Inspiration from Deirdre Mortell, CEO of Rethink Ireland, to celebrate National Women’s Enterprise Day 2020

When we support each other, we’re Stronger Together. We asked Deirdre Mortell, CEO of Rethink Ireland to share with us some insights on her experiences and how she draws inspiration from the environment around her, role models she had during her careers, the best advice she received since Covid-19 hit the world, and what does the slogan “Stronger Together” means to her.

Rethink Ireland (formerly Social Innovation Fund Ireland) was created by Government to stimulate philanthropy and back social innovations. They raise philanthropic funds from companies, individuals and families, which are matched euro for euro by Government from the Dormant Accounts Funds. With these funds, they provide cash grants and business supports to support the best social innovations in Ireland to grow and spread.

Voltedge: What is your current role and how long you have held this position?

 Deirdre: I am CEO of Rethink Ireland for 6 years now.

 Voltedge: Where do you draw inspiration from?

 Deirdre: I am inspired by the donors and awardees of Rethink Ireland that I deal with every day. They get up in the morning with a desire and plan to turn Ireland into the kind of country we all want to live in – more equal, more sustainable, fairer – and they each play different roles in getting us there.


Voltedge: During the course of your career, was there a role model or mentor that stands out for you?

Deirdre: Sally Anne Kinahan was my first boss, as head of Oxfam Ireland. I was in my mid 20’s and she stretched me, threw me in the deep end of the pool, rescued me when I was drowning, and saved my backside when I messed up. She is also great fun to work with, a huge risk taker, and went on to a great career herself.

Voltedge: What is the best piece of advice you received since Covid-19 hit the world?

Deirdre: Breathe, remember to breathe.

Voltedge: Can you share with us 2 or 3 positives in your personal life that you have discovered during the pandemic?

Deirdre: Working at home meant I could spend much more time outdoors than I normally could in spring / summer.

Working remotely meant I was able to leave Dublin this summer and live and work in rural Cork, which was an absolute pleasure. City life is wonderful in the winter but singing to the cows on summer evenings is hard to beat. They like it too.

Voltedge: In light of so much remote working and social distancing, what practices or approach have you taken to try to communicate and collaborate effectively during this time and to support employees?

Deirdre: We hold a Huddle on Zoom for 30 mins twice a week to have a chat, make announcements, and keep in touch. All staff are invited but it is not mandatory. We now also do a weekly email update to all staff – something which was only occasional before. I really enjoy the chance to connect with staff at all levels, especially new staff that have joined during the lockdown, who I may have never met in person.

We have allocated some staff resource to Wellbeing and tips and challenges are shared on Slack (our internal communications app) regularly. Everything from a cocktail making competition for the month of October (suggested by a staff member and to be judged by her daughter) to articles on sleep and weekend plans on Fridays.

We are lucky that most of our staff are digital natives, and Rethink Ireland did not own a desktop computer when this all started, so agile working was relatively easy for us. But I miss the chats and brainstorms.

Voltedge: What does the slogan ‘Stronger Together’ mean to you?

Deirdre: COVID19 has reminded us of the power of neighbourhood and community. My neighbours are closer than we have ever been.

All we need to do now is to channel that social capital as we emerge from this pandemic into ensuring we build a just transition from it – closing the inequality gaps that have been widened by COVID19 – and ensuring that we prepare for the climate challenge as we do so.

I believe we can do that, because we have all been forced to stop and think, reflect on what really matters to us as a family, a community and a country.

Voltedge: What is your favourite quote and why?

Deirdre: “Well behaved women seldom make history” – attributed to Eleanor Roosevelt – no explanation necessary.