Liz Waters

President of AONTAS (Ireland)

Nominated by AONTAS

I am privileged to currently be President of AONTAS (The Irish National Adult Learning Organisation); a position I have held for 5 years, as well as the Director of An Cosán Virtual Community College (VCC). Prior to this work I also held the role of CEO of at An Cosán where prior to my role as the AONTAS President, I was part of the steering committee which helped to establish the Community Education Network (CEN) 10 years ago this year.

AONTAS President

  • I work with the CEO and Executive Committee to set the strategic direction of AONTAS at the national and European level.I managed the succession planning process for recruitment of a new and dynamic CEO in 2016 as the previous long-standing CEO stepped aside.
  • Supported the CEO in her review and reorganization of AONTAS, ensuring it is operating as a high quality charitable institution in the 21st century.
  • I initiated a review of the Executive Committee to ensure AONTAS and the Executive Committee are managed to the highest standards of corporate governance.
  • Attend and present to many conferences, functions, seminars, and consultations on behalf of AONTAS including presenting at the EU Adult Skills Conference (December 2016).

An Cosán VCC

VCC is an award winning social enterprise bringing education through online blended learning to communities struggling with the injustice of poverty. I was CEO of An Cosán one of the biggest community education organisations in Ireland. I wanted to scale the organisation’s social impact and so initiated VCC. Upon winning a Social Entrepreneur’s Award in November 2014 I stepped aside as CEO to develop and direct this new initiative.

  • VCC offers a social action model of education, blended learning opportunities to marginalised learners from economically disadvantaged communities, refugees and asylum seekers in direct provision, Roma and Travelers.
  • VCC has a particular commitment to the continuous professional development of community education practitioners and worked with AONTAS on the creation and delivery of the CPD programme ‘Community Education for a Better Tomorrow.’

Other work-related attributes

I am a very experienced community education/development practitioner and I have considerable experience in the formal and non-formal adult/community education sector including but not limited to curriculum development and teaching at basic, further, and higher education; instructional design for blended learning; validation and accreditation and quality assurance. I have experience in strategic planning; project management; lobbying and advocacy; partnership development and fundraising at corporate philanthropic and state level.

How would you like to contribute to the work of EAEA? How would you like to bring in your experience and expert knowledge in adult education?

My experience as President of AONTAS and from a strategic management and practitioner perspective places me in an ideal position to contribute to the work of EAEA

There are a number of areas that I would like to contribute to:

  • Making the learner the center of European adult education policyThe development of a strong continuous professional development framework for practitioners
  • The promotion of EAEA as the European voice of adult learning at a national regional and local level in Ireland
  • To support the future generation of adult education advocatesThe promotion of technology enhanced teaching and learning in adult education
  • The promotion of blended on line education opportunities for adults
  • BREXIT and its impact on non-formal adult learning in Ireland in terms of EU funding, maintaining cross-border non-formal learning links and social cohesion.

In addition to these areas I want to ensure that AONTAS has the opportunity to continue its contribution to the EAEA. AONTAS has been actively involved in the EAEA and in its previous form as the European Bureau of Adult Eduction, for over 20 years. A selection of AONTAS contributions to the EAEA include: hosting 2 EAEA (2000 &2009), participation on the Exectuvie Committee; John Ryan, Brid Connolly, Berni Brady, Niamh O’Reilly; contribution to development of the strategic plan, and actively supporitng the advocacy work of the EAEA.

What are your motivations to candidate? Is there anything that you would like to improve or change in EAEA?

I have always been passionate about adult education and its potential to contribute to social change. EAEA has proven itself to be a dynamic and progressive organization making a significant contribution to European adult education policy. It would be a privilege to be elected to the board. I have a strong track record in collaboration and team work, and I am sure as the EAEA continues to grow and develop that interesting opportunities for improvement and change at a strategic and organizational level will emerge. My vision is for a board that works collectively to manage emerging issues and I will always work in an open and collaborative way to do so.

Which other information about you would you like to share with the EAEA members?

I have been actively involved in community education for over twenty-five years, twenty one of these with An Cosán, providing community-based adult education, educational childcare and enterprise to the community of Tallaght West a very disadvantaged community. I managed An Cosán’s community education centre, before being appointed CEO in 2001. My particular area of expertise is in leadership studies, community education and development and community counselling.

My passion for education sparked an interest in exploring how new digital technology can bring An Cosán’s social innovation in education to everyone who needs it in Ireland. Under my leadership, An Cosán embarked on a path to virtualise its curricula – from basic education to degree level – to share the knowledge created in Tallaght West with everyone.

I featured as one of the 100 Top Women in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Maths) and, received a special award for work in “bridging the digital divide”, in recognition of my work to create An Cosán Virtual Community College.

I was awarded a Social Entrepreneurs Ireland Impact Award in 2014 for the Virtual Community College initiative. I stepped down as CEO of An Cosán to concentrate on the development of The Virtual Community College as its Director, work which I am very proud to continue today.