Trust Launches Idea for One Stop Shop for Social Innovation

Trust Launches Idea for One Stop Shop for Social Innovation

22 October 2015

Social Innovation has been one of the Building Change Trust’s core themes since 2013.To date we’ve provided practical support to social innovators in the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector in a wide range of ways. 

These include: 

  • Research unpicking the concepts and jargon and scoping out its potential in NI – see ‘Growing Social Innovation in NI’ and ‘Turning Up the Dial’ (Digital Social Innovation)

  • Providing grant support to socially innovative projects – for example the Holywell Trust’s exploration of sustainable and impactful social enterprise ideas for Derry/Londonderry and Fermanagh Trust’s work advocating models of renewable energy production that maximise opportunities for community benefit and community ownership.

  • Experimenting with new ways of designing solutions to social problems through Social Innovation Camp, Techies in Residence and phase one of the Young Foundation’s Amplify NI initiative.

We’ve set ourselves the ambitious objective of making social innovation the ‘new normal’ way of developing and implementing solutions to social problems in Northern Ireland by the time we fully spend our budget and close our doors at the end of 2018.

But we recognise that this objective is not achievable by us alone, nor indeed solely through the programmes we fund and commission.

Collaboration is the key. So we’ve come up with an ambitious new idea. 

Social Innovation NI will be a ‘one stop shop’ through which social innovations in Northern Ireland can access practical and financial supports for social innovations at all stages - whether brand new ideas, prototypes needing testing, or proven, transformative approaches that are ready to be implemented at scale.

We aim to create the space for this to happen by inviting all the key stakeholders – VCSE organisations and networks, funders, government departments, public agencies and private companies - with a commitment to enabling or practicing social innovation in Northern Ireland to engage with us in co-designing a collaborative approach that enables us to be ‘more than the sum of our parts’.

This is not about creating a new organisation.

Each of us has our own niche and we’re already delivering impactful work. But what would happen if we came together around a shared vision and brand, coordinated more deliberately and pooled our efforts?

Each of our own programmes would be more impactful to start with.

We could also collectively address some of the current gaps in terms of social innovation support in Northern Ireland – such as debunking the inaccessible jargon, pioneering new models of cross-sectoral working, or brokering access to previously under-used funding pots and investment instruments outside NI.

If successful the Trust is committed to investing the majority of its remaining social innovation resources in delivering the resultant collaboration and programme of work. As always the Trust’s focus will be on delivering maximum practical benefit to the VCSE sector.

Northern Ireland isn’t the first place this has been tried. There are collaborative platforms for social innovation in Canada, Sweden, Denmark, Australia and Belgium for example.

The Canadian example is particularly relevant. Social Innovation Generation is a collaborative partnership between a funder (the McConnell Family Foundation), a research and innovation park (MaRS Discovery District), a university (University of Waterloo) and a charity with a focus on disability and social care (the Plan Institute).

These are challenging times for the VCSE sector in Northern Ireland, and indeed society as a whole. The crisis in public finances, and perhaps in our politics, is unlikely to go away any time soon. Whilst it is always a good thing to experiment with new ways of working, it could be argued we are in a sink or swim scenario.

Necessity is the mother of invention they say – so let’s get inventing!

The Trust are launching the Social Innovation NI initiative at the Mac in Belfast on the 3rd December. If you'd like to come along, please register here. 

Keep an eye on the Trust website and follow @Paul_BCT on Twitter for more information.