Trust facilitates workshop at ACF conference

Trust facilitates workshop at ACF conference

14 October 2014

As part of the annual Northern Ireland conference for the Association of Charitable Foundations (ACF), entitled ‘New Perspectives on a Changing Landscape’, Building Change Trust facilitated a workshop on the theme of social innovation. 

Development and Implementation Officer, Paul Braithwaite, gave an overview of the Trust’s understanding of social innovation in a workshop which explored the topic of ‘Could we do things differently?’

As one of its five main themes of work, Building Change Trust aims to stimulate the growth of social innovation in Northern Ireland and beyond.

He outlined the strategy and action plan for 2014 -2018, with several key initiatives already underway: “The Trust will commission a series of Challenge Prizes to stimulate new thinking on specific social issues as well as support actions to promote digital social innovation or technology for social good, including a project with Social Innovation Camp.

"We are in the process of designing and financing an ‘in residence’ programme for the placement of experts from various fields within the VCSE sector for the express purpose of innovating around a specific social issue.

"This is likely to include a “Geeks-in-Residence” programme. We will use our resources to leverage investment in social innovation from other funders and social impact investors". 

The Young Foundation’s ‘Socially Sustainable Northern Ireland’ programme and Social Innovation Camp’s work with further education colleges in the region were both mentioned as key projects yielding positive results. 

Mr Braithwaite also described some of the challenges facing funders who adopt a social innovation approach: “Risk-taking from a funder’s perspective does not mean simply throwing caution to the wind, nor does it negate the need for due process and due diligence. 

A clear articulation of intended process and product outcomes is essential to the social innovation approach, as are logic and a well thought-out programme, albeit with enough flexibility to allow adaptation and iteration along the way".

The remainder of the workshop was a hands-on exercise for participants where they were asked to come up with innovative approaches to resolving one of Northern Ireland’s most intractable problems; the role of flags and symbols in driving conflict and division.

Gorka Espiau, Director of Cities and Regions for the Young Foundation, led the group in a 10 minute ‘visioning’ exercise where they were asked to imagine a Northern Ireland in 2035 where the issue of flags had been resolved and the use of innovative approaches in resolving social problems had made NI renowned across the world.

The conversation was then brought back to what all this means for the ways in which funders work. It was suggested that a more widespread adoption of a social innovation approach could make a contribution in helping funders be more impactful and sustainable.

Click here to find out more about the Trust's work in Social Innovation.