Launch of SOLA - The Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Quality in the Community and Voluntary Sector

December 1 2015

Media Release

27 November 2015

Quality in organisations in the community, voluntary and disability sector has been given a boost today following the launch of SOLA, a Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Quality in the Community and Voluntary Sector by Senator Martin Conway today. SOLA is committed to improving service provision with appropriate governance and sustainable quality systems. The launch has coincided with a Symposium on Quality that is being held by the Disability Federation of Ireland (DFI), the University of Limerick (UL) and Johnson & Johnson.

Speaking at the launch, Senator Conway stated "I was delighted to be asked by UL to participate in the launch of this innovative facility. I believe the work being undertaken by SOLA will be of great assistance to people with disabilities in eliminating barriers to continuous professional development. As a person with a disability, I understand how daunting and difficult it can be to enter and participate fully in education and in the workplace.”

Dr Ann Ledwith, Director of Continuing & Professional Education stated at the launch that “this centre of excellence is a culmination of many consultations with the Disability Federation of Ireland and Johnson and Johnson. We wanted a centre that is committed to building sustainable communities of practice and service provision with appropriate governance and sustainable quality systems within our changing social, economic and political environment one that would be meet the needs of all stakeholders in the community, the voluntary and the disability sector. At CPE our focus on professional development is not only for industry and enterprise but also for those working in the community. In recent times we have been made all too aware of the increasing need for accountability and the growing demand for evidence of quality in both services and management in community based initiatives”.

Dermot O’Donnell, Development Manager with DFI said “The mission of SOLA is to empower the community and voluntary sector to work towards quality service provision by engaging in research, education and training to implement proven governance and sustainable quality systems. Community and voluntary organisations are facing pressure, not only in providing valuable supports and services, but also in demonstrating their accountability, legitimacy and efficiency. In striving for constant progress and improvement, quality is an intrinsic component of this work, enhancing both the services an organisation offers and the way in which it operates. SOLA will play a lead role in supporting organisations to meet these demands.”

Describing the work of SOLA, Rosie Gowran, Lecturer in Occupational Therapy, Department of Clinical Therapies, UL stated “SOLA is about engaging key stakeholders (sector members, providers and policy developers) in research and education which generates investment and ownership essential for ensuring sustainable quality service delivery and development. This centre will empower graduates to translate learning into practice and create a supportive hub for continual professional networking, education and development in keeping the University of Limerick’s strategic goals, generating real world impact.”

Gerry Greaney, Supply Chain Finance Director from Johnson & Johnson said “Johnson & Johnson and its employees are committed to supporting community, health and education projects, and is particularly proud to be associated with The Disability Federation of Ireland in conjunction with the University of Limerick in taking Sola forward.”

John Noonan, Lecturer in Quality, Continuing & Professional Education UL concluded “SOLA will spearhead the Community and Voluntary Sector's drive towards excellence through courses in Quality Management, Innovation and Problem Solving, designed and delivered by UL in conjunction with the DFI, with the specific goal of making best practice common practice across the sector. SOLA's impact on UL will be to provide a forum to embrace new partners for shared learning and transformation.”


For further information, please contact:

Dermot O’Donnell, DFI - 086-7808 639

Dr Ann Ledwith, UL - 086 809 4885