A new national Quality Standards Framework for Ireland’s enterprise hub, co-working and remote working sector has been unveiled by Minister Damien English TD, Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment. The development of the framework was overseen by a National Steering Committee, chaired by Minister English, was funded by Enterprise Ireland and managed and co-ordinated by the Community Enterprise Association Ireland.
The National Hubs Network is now, more than ever, a vital asset in the future of work in Ireland and especially in rural Areas. The standards framework will provide a pathway to enhancing the quality of the offering from hubs across the country.Stephen Carolan, Hubs Programme Manager
The first of its kind in the world, the new framework provides a professional standard for the 350+ enterprise hub, co-working and remote working locations nationwide that play a pivotal role in supporting start-ups, SMEs, multinationals and remote workers across the public and private sectors.
Entitled QHubs, the overarching aim of the new quality standard is to raise the overall quality, environmental and innovation performance of the sector, due to the ISO standards the framework is grounded in, and ensure the national hub network continues to support the realisation of a sustainable and balanced regional development model for Ireland.
Gary O’Meara, Chairperson of Community Enterprise Association Ireland and CEO of Meath Enterprise, said: “We’re delighted that we were in a position to bring together such a dynamic group of key stakeholders to develop this world-class QHubs Standards Framework. At a time when the sector is more important to the Irish economy than ever before due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this system will enable Community Enterprise Association Ireland and our members to be even more ambitious, more professional, more creative and, importantly, more collaborative. It offers the opportunity for like-minded companies to immerse themselves in a nurturing and supportive community of innovators and entrepreneurs and really work together to make a real impact in their local community and the wider economy.”
About the Community Enterprise Association Ireland:
Established over 20 years ago, the Community Enterprise Association Ireland, previously known as the National Association for Community Enterprise Centres (NACEC), is the country’s leading network of enterprise hubs, co-working locations and flexible working spaces. Government funded and supported by Enterprise Ireland, the organisation works to drive real innovation and entrepreneurship across local communities and regions.
The Community Enterprise Association Ireland achieves this by continually working to raise the overall quality, environmental and innovative performance of the sector, ensuring the national hub network continues to support the realisation of a sustainable and balanced regional development model for Ireland. As an established and respected voice of the sector, the organisation also confidently represents local enterprise centres / hubs at government level so that all new strategies, policies and funding programmes take the needs and ambition of each community into account.
The CEAI’s 2022-2025 strategy will be unveiled early next year and this is rooted in an extensive, independently-led consultative process which engaged with member and non-member centres and hubs; local, regional and national government; state agencies and the private sector. The strategy is aligned with Enterprise2025 as well as the government’s strategic priorities, policies and plans.
Committee members included senior officials from Enterprise Ireland; IDA Ireland; Skillnet Ireland; the National Standards Authority of Ireland (NSAI); the Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment, the Western Development Commission; the Regional Enterprise Plans Programme and the County & City Managers Association (CCMA). Independent consultants Dolmen Design & Innovation were appointed to design and deliver the project.
When a location, centre or hub signs up to the new QHubs Standard, they will go through the following process to achieve their quality standards status:
- Engage in an ‘Innovation and Quality Diagnostic’ process to define their current status based on their strategic purpose, size, capacity and occupancy as well as services and facilities available. This ranges from Level 1, which is a local community hub that provides good quality and affordable workspaces, shared services and networking opportunities, to Level 4, which offers more regional, national and international collaborations, shared learning and peer to peer opportunities, and market access for client companies that want to scale globally.
- With assistance from a dedicated mentor, each participant will identify their desired ambitions and goals, such as how to add value to the facility for client companies via improved services, products, experiences and upgrading business model and processes used. This offers an opportunity for locations to move up through the ranking system from Level 1 to 4, if that is their desired ambition.
- A customised ‘Growth Pathway’ will be developed to help each participating location work towards their targets, as well as access to the support required to achieve this. This Growth Pathway is verified by an external independent party.
- Annually all hubs will be measured and their progress benchmarked, with an external verification party reviewing progress in line with their Growth Pathway. To facilitate this, a range of KPI’s will be set in a variety of areas such as:
Quality, Environmental and Innovative performance
Community & Network
- As well as having access to a host of best-in-class resources, managers and team members of each location will be invited to engage in MentorsWork, a 12-week management and innovation programme from Skillnet Ireland and SFA. Involving one-to-one mentoring, webinars, master classes and workshops, the programme is designed to meet the ongoing talent development needs of the managers and staff across the national network
- An annual Benchmarking Report of the sector, broken down by county, region and sector, will be shared with all participants, while an annual Award Ceremony will take place to recognise growth and performance achievements as well as share best practice learning
This Quality Standards Framework initiative is a key deliverable of the Community Enterprise Association Ireland Strategic Plan 2019-21 and is also one of the key actions to be delivered as part of the CEAI Regional Transformation Programme which is being supported under the Regional Enterprise Development Fund.
“The National Hubs Network is now, more than ever, a vital asset in the future of work in Ireland and especially in rural Areas. The standards framework will provide a pathway to enhancing the quality of the offering from hubs across the country. Our team at Connected Hubs and the Western Development Commission are looking forward to supporting CEAI on the rollout of this important piece of work.” Stephen Carolan, Hubs Programme Manager
Minister Damien English said: “There is a significant number of remote working hubs and enterprise centres across the country which are valuable assets in promoting national, regional and local economic development. The Quality Standards Framework will further strengthen Ireland’s position as a world-class destination for remote working, support for entrepreneurship, collaboration, rural regeneration and enterprise development.
The Framework compliments our National Remote Working Strategy, ‘Making Remote Work’, which sets out to ensure that remote working is a permanent feature in the Irish workplace in a way that maximises economic, social, and environmental benefits for businesses and the workforce. It will also reinforce our efforts to deliver sustainable regional development and a jobs-led economic recovery.
“The Quality Standards Framework is a key action of CEAI’s Regional Transformation Programme and has been supported by my Department’s Regional Enterprise Development Fund. I am grateful to the steering committee for their commitment and determination to oversee this project which will benefit the development of the enterprise centre and hub space infrastructure in Ireland.”
Mark Christal, Manager of Regions & Entrepreneurship at Enterprise Ireland, said: “The new Quality Standards Framework is an important development that will prove of great benefit to this important and growing element of Ireland’s regional economy. It will not only establish standards for each location, but also provide them with a framework on how development can be achieved and transparently reported. Enterprise Hubs, co-working facilities and remote working will play an increasingly important role in entrepreneurship across the country and Enterprise Ireland is proud to have funded and contributed to this unique and ground-breaking Quality Framework for the sector.”