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In this week’s episode, host Rafael Otto speaks with Leonor Stjepic. She is an award-winning social enterprise entrepreneur, whose career has spanned both the private and nonprofit sectors in the United Kingdom. In addition, she is currently the chief executive officer for The Montessori Group, an organization that provides training in Montessori education for early years communities in the UK and internationally.
An award-winning charity entrepreneur, Leonor Stjepic’s career has spanned both the private and charity sector. Since 2007, Leonor has been the CEO of RAFT – an award-winning medical research charity.
During her time at RAFT, the organization became the first UK charity to create an Enterprise Investment Scheme company and the model is widely praised as a case study in how to de-risk social investment. Leonor is also the Chair of London Fire Brigade Enterprises and was previously CEO of Smart Matrix Ltd. In 2016, the ACQ5 Global Awards named her as ‘UK Gamechanger of the Year’ and a year later, Leonor was named as the ‘Most Innovative CEO in the Not-For-Profit Sector’ by Business Worldwide.
Leonor begins by discussing what makes Montessori education unique, as well as important facts about the woman behind it, Maria Montessori. Then the discussion pivots towards Leonor’s advocacy work surrounding proper investment in early childhood, as it is an area with the least government investment. She notes the reasoning behind it, and follows up with what this investment in early childhood development looks like on an international level.
Additionally, she shares how she makes her most effective case to policy makers and legislators for investing in the early years. As far as longer term goals, Leonor is most interested in funding research, supporting teachers, and strengthening higher education*. She further details what all of these look like on this scale, and what is needed to obtain them, as well as the importance of The Montessori Group’s global social impact partners.
Leonor closes by telling of an important time in her life when she was working with young children in a Balkan refugee camp. These particular moments stuck in her memory, and these children inspired her to undertake the work she does today.
*Soon to have the UK’s first Undergraduate, Master’s and PhD courses in Montessori education in partnership with Leeds Beckett University.
Rafael Otto, Director of Communications, Children’s Institute
~ Thanks to Children’s Institute, working to ensure that every child in Oregon has the best start in life