An independent social affairs magazine
And its impact on the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector in Northern Ireland
Issue 49, 2018
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
Looking back at the Building Change Trust hat would £10 million buy today? Twenty castles, like Gosford Castle in County Armagh where scenes for ‘Games of Thrones’ were filmed. It’s a lot of money. 2008 will be remembered as the year of the global financial crash. In the past 10 years, much has changed including a deepening social crisis. Expectations that if you worked hard you could expect a good standard of living, including a roof over your head and that if you were sick or had a disability you could expect a welfare safety net to support you, are no longer guaranteed. VIEW magazine has been asked to review the £10 million given in 2008 by the Big Lottery Fund to invest in the promotion of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland and community capacity building. Five organisations came together to form the Building Change Trust which will have invested and spent the £10 million by December 31, 2018. They were: • Business in the Community Northern Ireland • Community Foundation for Northern Ireland • Volunteer Development Agency (now Volunteer Now) • Rural Community Network • Community Evaluation Northern Ireland The Trust worked on developing projects around five themes; Social Finance, Collaboration, Inspiring Impact, Social Innovation and Creative Space for Civic. They had a vision that the work of the Building Change Trust would help to build
beneficiaries are drawn from.”
• Glen Mehn who helped to run Social Innovation Camp, a London-based specialist not-forprofit organisation working in Northern Ireland for the first time: “We didn’t have that much follow up to see how our work progressed.” • Kate Clifford from Rural Community Network: “Potentially it could have reached further across Northern Ireland.”
By Una Murphy VIEWdigital co founder Email: firstname.lastname@example.org a strong, independent and innovative community, voluntary and social enterprise sector. VIEW magazine editor Brian Pelan has carried out a series of interviews with those involved in the Building Change Trust and sought comment pieces from a number of academics. Contributors to this edition of VIEW have raised a number of issues. • Kieran Harding from Business in the Community: “It would be interesting to know the number and geographical location of organisations that received funding and where their
• Lauri McCusker, The Fermanagh Trust: “Have they steered a path which has led to a huge amount of innovation? I’m not so sure about that.” A report from Community Evaluation Northern Ireland (CENI) after the first three years of the Building Change Trust found that the board had lost some of its direction and needed a tighter infrastructure. Moving forward the Trust’s legacy on establishing a Citizens’ Assembly in Northern Ireland will be watched with interest. As Brendan McDonnell, director of CENI, said in his interview on page six of this issue about the Building Change Trust: “It probably won’t be missed until it’s gone. It did create a space for contentious things to be said. In the context of austerity where everyone was trying to survive it was the only show in town that was able to create that space.”
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VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
VIEW, an independent social affairs magazine in Northern Ireland
Guest editor Dr Brendan Murtagh, Urban Planning, School of Natural and Built Environment, Queen’s University he suspension of the Assembly has left many businesses, state agencies and the wider public feeling frustrated and disillusioned. The community sector knows the feeling. We have no asset transfer or social value legislation, no dedicated funding for social enterprises and no overarching strategy for the development of the social economy. This has not stopped the finger-wagging. Third sector organisations need to get their act together, stop relying on grants and become more business-like and sustainable. What is fascinating about Building Change Trust is its experimental quality – decent investment, a long period of delivery, an acceptance of risk and even failure, a capacity to innovate and learn and a genuinely creative attempt to self-assemble an enabling environment that government simply has not. The Big Lottery Fund is to be congratulated for the vision to support it, and the Trust and partners for their capacity to deliver it. In a period of short-termism, obsessive regulatory checks and an understandable but sclerotic obsession with auditing, the focus on systemic change is refreshing. The scope of the work and its integrated nature has been the key strength of the Trust. They have been instrumental in developing the supply of social finance but also strengthening the investment readiness of organisations to use it. Creativity has extended to new instruments, including supporting community shares, better understanding the demand as well as the supply side of finance and testing out the potential of small unsecured funds, where much of the need is concentrated. The sector has been challenged and challenged itself to think about its shape and structure and ultimately who and what it is for. Here, the Trust has generated a (not always easy) debate on mergers, colocation and a better-networked
Maybe the legacy of the Building Change Trust is to suggest that it is time for partners in local and central government, political parties, universities and even the private sector to join them
approach to build impact and organisational resilience. But it has also helped the sector to think about where it is going and the importance of creating genuine innovation to address a range of more complex social problems. The importance of technology, smarter ways of working and creative thinking are building a Social Innovation Ecosystem that has produced practical outcomes as well as setting a vision for the future. The sector has often been long on claiming all sorts of impact, but short in showing where and how they happen. In a sense, the Inspiring Impact strand completes the circle by producing a mix of methods, ideas and toolkits to build a better and more valid evidence base of the value of community development. It is this integrated approach that supports skills, finance, how to better restructure the sector, think about its digital future and justify its impact that makes the Trust both different and successful. The ecosystem is a nice way of thinking about it and how the collective strengths of the third sector can make a genuine difference to people’s lives. There is then, credibility in offering ideas, engaging with political spaces and creating independent critical debate on policy and politics in Northern Ireland. The Creative Space for Civic Thinking initiative is probably needed more than ever, but the approach has been clear not to displace politics or politicians. Instead, it is a sensible forum that offers some fresh thinking about the issues that matter to local people and how to address them in a collaborative way. This is far from a grant reliant, dependent culture but evidence of a capable sector, able to make its own choices and design its own long-term solutions. Maybe the legacy of the Trust is to suggest that it is time for partners in local and central government, political parties, universities and even the private sector to join them.
