Social enterprises operate in a similar fashion to other businesses, selling goods or services to individuals, private businesses and the public sector.  However, social enterprises are set up to deliver or contribute towards a social, community or environmental goal and the surpluses which emerge from social enterprises are not distributed to owners or shareholders.

The Department is responsible for a Social Enterprise Measure of the Dormant Accounts fund, which provides capital funding for social enterprises. The Dormant Accounts Fund also provides funding for the Social Innovation Fund Ireland (SIFI), which provides growth capital to social innovations providing solutions to social issues in Ireland. The Department provides match funding for all philanthropic funds raised by SIFI, via the Dormant Accounts Fund

A National Social Enterprise Policy for Ireland is currently being drafted. It will seek to provide a coherent policy framework to support the development of the social enterprise sector in Ireland over the next 5 years. To ensure engagement with all stakeholders, and that their views inform the policy, a public consultation on a draft policy will commence shortly. Following consideration of the responses to the public consultation, a final policy is planned for publication in early 2019.