The Trust in So Far 2015
With Easter just behind us, here at the Trust we thought it was as good a time as any to look back and review what we have done so far in 2015.
In January, as part of our Creative Space for Civic Thinking Theme, we launched an exciting new awards programme that will help groups and organisations across Northern Ireland try out best practice examples in civic activism from across the world.
Paul Braithwaite, who heads up our work in this area, said, "We wanted to highlight some of the most innovative and creative approaches to civic activism being used around the world.
"Many of these haven’t been tried in Northern Ireland before and we’re delighted to be able to provide an opportunity for local organisations to pilot them.
"Used effectively in a local context, these tools can be instrumental in deepening local democracy, ensuring the voices of the some of the most marginalised citizens and communities in Northern Ireland are heard, and acted upon by decision-makers".
The closing date for applications was at the end of March, so make sure to keep checking back to see who has been successful.
To support the awards programme, we also developed and launched a new website which has all the information potential applicants needed. As well as this, the site acts as a resource for anyone interested in Civic Activism and who may want to learn more.
As the Awards develop into projects we will be posting updates here on the Trust website but will also be posting more detailed case studies on the Civic Activism site which we hope will, over time, build up into a great learning resource and hub for groups across NI and the world.
Down to Earth NI, a new community-led, environmentally aware burial project recently launched what is hoped will become Northern Ireland’s first woodland burial site in County Down.
The Trust supported this through Cooperative Alternatives as part of a 3 year project to support the development of community benefit societies in Northern Ireland raising money through community share offers.
Chair of Down to Earth NI, James Orr, said: “We are inviting people to join us as investing members. During 2014, over 200 people expressed interest or pledged their investment.
"We want to raise our start up finance only from members and supporters in line with the ethos of the Society. Down to Earth NI will be owned by the community for the community and importantly, is for all faiths and those with no faith. Everyone is welcome".
Nigel McKinney, Building Change Trust, Director of Operations, said: “The Building Change Trust is committed to developing and testing out new forms of Social Finance and encouraging Social Innovation in Northern Ireland.
“Seeing the success in the rest of the UK, we feel this type of community buy-in and investment could really take off and are excited to see the development of the Community Share project throughout 2015”.
We continued our work in the innovative world of Community Shares through helping with the launch of Northern Ireland Community Energy’s own share offer, which went out in March.
The initiative was launched at Stormont by the Green Party’s Steven Agnew, Chair of the All Party Group on Co-operatives and Mutuals, who said: “ I am delighted to help launch this exciting Community Share offer. It is important that the benefit of public investment in renewable energy technology reaches as many people as possible including those who may be fuel poor.
"I am delighted that NICE will be investing any funds raised from this scheme into community energy saving initiatives to tackle fuel poverty. Schemes like this ensure that renewable energy investments provide a return for our economy and our community, as well as contributing to efforts to tackle climate change".
In February, as part of our work in Social Innovation, we joined forces with SI Camp to host one of their events at Crumlin Road Gaol.
Patricia Flanaghan, Project Manager, SI Camp: “The primary goal of the day was to come up with innovative, potential tech solutions to these challenges. The main principle behind SI Camp is ‘Tech for Social Good’ and this is something that we are hoping to build on in Northern Ireland in the coming months".
Prizes were made available to take the best ideas forward, with the overall winner going to the team who worked on the challenge from NOW to find a way to improve and expand the JAM (Just A Minute) card for users and businesses.
You can see and share the video by clicking here.
In March, we took part in the Imagine! Belfast Festival and hosted a debate at the Oh Yeah Music Centre in Belfast on whether ‘politics should stick to their knitting or whether politics was fair game’.
There was a lively debate on the night, chaired by William Crawley, with an expert panel comprising of Dr Mike Aiken, from the National Centre for Independent Action, local political commentator Alex Kane, NICVA’s Lise McElherron and Aoife Morrison from the Charity Commission.
Last but not least, looking a couple of weeks into the future, we are launching a new piece of work looking at the independence of the Northern Ireland Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector.
We have commissioned the Ulster University Institute for Research in the Social Sciences (IRiSS) to carry out research in this area over the next two years.
Paul said: “The sector should be innovative, vibrant and free to help those most in need.
"Through commissioning Ulster University to carry out this research we will produce detailed, evidence-based research on the state of the sector’s independence in Northern Ireland and equip organisations to analyse and uphold their own independence from government and other private interests.
“We are excited to be working with the team at Ulster University and believe they will bring experience and expertise to an extremely important issue”.
We are formally launching the project on April 22nd at NICVA.