this initiative are eight trade union federations across EU member states, and the European Trade Union Congress (ETUC). The purpose of the project is to develop a “toolbox” of resources to assist social economy start-ups. The main target group consists of younger people in the trade union movement who are at risk being unemployed. The toolbox will consist of a webpage with examples, tips and ideas for starting a social enterprise, useful contacts and information on the regulatory framework in each participating country, and traiuning tools to assist in social economy start-ups. 

The project website is:

The social economy, and social enterprises, are all companies and firms created to have a social impact. Some, such as workers’ cooperatives, generate profits to benefit all members while many others are businesses in the not-for-profit sector established on commercial lines but with the aim of achieving a social goal. In such enterprises, profits generated are not distributed but flow back into the enterprise to enable its expansion, or into other community benefits. Typical “social enterprises” in Ireland are credit unions, community owned childcare services, non-profit disability services, local enterprise and community development companies etc. What is meant by a “social goal” might include delivering community services, improving the physical and service capacities of a community, providing services for people with disabilities, delivering vocational training for unemployed people or educational services for a community, providing direct employment, achieving environmental benefits etc.

The project partnership consists of national and regional trade union federations from Ireland, Italy, Hungary, Portugal, Serbia, Spain and Sweden, together with the European Trade Union Congress and the regional government of West Sweden

ICTU in supporting and becoming involved in this project was keen to develop trade union support for enterprises in Ireland democratically controlled by their members, as well as assisting and resourcing trade unions and local Congress Centres to become more active in developing the social economy in their communities and regions.

The Inotool Toolbox will concentrate on smaller businesses in local communities rather than large cooperative conglomerates.  The project commenced in December 2012 and the intention is to develop the toolbox over a 24-month project period. The aim is to have a functional service available to partners or other Trade Unions.

The project will have been a success if the Toolbox proves itself a useful resource for other organisations in assisting them in the development of social enterprises. The partnership behind the project aims through a process of dissemination and education of Trade Union representatives to broaden the involvement of unions in the initiation and development of social enterprises. 

Since it started, the InoTool project has developed the framework of its resource website. This is designed to provide in an easy to use manner a wide range of examples of social enterprises across different sectors. The site also provides information on the regulatory system affecting social enterprises in different countries, contacts for support and information, training materials and a range of other development tools.

In Ireland, ICTU collected data – both quantitative and qualitative – on over 100 social enterprises, showing the “idea” which underlay their establishment, the nature of employment and training offered, their sectoral involvement, governance structures, trade union involvement and other information. In September 2013 we hosted a seminar in Dublin on the potential for the further development of the sector in Ireland, which was attended by nearly 100 people from the sector, support services and European partners. Information from the seminar is available here. The project has also developed a training package for trade union members interested in becoming involved in initiating a social enterprise or more generally in developing the local social economy. This tool is currently being “localized” for Irish conditions and will be delivered to interested Irish trade unionists in autumn 2014.

If you are interested in the project, contact

In September of 2013 the intermediate conference of the partnership was held in Dublin.  The report of the Dublin seminar is now available here.

Inotool Newsletter 4 is available here.