An agenda for the Future of the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector in Northern Ireland

May 2018

Our 5 key cross-cutting and enabling actions 

We recognise the scope, scale and complexity of the work carried out by our sector right across Northern Ireland and beyond in both communities of interest and geography.  We have many thousands of organisations, paid staff and volunteers working to make lives and places better. 

Our view is that two critical priorities for the future of the sector relate to its roles in enabling volunteering and developing more active citizens. These are flip sides of the same coin and are what distinguishes our sector from other sectors.

However, given the variety and the importance of the work of the sector in developing and delivering needed services, in providing services under contract and in advocating and campaigning for social change across a whole range of issues, we have also identified five cross-cutting themes where we believe action taken can help strengthen the sector in all of its roles and functions.


Making a Difference 


Our sector is made up of organisations and people committed to making a positive difference to people and places. We must be clearer about the difference we plan to make and need to better understand and communicate whether or not we are making that or other differences.

A focus on impact practice13  can bring benefit to individual organisations, sub-sectors, funders and policy makers and in turn enable more of a difference be made to people and places. Our outcomes focused Programme for Government requires that we all act differently to plan and consider the difference we are making. 

Some ideas for action

Much progress has been achieved through the work of Inspiring Impact UK, 14NI  15and other initiatives, but much more remains to be done to transform our funding, commissioning and delivery culture to one of planning and focusing resources and actions on outcomes and achieving them.

  • We need to maintain a focus on supporting more and better impact practice within the sector, with funders and with policy makers –  this can be achieved through future development  of the Inspiring Impact Programme and also through commencement of the proposed new Regional Infrastructure Support Programme 16 by government.
  • We need actions to develop better relationships and understanding between the VCSE sector and other stakeholders in respect of the sector’s public service delivery role. 17
  • We endorse the calls by others and the work done for a Social Value Act for Northern Ireland 18 and suggest a review of procurement policy is also needed given the challenges of Brexit and the opportunities to be gained via localism. 19