Trust Wishlist for the New Assembly
The new Stormont Executive has taken shape with some new faces and a couple of surprises. The Building Change Trust welcomes the opportunity to engage with the new Executive and with the 2016 cohort of MLAs -whether they be in government, in opposition or in the naughty corner.
With this Assembly seeing Northern Ireland’s first official opposition, is there the opportunity for a new, dynamic and mature Stormont? Will checks and balances, the two largest parties being held to account and new policy and action become the new normal? Only time will tell.
We want to engage with them to embed, and expand upon, our learning since 2008 to help build a more collaborative, sustainable, innovative, and open Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) Sector in Northern Ireland.
We’ve thought about each of our themes and put together some key asks from government between now and 2018 when we complete our work.
Creative Space for Civic Thinking
We recognise and support the crucial role of the VCSE sector as a democratic intermediary, facilitating the influence of citizens’ voices in decision-making processes at all levels of society.
We are supporting the NI Open Government Network to engage with government around structural challenges, resourcing creativity and innovation at local level through our Civic Activism Programme and have commissioned research into the independence of the VCSE sector.
We’d like to see:
- Ongoing engagement with the NI Open Government Network (OGN) and the adoption and delivery of meaningful commitments by the NI Executive to greater participation, transparency and accountability as part of the UK Government’s National Action Plan under the global Open Government Partnership. (Following up on the great work of the OGN so far including this open letter to recently appointed Finance Minister Mairtin Ó Muilleor)
- Help with fostering a more participative democracy through promoting meaningful and creative civic participation across regional and local government – getting NI to a place where we acknowledge democracy is not just for Election Day.
- A renewed and stronger cross departmental commitment to uphold and respect the independence of the NI VCSE sector – including through funding and procurement policy and a willingness to listen to and engage with criticism, even if it comes from someone who has been funded by government.
It’s time to follow through with an outcomes focused approach to grant and other funding to the sector. Both government and the VCSE sector will be challenged, but the overall goal of a focus on using funding to make the most difference possible is worth it.
The key to success is to develop better impact practice in the sector and in government, that’s what our Inspiring Impact Programme is all about – there’s an opportunity for transformative action to embed an impact focused approach to all policy and funding decisions in the future.
Social finance is the provision of funding in the expectation of a financial as well as a social return. There’s need and opportunity to support social finance developments locally through new and appropriate products and proper targeted investment readiness support.
Government needs to:
- Move quickly to use the NI dormant accounts money for innovative social finance projects within the NI VCSE.
- Support proper investment readiness activity across the sector taking opportunities that sub sectors such as arts and environment present and encourage further collaboration and shared learning on the subject of how the VCSE will sustainably fund itself now, and into the future.
We have provided funding and practical support to VCSE organisations seeking to pioneer innovative approaches to some of NI’s major societal challenges, including through Amplify NI, Social Innovation Camp and Techies in Residence.
Social Innovation NI is our latest and most ambitious initiative to bring together a cross-sectoral group of funders and support providers to collaborate under one umbrella.
We would like government to:
- Foster an environment of innovation that will enable delivery of innovative solutions to some of Northern Ireland’s long running social problems.
- Through delivery of the Innovate NI Strategy to expand the purpose of innovation support beyond the singular pursuit of export-led economic growth.
- Support and participation from government to help instigate, grow and develop Social Innovation NI.
By the end of 2016 we will have spent £1.7 million of our funds in supporting organisations to work together to realise better outcomes for people and places. We’ve supported the establishment of CollaborationNI as the go to place for support. It’s time for others and government in particular to pick up the baton.
To do this:
- Collaboration requires support and encouragement and that requires resources. Others need to follow our investment and help provide a collaboration support service for the future.
- To take the learning from Collaboration NI and embed this practice across government and to adopt a more collaborative approach to policy design and implementation – including the NI VCSE at every point.
As you can see we have big plans for the next couple of years and invite MLAs from all parties, whether they be in government, opposition or neither to find out more and help us change the NI VCSE sector now, in 2018 and beyond.