SERI Member Spotlight: Coolock Development Council CLG
Social enterprises are the most passionate and dedicated enterprises in Ireland. At SERI, we
want to share all the success that our members have achieved with our community. Today, we are shining a spotlight on Coolock Development Council CLG. We were delighted to have the opportunity to speak with Fiona Nolan, General Manager at Coolock Development Council CLG.
What is the impact that your social enterprise wants to create?
Coolock Development Council aims to combat poverty through the social and economic development of the community of Coolock and its environs.
Why was the social enterprise set up?
In 1986, the community of Coolock in Northeast Dublin was blighted by poor infrastructural development, which included poor housing and public transport, no public parks, playgrounds, sports and community centres.
Unemployment was at 60% with high levels of early school leaving recorded. It was within this context that the Coolock Development Council was formed with the objective to promote entrepreneurship and provide facilities/ services and employment and training opportunities to the people living in the community.
In 1994 the Dublin Dioceses passed ownership of an old school on a 4-acre site to the
Coolock Development Council CLG. We now have 30 tenants collectively on our campus
employing over 350 staff. The companies are a mix of social enterprises, public services,
social services and small businesses. Through the CSP, JI and CE programmes we annually
provide employment and training to over 120 local people.
What has been the biggest challenge that you have faced with your social enterprise and how did you overcome it?
Apart from COVID which, while challenging, we managed to get through with support from organisations such as Pobal and the DRCA, our biggest challenge occurred in 2018 when one of our buildings caught fire. With all staff and tenants safely evacuated, we lost 50% of one of our buildings and with it the challenge of ensuring that we were able to look after our tenants and support them to this difficult time.
We did this by utilisation the space available in the unaffected part of the building ensuring the continuity of their business and that service users in the community remained unaffected. With good insurance cover in place, we worked over a 6-month period with the insurance company and their contractors to ensure that the building was renovated and re-opened 6 months later on time and within budget.
What are some of your biggest wins?
1. The opening of a purpose-built enterprise and community centre on site in 2002.
2. A collaboration with Northside Partnership Horticultural TUS programme where 1 acre of the site was given to ensure that the programme had the appropriate space to provide horticultural skills training and work experience to participants.
3. Provision of permanent employment for local people who now provide the services that have benefitted many 1000’s over of people over the past 36 years.
What is your favourite thing about the social enterprise community?
From my experience, my favourite thing about working within the social enterprise community is our ability to be flexible and responsive to the needs of our sectors. Projects, where we have come together and work in collaboration to solve problems, is something I welcome and love being part of.
What is one piece of advice you would give someone starting out in the social enterprise industry?
Be prepared to work hard and be tenacious. Stick to your vision and don’t give up.
What is the best form of support you have received to date from state or otherwise?
Without a doubt, the best form of support has been through CSP, JI and CE programmes. The ability to be able to provide opportunities for people to improve the quality of their lives and their families to me is very motivating.
What have you learned personally from your experience of working in the social enterprise sector?
I have learned that looking outside my own organisation and community and networking with others at local, national and international levels is critical. I feel that it is important that I seek to ensure that my experiences as an SE practitioner are used to inform future policy in how the SE sector will develop in the future.
After a long day, how do you like to switch off?
Typically, I walk my dogs or go for a run or the gym. On Saturdays, I am a Special Olympics volunteer and when I can I like to go on long hikes.
When you need to pick yourself up, what is your go-to motivational song?
Survivor – Destiny’s Child!
We would like to thank Fiona and her team at Coolock Development Council for their continued support of SERI. We wish them the best of luck in 2022 and the future.
If you would like to stay up to date with Coolock Development Council, you can find them at any of the links below.