Lorraine Corcoran - Helping People to Help Themselves

After completing a Masters in International Relations at DCU in 2012, Lorraine Corcoran went on to establish the company Afanite, which helps non-profit organisations to become more commercially oriented and helps for-profit companies to achieve their social goals. In this interview, she explains what DCU means to her and why she is passionate about supporting the university’s Access Programme.

As a DCU graduate, what does the university represent to you today? And how did a DCU education contribute to your own success?

I think DCU is a very inclusive and progressive university. Going back as a mature post-graduate student, I was really struck by DCU’s social mission and how this is embedded within the college. I also found the campus very comfortable and welcoming.

Personally, doing my part-time masters in DCU enabled me to re-orientate my career. I was working in financial services but felt that there was something more inclusive and less stakeholder driven that I could do, I just needed the time and space to figure it out. Through my course work and thesis, I began to focus in on the area of social enterprises, which led me to establish my company Afanite.

What first inspired you to support DCU’s Access Programme? And what continues to inspire you about the programme today?

I actually heard about it through my husband, who worked for a company that supports the DCU Access Programme. The reason that we began, and continue, to support it in a personal capacity is that it is a simple ask with a very direct impact. We like that it is helping people to help themselves, by providing opportunities that a lot of us take for granted.

I think giving money to education is very transparent, we can see the number of students supported and their part of the deal is just to make the most of the opportunity they have been given.

I also think it is amazing that DCU is constantly innovating and evolving its model to support students. It is important to understand what is working and to identify the gaps. Adding an extra initiative like Access to the Workplace that provides additional professional work experience for Access students is great. By seeing Access students coming into companies that support the programme, it tells the story of the Access Programme’s success and puts a face on it for the individuals working in these companies.

Your company Afanite helps for-profit companies to achieve their social goals. When it comes to your own personal and corporate philanthropy, is there a particular goal or impact that you hope to have?

We look at corporate social responsibility (CSR) through three pillars.

The first is how we work – we offer our team a flexible working environment that can contribute to work-life balance.

The second pillar is giving our skills by offering pro-bono work or reduced rates to social enterprises.

The final CSR pillar for us is that we donate money, and the principal beneficiary is education. I have been very privileged to enjoy the education I have had, and I wouldn’t be where I am today without those opportunities. However, this privilege is an accident of birth so – by supporting access students directly, we help get them on a path whereby they have an opportunity to determine their own destiny.

Many DCU Access students express a sense of gratitude for the support they receive and a strong desire to ‘give back’ in the future so that others may enjoy the same opportunities. What advice would you give to students today who wish to contribute to creating a fairer and more equal society?

I don’t think you ever wait for the perfect time to make a grand gesture, I believe in giving what you can, when you can. It doesn’t always have to be money, it can be your skills or your time but it needs to be impactful. I would say to make the best use of your time and skills, don’t underestimate the value of your skills for an organisation that’s helping other people. I am a big believer that when money and skills are given together, they will have the greatest impact.