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
the BIG interview VIEW editor Brian Pelan talks to Julie Harrison, above, Chair of Big Lottery Fund Northern Ireland Committee, about the impact of the Building Change Trust in Northern Ireland uestion: Why did the Big Lottery Fund decide to set up a new charitable Trust in Northern Ireland in 2008 which became the Building Change Trust?
Answer: We’re all excited at the potential of the voluntary/community sector and see it as a way to develop and deliver good ideas. Our interest is in people and how the sector works for them. We also thought that having the time and space to think would be useful. Q: Was the decision of Big Lottery Fund influenced by the need to ring-fence certain projects because £638 million of Lottery funding between 2009-2012 would be transferred to the Olympic Lottery Distributor to support the London 2012 games? A: The short answer is no. It was about the
One thing that was interesting for us about the model is that we set the box for within which we hoped something like this will live but it is not for us to shape Northern Ireland context. Our grantmaking is devolved. We have absolute control in terms of what happens.
Q: Did the Building Change Trust work well in its formative years? A: I think it’s fair to say it took a while for it to find its feet. The bid partners were a new partnership, so in fairness to them that took time. Q: Where clear goals and targets set at the start for the Building Change Trust? A: One thing that is interesting for us about the model is that we set the box for within which we hoped something like this will live but it is not for us to shape. It is us saying we have the confidence in you. We didn’t set clear goals and targets. There is a broad agreement about time and space. This is us (Big Lottery NI) saying we trust you to go and do your thing. Q: As the work of the Building Change Trust unfolded where there any milestones to
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
THE KEY AIMS OF BIG LOTTERY FUND WHEN IT ESTABLISHED THE BUILDING CHANGE TRUST The work that the Building Change Trust supports must achieve the following outcome: • People can actively participate in their communities to bring about positive change. Proposals will need to evidence how the Trust will support our underlying principles by: • Addressing disadvantage and promoting tolerance and social inclusion. • Contributing to the reduction of poverty. And our priorities to: • Build community capacity. • Increase opportunity for volunteering and engagement within and between communities.
measure its progress? A: We carried out an evaluation of the Trust in the context of using Trusts and Foundations as a model by which we could best deliver grant funding to communities and have the maximum impact. As well as this, as a key stakeholder for the Trust itself, we were active participants in the numerous evaluations they carried out of their own work across their thematic areas. Q: The project is now drawing to an end. Are there any steps in place to measure its overall impact and legacy. A: We currently have no plans to measure the overall impact and legacy. However, we are keen to learn from the lessons they have learned from the last 10 years of working across so many areas of the VCSE Sector, to help us be the most impactful and responsive funder we can be. Q: Did the Building Change Trust make an impact on disadvantaged communities and contribute to the reduction of poverty? The Trust reached some of the most disadvantaged groups in Northern Ireland through its work. Their social innovation work saw the growth and development of the JAM Card at the Now Group – helping thousands of people with learning difficulties on with day to day tasks, making life a little bit easier every day. The Trust’s social finance work helped NI Community Energy source sustainable funding and grow their business. Organisations such as
The Trust reached some of the most disadvantaged groups in Northern Ireland through its work the Mornington Community Project, Women’s Aid, the Chinese Welfare Association and the Rath Mor Centre in Derry have signed up to the scheme which will help their long-term sustainability, meaning they can concentrate on delivering services and support to their communities. Q: Why did Big Lottery Fund not nominate someone else to replace you when you left the board of the Building Change Trust in 2015 A: Following on from my stepping down in 2015, the Big Lottery Fund was happy with the strategic direction and had confidence in the Protector Michael Wilson (1) to oversee best practice in the governance aspects of the Trust. Our stepping back at this point ensured the ongoing independence of the Trust which helped many aspects of their work flourish. Q: What were the key strengths of the Building Change Trust?
