Social Innovation NI Up and Running
The Trust see potential for Social Innovation as an organising concept that be employed across public, private and third sectors to improve the fabric of society and tackle social problems.

Social Innovation NI Up and Running

02 February 2016

As the Trust prepares to close its doors in 2018, our aim is to convene and leave Social Innovation Northern Ireland as a legacy of our work.  In order to do this, we have commissioned The Melting Pot, Scotland’s Centre for Social Innovation to help facilitate this process.

To kickstart this process, two public events were convened by the Building Change Trust and facilitated by The Melting Pot, on 3rd December 2015 in Belfast and 14th January 2016 in Derry/Londonderry with around 90 people in total participating.

These 90 people attended and most shared some details of their interest in social innovation on badges designed especially for the events.

The majority of those attending the public events said that they had some kind of enabling role with respect to social innovation, with 31% only taking that role and a further 37% who both enable others and “do” social innovation themselves.


At both events participants shared examples of social innovations, and supports for social innovations on cards.  These were then reviewed by those present and the potential for them to be adopted, adapted and/or amplified (scaled) was considered.

Attendees were asked what they thought about social innovation.

A small number were unsure and another handful of participants felt it was just renaming of something that had been happening for a long time.

Most comments point to participants thinking social innovation is important, but difficult, and many commented on the collaborative and co-productive potential of social innovation. 


Around 100 examples of social innovations and 30 examples of supports were shared and rated by participants across the two events. Building Change Trust are looking into using this as the start of an online, crowd-sourced knowledge bank around social innovation. 

Following the workshops, the Melting Pot categorised the social innovations by sectors or themes.

The highest percentage could be classified as health and wellbeing innovations. Many of the innovations could be categorised in more than one theme, e.g. iPad Engage could be considered both a health and well-being and a technology innovation.

This is significant for Social Innovation NI, since over-focus on particular topics might limit potential.   

Examples of supports for social innovation shared at the events do not include the full range of potential enabling approaches as identified in the Building Change Trust report on social innovation ecosystems and the finance and funding examples were mostly of grant funding.


Participants also fed back a few key points in plenary sessions at the events: 

  • There is potential to engage more people from the private sector in this process.
  • Think about different groups who might become involved, e.g. students, and how they might become aware of social innovation, and be supported.
  • A social innovation award might be a good mechanism to help with profile of the concept and recognise promising practices.
  • Look more at the role of technology
  • Consider thematic linkages
  • Convene a cross-sector working group, where do all sectors come together/overlap?

Claire Carpenter, Founder and Managing Director of The Melting Pot, said: “We are delighted to be undertaking this work in Northern Ireland. 

“We aim to unearth and listen to practitioners and enablers of Social Innovation - to review what will create a great support ecosystem for them - and then make a plan for this to happen. 

“This is an excellent follow on from our work for the Scottish Government where we researched what cultural conditions help make Social Innovation flourish. 

“It's not easy - but good things never are. The BCT are thinking and acting really strategically in co-creating this legacy with the sector, for the sector”.

Paul Braithwaite, Programme Leader at the Trust who oversees our work in Social Innovation, said: “Working with The Melting Pot, we are aiming to bring those who might provide social innovation support under a Social Innovation NI umbrella together in these workshops and over the next number of months.

“Our immediate aim is to create a vision for what might be possible, start to shape a theory of how Social Innovation NI might support change.

“Ultimately, we want to create a one-stop shop for social innovation in Northern Ireland, where people can come together to find new and creative solutions to social problems”.

The full workshop report can be downloaded here. 

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