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Mike Feerick

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Mike Feerick
Mike Feerick
New York, USA[1]
Alma materHarvard University[2]
University of Limerick
  • Founder, CEO of Alison[3]
  • Founder, former CEO of Yac.com[4]
  • Chairman of Ireland Reaching Out Project[5]

Mike Feerick, an Irish social entrepreneur, is the founder and CEO of Alison, an e-learning company based in Ireland.

He is an Ashoka fellow[6][7]

Feerick is also the founder of Ireland Reaching Out, a "reverse" genealogy project based in Ireland that reconnects Irish diaspora with their ancestral roots in Ireland.[8][9]


Born in New York City, but raised in Limerick and Galway, Ireland,[10] Mike Feerick sought a Harvard MBA but first gained an internship with philanthropist and early mentor Chuck Feeney. Feerick credits Feeney with helping to foster his particular interest in social entrepreneurship, stating that working with Feeney also made him realise that the best way to address any social issue was to create a sustainable business model around the need.[11][12]

Feerick has served as the Acting managing director of Interactive Investor International and has also held positions with Bertelsmann Music Group. He previously owned the franchise rights to JFAX Ireland which was sold to Esat Telecom in 1999, a leading Irish telecommunications player.[13] He is also the founder and former CEO of Yac.com, a web-based unified messaging telecoms provider. Feerick sold Yac to Nasdaq-listed J2 Global Communications in 2007.[12]

Feerick set up the precursor to Alison, an e-learning sub-contracting business for Microsoft called Advance Learning in 2000,[14][10] a business that developed into a specialist providing training for the ECDL (European Computer Driving Licence) desktop training certification.[15]


Feerick launched Alison as a for-profit social enterprise on 21 April 2007, a MOOC-based educational technology platform.[16][17][18][19] In outlining the basis of Alison's operation, he explained to David Bornstein of the New York Times that 'education underpins all social progress. If we can improve the general education level worldwide, global poverty can be dealt with profoundly and a general standard of living can be vastly improved.'[20]

The Economist noted in 2013 that Alison generates 'plenty of revenue' on its website through the use of a freemium model with hosted banner advertising while still providing its learning materials of 'mostly vocational education' for free.[21]

Feerick said he was motivated by the UN Declaration of Human Rights, Article 26,[10][22] and suggested it as a model that can be used by governments worldwide to address the growing global Skills Gap.[23]

In February 2021, Alison was awarded the Civil Solidarity Prize by the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) for its free course "Coronavirus – What you need to know", which was published in February 2020 to inform people about the spread of the virus, its effects and how to protect themselves.[24][25]


Alison received an Honourable Mention Award in information and communications technology at the UNESCO King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa Prize in Paris in 2010.[26]

In 2012, Feerick received an Arthur Guinness Fund award for Social Entrepreneurship for the work undertaken with organising the Irish diaspora through the Ireland Reaching Out programme he founded in 2009.[27]

Social and Community Initiatives[edit]

Ireland Reaching Out (Ireland XO)[edit]

Feerick founded Ireland Reaching Out, a volunteer-led, community-based National Irish Diaspora Programme in 2009 with the stated goal of connecting people of the Irish Diaspora to their ancestral roots in Ireland.[28] Feerick and Irish economist David McWilliams pitched the idea to the Irish government in 2010. Ireland Reaching Out welcomed its first returning group in July 2011.[29] In 2017, Ireland XO volunteers across Ireland welcomed home 300 returning Diaspora groups.[30] The Ireland XO Programme is funded by the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, the Heritage Council of Ireland, Google and the Irish Lottery. Ireland XO operates across Ireland north and south.[31][32]

University of Limerick[edit]

Feerick was the founding chairman of the International Advisory Board of the Kemmy Business School, at the University of Limerick, and is a Director Emeritus of the University of Limerick Foundation.[16][33]

Irish Support & Advice Service[edit]

Feerick was appointed Chairperson of the Irish Support & Advice Service,[34][10] Hammersmith, London in 1995. As Chairperson, Feerick founded an outreach programme, funded by the Atlantic Philanthropies and the Mott Foundation, assisting the "forgotten Irish", a term which refers to elderly Irish emigrants to the UK in the 1940s and 50's who subsequently met hard times.[35][6]

Alternative Sentencing[edit]

Through Alison, Feerick has pioneered free learning as an innovative alternative sentencing option within the US court system where the judge does not wish to impose a custodial sentence. His view is that incarceration should be avoided if at all possible, especially for minor offences, and that free mandatory education should be a part of every court sentence worldwide.[36][37][38][39][40]

Personal views[edit]

Feerick believes that the current traditional education systems are "too slow, too expensive, and they can’t reach everyone", stating that people need a much more accessible education system. He believes that with the help of technology, it is possible to create a scalable and sustainable platform for free education for everyone.[41]


