Creative Space for Civic Thinking in 2016
Last year we published our much anticipated report on the independence of the VCSE sector, the result of research carried out over two years by Ulster University.
The report suggested that many in the sector felt their independence was being undermined by an overly close relationship with politicians and they felt that they were under pressure to conform to government policies and objectives in return for funding.
It included contributions from key organisations and individuals in the VCSE sector as well as politicians and government officials. The launch at Stormont in November included reflections and views from the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.
On the basis of this report we will be exploring what opportunities there are going forward to help the sector defend its independence and continue as a voice for the people. The Trust also sees the report as a useful tool to promote dialogue between the VCSE sector and the political establishment.
2016 was also the year of the Orwellian term ‘post truth’, which the Oxford Dictionary declared to be the word of the year following claims and counter claims during the momentous and highly charged EU Referendum and US Presidential campaigns.
‘Fake News’ shared and spread over the internet may well have influenced the outcome of the both the referendum and the US election, with the most outrageous of claims passed off as facts.
The Building Change Trust under its Civic Activism programme has funded a fact checking platform – www.factcheckni.org that has checked the veracity of recent claims in Northern Ireland such as demands for a post Brexit Irish border poll, HIV levels, domestic abuse and net immigration figures.
It is a useful resource for the VCSE sector and for citizens who want to get to the truth of the many reports and news stories swirling around the political landscape and may become even more important as the lines between fact and fiction become increasingly blurred.
This is just part of the work being carried under the Trust’s Creative Space for Civic Thinking programme, which aims to provide a bridge between the VCSE sector and the devolved administration to represent and reflect the views of the most marginalised groups in our society.
Under its Civic Activism programme, the Trust has funded eight important projects, three of which were completed this year, with a fourth due to finish at the end of this month.
The completed projects are:
- Integrated Education Fund’s work using Deliberative Polling to initiate a public consultation on education planning
- Rural Community Network’s use of the Public Conversations Project Dialogue tool to work with three communities affected by plans for wind energy development
- Community Places using the Citizens Reporting tool to build awareness of increased powers in three of the new super councils, enabling people to become directly involved in decisions that affect their lives.
All three are prime examples of organisations within the sector that are striving to increase community engagement, encourage more open and accountable government and involve the public in decision-making in key areas such as planning, education and the environment.