Proposed Redevelopment of Beech Hill Garden Centre using a Social Enterprise Model.
Cope Foundation supports over 2,300 children and adults with intellectual disabilities and/ or autism in 65 locations across Cork City and County. The organisation provides a spectrum of services to the people it supports including early intervention, education and training, residential and short break services, physical activities, sports and creative therapies.
Cope Foundation opened Beech Hill Garden Centre in the 1980s as a commercial enterprise, to provide training and sheltered employment opportunities for the people supported by the organisation. Since it opened it has established itself as an award winning local business, however there is now a need to develop and modernize the business in order to ensure that it continues to reflect both National Policy and the strategic priorities of Cope Foundation.
Plans include opening an onsite café, developing a multipurpose meeting room and training venue, expanding existing products and services in the garden centre and polytunnel and developing a therapeutic outdoor space for community use.
Using a Social Enterprise model, the proposed redevelopment will provide paid employment, work skills training and other social roles for a larger number of people supported by Cope Foundation, who will work alongside other staff and volunteers. Under this model, the project will operate as a business that measures its success in social gain (paid employment for people who are supported by Cope), while operating in a commercially viable and sustainable way. Additionally, it will promote Cope Foundation’s role as an integral and active part of the local community which is meeting a community need, thus encouraging the local community to Cope as an active and mainstream participant in the community, rather than being perceived as a disability service which is ‘separate’ or ‘sheltered’.
Frances Hamilton has worked with the Rehabilitative Training division of Cope Foundation for 13 years. She co-ordinates training activities in Beech Hill Garden Centre, and has been involved in planning, quality assurance and service development in the organisation. She is now part of a team that is working on developing the model of social enterprise as a new means of providing individualised mainstream supports.