  1. ^ Ní Chonchúir, Sharon (12 July 2011). "Bring Them All Back Home". Irish Central. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  2. ^ Glader, Paul. "Khan Academy Competitor? Mike Feerick of Alison.com Talks About The Future of Online Educations". Wired Academic. Archived from the original on 31 May 2013. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  3. ^ Bornstein, David (11 July 2012). "Open Education for a Global Economy". New York Times. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  4. ^ Grose, Thomas K. (28 September 2001). "Connect The Dots – YAC's personal online call service has got your number". TIME.
  5. ^ Muldoon, Molly (26 June 2012). "Obama's Irish Cousin Henry Healy Lands New Job As Tourism Ambassador". Irish Central. Retrieved 15 July 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Michael Feerick | Ashoka Globalizer". ashokaglobalizer.org. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  7. ^ "Khan Academy Competitor? Mike Feerick of Alison.com Talks About The Future of Online Education | WiredAcademic". www.wiredacademic.com. Archived from the original on 31 May 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  8. ^ Nicholson, Chris V. (18 July 2011). "In Tough Times, Irish Call Their Diaspora". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Reaching Out Can Raise Us Up". Eolas Magazine: Public Affairs. Eolas Magazine. 2 August 2013. Retrieved 16 September 2013.
  10. ^ a b c d "Mike Feerick: A meaningful career on the Internet since 1991". IrishCentral.com. 24 March 2017. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  11. ^ "He'd like to teach the world – for free". The Irish Times. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  12. ^ a b McNamara, Denise (11 June 2013). "The Galwayman with the Midas touch - and a social conscience - Connacht Tribune". Connacht Tribune. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  13. ^ "Mike Feerick Businessweek Executive Profile". Bloomberg Businessweek. Bloomberg. Retrieved 15 July 2013.[dead link]
  14. ^ "Our main interest is to ensure education is available free to all". smartinvestor.business-standard.com. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  15. ^ Gurden, Dean. "ALISON CEO Mike Feerick Q&A on digital education". CIO UK. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  16. ^ Vorhauser-Smith, Sylvia. "The New Era Of Learning Is Here, And It's Not Hype". Forbes. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  17. ^ "Crowdsourced accreditation to challenge traditional education". The Australian. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  18. ^ "Irish-based Global Learning Platform Announces Major Jobs Expansion in Galway - Enterprise Ireland". www.enterprise-ireland.com. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  19. ^ Bornstein, David (11 July 2012). "Open Education for a Global Economy". Opinionator. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  20. ^ "The attack of the MOOCs". The Economist. 20 July 2013. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 1 September 2022.
  21. ^ "Five Bright Ideas - Alumni - Harvard Business School". www.alumni.hbs.edu. June 2013. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  22. ^ "ALISON CEO Says – Unleash Online Learning to Address Global Inequality". College Blog News. 6 April 2016. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  23. ^ "ALISON LEARNING PLATFORM WINS EESC CIVIL SOLIDARITY PRIZE FOR IRELAND". European Economic and Social Committee. 15 February 2021. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  24. ^ "Alison wins EESC prize for Covid-19 information course". TechCentral.ie. 15 February 2021. Retrieved 29 March 2022.
  25. ^ "Projects in Ireland and the Philippines receive honourable mentions in ICT in Education prize | Education". www.unesco.org. United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  26. ^ Doyle, Carmel. "10 social entrepreneurs get €700K from Arthur Guinness Fund". Silicon Republic. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  27. ^ Nicholson, Chris V. (18 July 2011). "In Tough Times, Irish Call Their Diaspora". New York Times. Retrieved 16 July 2013.
  28. ^ Nicholson, Chris V. (18 July 2011). "In Tough Times, Irish Call Their Diaspora". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  29. ^ "Mike Feerick on LinkedIn: "Congrats to Ireland Reaching Out…". LinkedIn. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  30. ^ "First ever parish liaison gathering meets in Athlone". Athlone Advertiser.
  31. ^ RTE - Video Summary- Ireland Reaching Out (5 August 2015), Ireland Reaching Out July 2015, retrieved 3 January 2018
  32. ^ "Emeritus Directors - University of Limerick Foundation". University of Limerick Foundation. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  33. ^ "Hammersmith's Local Community Web Site". www.hammersmithtoday.co.uk. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  34. ^ "Forgotten Irish men and women who built Britain to be honoured in London". Irish Post. 22 June 2017. Retrieved 31 December 2017.
  35. ^ "MOOC Time Instead of Jail Time | Education Dive". www.educationdive.com. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  36. ^ "Class time instead of jail time". Lockport Union-Sun & Journal. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  37. ^ "News - US Offenders Punished with Galway Course – The Sunday Times". MoocLab - Connecting People to Online Learning. Retrieved 2 January 2018.
  38. ^ High, Peter. "CEO Of The World's First MOOC Provides Hope To Former Prisoners Through Education". Forbes. Retrieved 3 January 2018.
  39. ^ Bhagat, Rasheeda (9 January 2014). "Just about anyone can study in this v@rsity". The Hindu Business Line. Retrieved 1 January 2018.
  40. ^ "Disrupting the Traditional Global Education System". Education Matters. Retrieved 16 July 2022.

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