Trust Brings together Sector on Creative Space for Civic Thinking
Participants at the Trust's workshop on Creative Space for Civic Thinking in October 2013.

Trust Brings together Sector on Creative Space for Civic Thinking

29 October 2013

The Building Change Trust brought together a group of around 20 influential individuals from the Community and Voluntary Sector to help plan the Trust’s work on Creative Space for Civic Thinking.

Lagan Valley Island Conference Centre in Lisburn was the venue for the first in a series of three workshops which will see the creation of an action plan, setting out the Trust’s work in this area over the next few years.

Facilitated by James Magowan and Frank Dolaghan, the first workshop aimed to determine: ‘Where we are’ as a sector in the area of Civic Thinking.

The second will set out a vision for where the sector would like to be in terms of its role in engaging individuals and communities in active citizenship, enabling them to have their voices heard by government decision-makers.

With the third and final workshop looking at how The Building Change Trust can help the sector realise this vision.

In answering ‘Where we are’, the participants discussed the role of the Community and Voluntary Sector as a key pillar of civil society, in particular its function in empowering vulnerable and marginalised citizens to have their voices heard by decision makers and government.

Participants at the workshop all agreed this role is crucial to the health of democracy in Northern Ireland.

They also identified, and discussed, some of the key factors present in Northern Ireland having an effect on citizens’ participation in affairs of state and the democratic process.

Enabling factors identified included the ease of access to civil servants and government departments, the close relationship between some politicians and their local community groups, the role of independent funders and the historically high levels of influence of the Community and Voluntary Sector.

However, participants identified a number of hindering factors including threats to the independence of the Community and Voluntary Sector, a generally poor understanding of the concept of a civil society amongst civil servants and politicians, the domination of sectarian politics and high levels of political disengagement amongst the general public.

Paul Braithwaite, Development & Implementation Officer at the Building Change Trust, said: “The Trust are delighted and excited to be undertaking work looking how the Community and Voluntary Sector can contribute to a more vibrant, responsive and democratic civil society in Northern Ireland.

“The response we have got from the Sector so far has been excellent, with attendance at our events looking at this issue and engagement at a really high level.

“The Trust believe this is such an important issue that we have named ‘Creative Space for Civic Thinking’ as one of our six key areas of work over the next five years.

“Alongside this we will be looking at Social Finance, Social Innovation, Impact Measurement, Collaboration and Leadership”.