What is the number one tip you would give another social entrepreneur?
Follow your dream and, as Nike said, “Just Do It”
What are you involved in?
Childcare. Because every child needs early years education to achieve his/her full potential. The HighScope Foundation documented a social return of $16 for every $1 invested in pre-schools using HighScope in the US. In 2007 there was a severe shortage of community early years child places in Tallaght West. The purpose of early years education is the huge, intrinsic benefit to the child. The fact that parents can take up employment or training are no more than positive side-effects.
Fledgling Early Years
An Cosán is the integrated centre of The Shanty Educational Project Ltd which was founded 26 years ago by Ann Louise Gilligan and Katherine Zappone. The fundamental principle of the founders was that “education is the key to eradicating poverty” and, over the last 2½ decades, The Shanty has provided an extensive range of second-chance education and training opportunities for thousands of women and men in Tallaght West. In 1999, the government provided a grant of €1 million to build An Cosán, where Rainbow House, the organisation’s in-house early years education centre, delivers a high quality service which enables many parents to avail of education and training. The Shanty Education & Training Centre and Rainbow House are widely recognised as models of best practice in the community and voluntary sector. At that time, the third element of An Cosán was a craft enterprise, Weaving Dreams, which provided enterprise and employment opportunities for local people. In time, Weaving Dreams found that it could not compete successfully with cheaper imports and this enterprise closed in 2001.
The board remained committed to development of an enterprise. Funding was committed and research was undertaken to evaluate enterprise opportunities. As a result of this research the unmet need for early years education was identified and the board decided to seek out a solution to respond to that community need. An innovative social enterprise solution was developed and Fledglings Early Years Education & Care was created and registered.
Objectives of Fledglings Early Years
• To provide additional, quality early years education places for communities in areas of deprivation
• To improve the quality of early years education provision in those communities
• To create employment and to cultivate an atmosphere of social enterprise and financial independence
• To support local communities as they go through the process of setting up new early years services
• To lobby at local and national level for resources and supports for social enterprises and for quality early years education as an entitlement for every child
Fledglings’ method is to support local communities to create new social enterprises in the early years education. Initially they were directly employed by An Cosán but, in the medium term, they become independent social franchisees under a Fledglings not-for-profit social franchise agreement. Many of An Cosán’s early years education students responded to the entrepreneurial ethos of their courses to take up new jobs created by Fledglings.
Fledglings now have eight early years services with 63 employees and 250+ children. The services are in Tallaght (4), Dublin Northside (3) and County Clare (1).