Trinity educational innovators receive funding award from Social Innovation Fund

Posted on: 25 October 2017

Two educational innovation projects at Trinity have secured significant awards from the Social Innovation Fund Ireland (SIFI)’s Education Fund. The awardees were announced last night by the Minister for Education and Skills, Richard Bruton TD. Funding awards were made to projects that have demonstrated innovation in education service provision that tackles educational disadvantage.

The Trinity Access 21 (TA21) project aims to be a catalyst for social transformation, by supporting people to reach their full educational potential through innovation, research and advocacy. It is an action-research project which aims to effect change in the Irish education system by raising student aspiration and helping teachers to create technology-mediated collaborative classroom environments. 

The Education Fund is made up of 50% private philanthropic funding, self-raised by the awardees. TA21 raised over 1.3 million in funding from philanthropists, companies and foundations and this was matched with almost three quarters of a million euro from the SIFI Education Fund. Among those who contributed to the amount raised by TA21 were: A&L Goodbody, Arthur Cox, CarTrawler, Investec, KPMG, Linklaters, Microsoft, ViClarity, William Fry and Workday.

The funding will be used to expand the TA21  initiative over the next three years both within Dublin and around the country. The aim is to reach 20,000 students, 1,500 teachers and 70 schools and to partner with the Institute of Technology Tralee, the Education and Training Board in Laois Offaly and schools nationwide through the 21st Century Schools of Distinction award.

Speaking about the SIFI funding award, Cliona Hannon, Co-Director of Trinity Access 21, Trinity College Dublin said: “We are delighted to be selected as one of the winning projects for the SIFI Education fund, which will support us in scaling the evidence based TA21 project, across DEIS schools in Ireland over the next three years.  We have the support of ten companies, six individual philanthropists, two Foundations and the SIFI Education Fund to build the next phase of the TA21 project, which has shown significant gains in student aspirations, attainment and knowledge for young people from low socio-economic status groups in its first three years.”

The second project to receive a funding award from the SIFI Education Fund was the Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities. The Centre provides an advanced education programme for young people with intellectual disabilities. This programme is designed to enable young people with intellectual disabilities to make the transition to employment and/or further education and to lead more independent adult lives.

Speaking about the funding announcement Professor Michael Shevlin, Director of Inclusion in Education and Society, Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities said: “This funding represents a wonderful opportunity to support and develop this education/employment programme on a national scale. Margaret Turley, one of the graduates of the Trinity Centre for People with Intellectual Disabilities, said that this programme has helped her to be more independent and that having a job makes her feel included in society".

According to SIFI, the Education Fund identified the “best in class” innovative education programmes that serve as models of excellence in overcoming inequalities in education with a long-term positive impact on their young and adult learners, their families and communities. Proving and improving their impact, these projects have strong potential to be replicated across Ireland with a view to creating a community of innovators who have the collective ability to create systemic change.

Each project participates in an external group evaluation by NUI Galway’s UNESCO Child & Family Centre that will enable them to build up rich data and demonstrate clear outcomes at the end of the programme. It aims to show how transformative the project has been for its participants, so that others can learn from and adopt it.

Minister for Education and Skills Richard Bruton TD said: “I’m delighted to announce the winners of Social Innovation Fund Ireland (SIFI)’s Education Fund today and I congratulate all those who have been successful. I have set out the ambition to make Ireland’s Education service the best in Europe within a decade. Some of the initiatives that we see here today, show real innovation in tackling some of the challenges we face in education, particularly in the area of breaking down cycles of disadvantage, and will most definitely contribute towards our realisation of this ambition. Furthermore, the Education Fund is a celebration of the power of collaboration between the private and public sectors and it’s great to see SIFI showing the potential of both to work in partnership together to deliver real results”.

Deirdre Mortell, CEO of SIFI said: “Education has a huge impact on our later lives; how much money we earn, the kind of job that we can get, and our capacity to support older parents or young children. Most especially, it affects the confidence that we have as we progress in life. It has the power to lift you out of disadvantage or exclusion onto a new life trajectory. Early school leaving and exclusion can have a devastating impact on that potential. It is with that in mind that we set up the Education Fund. People experience educational disadvantage for many reasons, including poverty, ill health, mental health issues, or disability. We believe the Education Fund helps people who have been excluded to get qualifications and build new lives for themselves.”

Worth €7 million overall, the SIFI fund is one of the most significant investments of private philanthropy in programmes that tackle educational disadvantage. The Education Fund is the largest SIFI fund to date and is made up of 50% private philanthropic funding, self-raised by the awardees. The other half comes from Government, through the Department of Rural and Community Development via the Dormant Accounts Fund.

About Social Innovation Fund Ireland

Our purpose is to find and back innovative solutions to critical social issues in Ireland. We work to build the Ireland we all want to live and work in. We support innovations that enable healthy, resilient communities, and tackle issues like educational disadvantage and exclusion.

We do this in partnership with others. With social enterprises, charities, non-profits, and voluntary organisations – they develop the innovative solutions. With private companies, charitable trusts, or sometimes individuals and families – they co-fund the ideas. We match their funds.

We were created by the Irish Government in 2013. Every Euro that is donated in private philanthropy is matched by a Euro from the Department of Rural and Community Development via The Dormant Accounts Fund.

We back social innovations to sustain them, scale them and maximise their impact. Our mission is to provide growth capital and supports to the best social innovations in Ireland, enabling them to scale and maximize their impact. Our vision is to create the world’s best ecosystem for supporting social innovation.

About The Education Fund

As part of the application for this fund we asked projects to apply with philanthropic funding secured by them, to be matched by SIFI to provide an uplift on their funds and participation in a three year evaluation. In place of having a single identifiable donor, this approach to funding is a celebration of the power of collaboration between private and public sectors.

Each awardee secured funding through a variety of methods including corporate sponsorship, alumni donations and fundraising techniques such as community raffles. The Education Fund match fund encapsulates the idea of ‘smart giving’ and illustrates the power of a great idea, a passionate leader, a savvy donor and government incentives. The Education Fund opened in November 2016 and closed for applications at the end of February 2017.

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