2017 off to a great start for Social Innovation NI
Launched during the Unusual Suspect’s Festival last year, Social Innovation NI reached a further exciting point last week as 17 organisations embarked on the first stage of the Techies in Residence Programme, and with six organisations offered a place on the Social Innovation Skills programme.
Social Innovation NI was set up by the Building Change Trust as a collaborative initiative to support people and organisations that want to introduce to their work the concept of social innovation; the development and use of novel solutions to social problems.
In this first phase, of what we anticipate to be a three year programme, the Trust has been collaborating with Innovate NI, Work West and NICVA, to promote and deliver the Social Innovation Skills and the Techies in Residence programmes.
By the December 2016 closing date, 34 applications had been received from organisations seeking to participate in both programmes.
Applications were received from right across Northern Ireland, grappling with a wide range of social challenges including; architectural heritage, poverty, sexual abuse, autism, food sustainability, youth unemployment, urban regeneration and rehabilitation of young offenders - and where applicants considered innovation was needed.
The Social Innovation Skills programme will be starting in late January with Work West supporting the groups to go through the Human Centred Design training course to explore and identify innovative new solutions to their named challenge.
Techies in Residence was oversubscribed, and unfortunately not everyone seeking a place has been selected for the next stage.
17 organisations were shortlisted for Techies in Residence and have been receiving support at workshops to refine and develop their ideas. These 17 will however be further reduced to 12 and then to six projects following a pitching process to an expert panel in early February.
The final six projects will then be awarded a place on the Techies in Residence programme. Through this they will be matched with a digital technology professional who will work with them for three months to produce a prototype digital product to address a problem set out.
As the successful applicants engage with the scheme, we’ve been doing further work on the Social Innovation NI Programme. Thanks to grant aid from the Department for Communities of £23,000 for a three month period, we will be working on the development of a seed fund.
This will provide small scale grant aid to those going through our programmes to further develop and test their innovative ideas. We’ve also commenced work on a Knowledge Exchange Programme and anticipate working with organisations in the sector and other stakeholders to develop and widen knowledge about innovation, and how it can help through focusing in on some defined social issues.
Our intention is to encourage the development of a social innovation ecosystem in Northern Ireland where practical support to develop and test new ideas sits within a wider environment of access to information and knowledge.
As we roll out the Social Innovation NI programme over three years, we will be creating a range of opportunities for the sector and others to get involved.