They are among 10 entrepreneurs chosen by the European Commission to compete for three €50,000 prizes

New Irish social enterprise ‘The Freebird Club’ has been selected from a shortlist of 30 and a total of over 1,400 applicants from 40 countries as a finalist in the European Social Innovation Competition. Along with 9 others, The Freebird Club founder Peter Mangan will pitch for the chance to win one of three €50,000 prizes at the Awards Ceremony in Brussels on November 25th.

This year’s competition looked specifically for ideas that would promote ‘New Ways to Grow’ across European society and aims to enable new kinds of economic growth that will create systemic change through positive impact on society. Judges were looking for ideas with the potential to bring value to individuals, communities, countries and entire regions, and projects with a mission that reflects an issue at the heart of many Europeans’ lives.

The Freebird Club is developing a web-based community platform to enable ‘peer-to-peer’ home-stays and vacations for older adults. It will operate as an international membership club for the over 50s based around social travel. Freebird members who choose to become ‘hosts’ can make their spare rooms available to fellow members to come and stay for a nightly rate. Unlike Airbnb, the home-stays will always involve the host being present, as this concept focuses as much on enjoying the company as enjoying the accommodation. To facilitate compatible host/guest matching, all members will have profiles so that hosts and guests can learn a bit about each other before deciding on a stay. The Freebird Club therefore offers a new way of travelling for independent older adults, a means to unlock some of the asset value of their homes and earn an income, and provides a fun, accessible way to meet new like-minded people and enjoy social and cultural interaction as people grow older.

From a social impact perspective, The Freebird Club has the potential to address two of the most significant social challenges facing our ageing society: (i) loneliness and isolation among older adults; and (ii) financial insecurity in later life, often compounded by inadequate pensions. The Freebird Club’s mission is to connect and enrich the lives of older adults through social travel, and it aims to do so by applying the ‘sharing economy’ model in a meaningful way.

While this idea was conceived in Peter’s home place in county Kerry Ireland, it sprung early roots in London last year,  after Peter was selected for the “Impact Hub Fellowship for Longer Lives”; the international accelerator programme specifically designed for new start-up ideas addressing the challenges and opportunities of an ageing society. Peter was one of the final cohort that undertook the 3 month incubation programme at the Impact Hub King’s Cross, where he continues to be a member.

Founder Peter Mangan and Freebird Club team-mate Nga-Hong Lau attended the European Social Innovation Academy in Vienna in September where they worked with experts in social innovation to refine their ideas and develop their business plan before pitching to the jury. The jury is made up of successful social innovators from around Europe, who critically evaluate the strength of each organisation’s business plan and have selected the 10 strongest entries.

Peter Mangan, founder of The Freebird Club said:

“We are thrilled to have made it to the final stage of this competition. Our journey this year has been really exciting and full of learning. Thanks to the European Commission and the social innovation community, we benefited greatly from our participation in the Competition, and particularly the mentoring academy where we worked on our business plan, practiced pitching, and prepared ourselves for what lies ahead. The Freebird Club is a real ‘heart and soul’ project which aims to connect older people in a very real way that can positively impact their lives. Being chosen as a finalist is a huge endorsement of the idea at this early stage and it’s highly motivating; it gives us credibility and belief, regardless of whether we go on to win. We’re determined to make a difference and want to provide something really positive for older adults. We’re taking the new ‘sharing economy’, and applying it to real social issues so that we can help grow the economy and improve lives at the same time.”

Jury member and Ashoka Country Director for Poland Agata Stafiej-Bartosik commented: “I think I can speak for everyone involved when I say that selecting just 10 finalists was tough – we were inspired by the quality of the semi-finalists and by the drive and vision they demonstrated with their proposals. It’s fantastic to see that people are innovating all around Europe, these projects have real potential to create sustainable growth and a positive future. Congratulations to all the finalists.”

The ten finalists will pitch for their chance to win one of three €50,000 prizes at the awards ceremony on the 25th November in Brussels. To sign-up to attend the event please visit: bit.ly/EUSICawards

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sadhbhosullivan