Our Plans for 2017 - Part 1
We predict that 2017 will be a productive year for our Creative Space for Civic Thinking and Social Innovation programmes. Looking ahead, we are continuing our efforts to encourage participative democracy in Northern Ireland by opening up government and enabling citizens to play a greater role in the decisions that affect their lives.
In the important area of civic engagement, the most exciting development will be a new research project into the health of democracy, aimed at expanding the definition of democracy in Northern Ireland.
We have commissioned two renowned experts to carry out research into the support required to promote more citizen engagement and give the public a more direct role in decision-making. Leading policy analyst Robin Wilson and respected independent researcher Paul Nolan are both excited at the prospect of delving deeply into the quality of our democracy.
Democracy is much more than voting in elections and letting our representatives get on with the business of running the country. It is about playing a part on a daily basis, influencing decisions, providing feedback, increasing public debate.
This research report will be published in March 2017 during Imagine Belfast Festival of Ideas and Politics, in which the Building Change Trust is organising ‘Democracy Day’ to start a conversation with the VCSE sector on what needs to be done to push the need for more grassroots democracy.
The report launch will take place at the MAC, where we will also showcase the projects funded under our Civic Activism programme.
Our aim is to inject politics with a small ‘p’ into the VCSE sector’s work and ensure that it creatively engages the public in the issues that affect their lives. This will result in some big new ideas that will be the Building Change Trust’s legacy in Creative Space for Civic Thinking.
It is vital that the VCSE sector is in good shape to take on the challenges of democracy when the Trust finishes its work, that there are networks and support programmes or funding in place to continue the work of holding our politicians to account.
2017 is set to be a busy year ahead for Social Innovation NI as we deliver two programmes, the Social Skills Innovation Programme and our second Techies in Residence Programme during the first six months of the year.
We are confident both programmes will deliver excellent projects that should really help to embed the concept of Social Innovation in the VCSE sector. The successful projects will then be eligible for a grant to test and develop their new ideas and provide a service for their clients.
In addition we will be introducing a new programme to help foster innovation within the sector. The Knowledge Exchange Programme is aimed at finding the best way of pulling together information about innovation happening in specific areas such as health, the environment or education.
The hope is that the work of Social Innovation NI will stimulate debate in the sector and other organisations will themselves embrace the concept and contribute their own solutions to existing social problems.