Communities learn about developing social enterprises at Future Innovators Conference in Crumlin Road Gaol
A social enterprise conference in Belfast has heard from future innovators who have harnessed social innovation to start-up Community Interest Companies in Belfast, Derry-Londonderry, and Donegal.
The Future Innovators Conference was held in Crumlin Road Gaol on Friday (May 19) to share learnings on how to harness developments in digital innovation to improve local areas through the establishment of Community Interest Companies (CICs).
14 start-up CICs’s shared their experiences having received funding from the Future Innovators programme to meet a need within their area, while at the same time creating employment and income for their communities.
Future Innovators is led by peacebuilding charity Co-operation Ireland and funded by the European Union’s PEACE IV Programme, managed by the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB). Match-funding for the project has been provided by The Executive Office in Northern Ireland and the Department of Rural and Community Development in Ireland.
Of the 14 Community Interest Companies already established, eight are in Belfast (Street Soccer NI, The Multi-Cultured Club, Lagmore Youth Project, The Diamond Project, Old Library Trust, Suffolk Community Forum, Market Development Association, Horn of Africa People’s Alliance). And three are in Derry-Londonderry (Excel CIC, New Gate Arts, Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum); and three are in Donegal (Mná Phort Mhaise, GrassRoutes, Togra Fiontar & Cultur Uladh).
Free masterclasses were also available on the day to support groups interested in developing their own CICs. These included ‘Creating Retail Magic’, ‘Digital Marketing Masterclass’ ‘Funding a new enterprise’ and ‘Using your story to sell your brand’ and were delivered to delegates by industry professionals.
In addition to taking part in the free masterclasses, attendees got the opportunity to meet with representatives from the 14 Social Innovation Projects from across the five Urban Villages in Northern Ireland and areas of Donegal which have already accessed funding, and to learn from industry experts as to how communities can bring their ideas of change to fruition.
The Minister of State for Rural and Community Development, Joe O’Brien TD, said: “I would like to congratulate Co-operation Ireland and all of the project partners including Belfast Interface Project, University of Essex, Donegal Youth Service and Animorph, on the successful delivery of the Future Innovators Project, which received funding of over €1m under the EU PEACE IV Programme.
“I am delighted that my Department of Rural and Community Development was able to provide funding and support for this very important and meaningful ground-breaking project. It gives me great pleasure to see these five regional organisations working together in a cross-border partnership for the benefit of the wider community, allowing all members of the community a chance to use their voice to progress social innovation and to build positive relations in their communities, while also influencing the decisions that affect their lives and the communities where they live.
“I am confident that the learnings from this project will assist in identifying further supports to be delivered under the new PEACEPLUS Programme and that these Social Innovation projects will continue their excellent work that will further establish ongoing Peace and Reconciliation for generations to come.
Denis McMahon, Permanent Secretary in the Executive Office, congratulated everyone involved in the Future Innovators project, commenting: “Well done to the 11 groups from the five Urban Village areas and the participants from Donegal on their certificate presentation today, recognising and celebrating their achievements over the course of the Future Innovators programme.
“Identifying innovative ways to improve and transform communities is a vital contribution. The Digital Platform developed through the programme will be an important tool in creating a self-sustaining network of support for these groups and their communities. These activities
and relationships are at the heart of building good relations and will leave a positive lasting legacy.”
Gina McIntyre, Chief Executive of the Special EU Programmes Body (SEUPB), said: “We are delighted to be celebrating the ground-breaking work of all of those involved in the Future Innovators project, which has been achieved by harnessing the power of social innovation. In working to strengthen social economies and promoting cohesion within and between communities in Northern Ireland and the border counties of Ireland, they have indeed proven to be future innovators whose efforts will continue to sustain peacebuilding and reconciliation efforts on this island.
“This project represents the common bond that communities share, a shining example of positive relationships and all that connects them rather than separates them. Together they have reimagined a shared and prosperous future and have been equipped with the tools to help them realise their vision.”
Co-operation Ireland CEO Peter Sheridan said: “Today’s Social Innovation Conference was hugely inspirational, and I look forward to seeing new social enterprises springing up across the Urban Village areas, to add to the 14 that have already been established.
“Community Interest Companies are good for the economy, and good for society, and we are proud to be supporting these efforts to increase their number with our partners.”