Prof Tom Cooney wins European Award for Best Learning Innovation

10 May, 2021

The European Council for Small Business (ECSB), in cooperation with the journal 'Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy (EE&P)', launched a new competition for the best learning innovation in entrepreneurship education, and its inaugural winner is Prof Tom Cooney from the College of Business.

As a prize, Tom is offered a fast track to the USASBE’s peer-reviewed journal 'Entrepreneurship Education and Pedagogy'. In preparation for the submission, ECSB will provide developmental feedback on the manuscript.

The award was for his work on 'Experiential Learning in Entrepreneurship Through Online Fundraising', which took place in the New Venture Creation module in Year Three of the Business and Management degree programme. The purpose of the assignment was for students to experience entrepreneurship in action by undertaking an online fundraising initiative and then understanding what they had learned from it by writing a Reflection Paper. The assignment required students to generate their own ideas for online fundraising, organise the fundraising initiative and write a paper reflecting upon their experiences. 

Two organisations have partnered with the module to assist them with their work, which provided fantastic support. The first partner was the website www.idonate.ie which is a fundraising platform. Each student group set up an account on this platform, and the Business Development Manager spoke to the class on different occasions and helped evaluate the initial fundraising proposals. The second partner organisation was BDO Ireland (www.bdo.ie), which is a large accountancy firm based in Dublin. They provided a Business Mentor for each group. They were led by the company’s Business Development Manager (who recently won a Students Learning With Communities award for his contribution to the module). The initiative was also supported by TU Dublin Health and Safety Office as the students had to undertake online Health and Safety modules, plus submit a Risk Assessment Form relating to their initiative. Additionally, Marsh Insurance (which is the insurance agent for the university) evaluated every proposal for risks relating to insurance. Furthermore, the initiative is organised under the umbrella of Students Learning With Communities.

At the end of the semester, the students (broken into 12 groups) had raised a total of €31,776 for various charities, which was an incredible achievement given that the fundraising took place during lockdown in November 2020. The students also talked enthusiastically about their positive learning experiences from the assignment, while the business partners have already committed to being part of the module for the foreseeable future. Students on this module have raised over €800,000 for various charities since the first version of the assignment was introduced 15 years ago.

Speaking about the award, Dr Agnieszka Kurczewska, Board Member of the ECSB, said, "In the current difficult circumstances for academia with even more challenges for teaching practice, ECSB aims to support its members in ideas on how to conduct innovative entrepreneurship education. The course Experiential Learning in Entrepreneurship Through Online Fundraising presented by Thomas Cooney is an excellent example of engaged teaching, where innovativeness of an approach meets sound pedagogical grounding and attractiveness for students. We are happy to share this best practice among our members and with a wider audience."