Vital Signs to take the Pulse of Communities in NI

Vital Signs to take the Pulse of Communities in NI

17 May 2016

Listening to the community you're working in is an essential part of operating in the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise Sector. To this end, we asked Sara Houston from the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland to tell us about their Vital Signs research..

The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland connects people who care to causes that matter. Through our funding and development work, we want to give community and voluntary groups the tools and support to help them change lives. 

To do this effectively we want to fully understand what those needs and causes are. Through Vital Signs, we are talking to communities and gathering data to tell the story of how communities in Northern Ireland are faring, across 10 key social themes. 

A team of researchers from the Community Foundation’s Vital Signs project will hit the streets and communities of all eleven council areas over the coming weeks and months, with research findings due to be released in October 2016.

Vital Signs will allow us to understand our communities better. The dialogue we have with communities through workshops and interviews, along with the answers provided in the survey will help us to identify trends, which will guide our work, enabling us to be more strategic in terms of where our funds go.

We will use the information to help communities come together to act on priorities and opportunities and the findings will also help us to provide donors and philanthropists with up-to-date information about community need, guiding their giving for maximum impact.

The aim of this report is to inform the development of community philanthropy and giving in Northern Ireland, by providing a ‘health check’ on key local issues.

We also hope it will encourage people in engage in conversation with us about the issues raised in the report. We recognise the importance of an evidence base to guide our work and whilst the UK is rich with statistics and data this can often be hard to access or difficult to understand.

Vital Signs research is carried out by more than 70 Community Foundations in a host of countries throughout the world, including over 20 regions in the UK. We are therefore excited to be part of the growing number of community foundations to participate in this initiative.

Our Vital Signs report will bring together data, comments and perspectives from people in local communities to provide a picture of life in Northern Ireland.

To do this effectively we are looking at Northern Ireland in the context of the 11 Council Area. In terms of issues and causes we have separated these into 10 key social themes. Whilst we understand that these themes are cross-cutting and interlinked, we believe that enabing communities to look at their area in this way empowers them to have a clearer voice on the issues that affect them most.

Vital Signs aims to provide people who are interested in supporting their communities with the information they need to direct their action to the most critical areas.


Vital Signs will endeavour to celebrate Northern Ireland’s successes whilst also highlighting the issues and geographical inequalities that exist across our region. We hope that communities will want to start a conversation with us about how we can work together to address some of the region’s most vital issues. 

This unique giving guide for philanthropists and those who are charitably-minded will be developed using vital statistical information alongside resident feedback, via interviews, focus groups and survey responses.

How can you get involved? 

  • Take part in our survey - It should only take 3 minutes. 
  • Host a focus group in your area - Contact us and we will do the rest. 
  • Send us a short story - Tell us about the issues that affect you!
  • Invite us out to see the work happening in your area - We want to see what makes your area great!
  • Get involved, Take action and Spread the word!

To find out more and participate in the Vital Signs survey you can visit the website or contact Sara on 02890245927 or at the Community Foundation.

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