A: I think it was having the luxury of a dedicated set of people (admittedly a small one) who had the time and space to think and who are not delivering services. There is a real value in that, and also having the opportunity to look at best practice, locally and internationally. And where they identified innovation, here or elsewhere, to really get alongside it. Things like the Citizens’ Assembly and Participatory budgeting showed the value that the Building Change Trust brought and also some of the ideas around collaboration. Q: What were the weaknesses of the Building Change Trust? A: The weakness, in fairness, were partly externally driven. But I think that any ‘weaknesses’ were worked through. There were initial conversations about the emotional pressure to start spending and not actually take the time to think. I would have been involved in some of those conversations where, rightly or wrongly, there was an expectation that it was an investment that was immediately going to land, instead of working out where could you have the most impact with the money. I don’t think that’s a weakness but it would have felt that way. I think the model for us has largely worked and it has been really positive. • (1) The Protector is a special Trustee appointed by Big Lottery Fund and paid with Trust funds whose fiduciary duty will be to ensure the integrity of the administration of the Trust and the propriety of its procedures.
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
The Building Change Trust probably won’t be missed until it has gone VIEW talks to Brendan McDonnell, left, the director of Community Evaluation NI about outcomes, the measurement of data and the independence of the community/voluntary/social enterprise sector Question: Has the Building Change Trust been a success. What were its key strengths. Where there any weaknesses in the model? Answer: For us, the success was: a, It was a consortium of voluntary organisations who moved from being receivers of funding to being in a position where they could distribute funding and create a strategy for going forward. And b, the ‘parents’ (the consortium) set up an advisory board and then after a year ‘the child’ (the board) became the parents. It was a very unique way of doing things. A key strength of the BCT was that it had independence. The weaknesses from the start was that on paper it looked like there was a collective vision but practically it didn’t work that way. The first three years of the BCT were a bit confused and it took the next period to really work things out. Q: Did the five organisations collaborate effectively or where there tensions/disagreements? A: I don’t think there were disagreements but there was confusion at the start as the infrastructure wasn’t there. Q: How do we measure the effectiveness and impact of the BCT? A: As one of the original partners we were charged with doing the evaluation for the first three years. We did a report at the end of the three years in which we tried to be as clear as possible. Our report did reflect the fact that the board had lost some of its direction and needed a tighter
infrastructure. The Trust and Big Lottery NI also commissioned external evaluations. The Trust created a space for debate and had an overview of what was happening in the VCSE sector. It also developed a discussion about innovation. Q: What impact did the Inspiring Impact programme (funded by the BCT) have on disadvantaged communities? A: The aim of the Inspiring Impact programme was to get funders and organisations to be clear about what their purpose was and what difference they wanted to make for disadvantaged communities. We still haven’t reached a tipping point. What we have done is spread a message. Inspiring Impact UK gives us a drive that we locked onto and Stormont’s Programme for Government gave our work an added boost. Q: Academic Dr Toby Lowe (Newcastle University) once said: “The use of outcomes as a concept to measure the effectiveness of social policy interventions is inherently flawed and creates unwelcomed paradoxes.” What's your opinion? A: I agree with this up to a point. The use of outcomes and the concept of outcomes and impact is not flawed. What is flawed is the methods used. If you focus purely on the technical, as in how do I measure it, you can lose the focus on what change you are trying to make.You must be clear about the outcome you are trying to get and you are dedicated to achieving that outcome
Q: Does focusing on outcomes distort both the priorities and practises of organisations? A: Focusing on the measurement of outcomes can distort the priorities of organisations.You can also lose the focus if you get too wrapped up in technicalities. Q, How will the absence of the Trust affect the VCSE sector? A: It probably won’t be missed until it’s gone. It did create a space for contentious things to be said. In the context of austerity, where everyone was trying to survive, it was the only show in town that was able to create that space. Q: Is the future of CENI secured given that the BCT is ending? A: I think the Trust and the Inspiring Impact programme has given CENI a place and a future that it probably wouldn’t have had. Q: Does the VCSE sector still have an independent voice or does it just represent a number of organisations who are dependant on government/private sector involvement to survive? A: A route map, that we as an organisation are working on, effectively takes that whole idea of an independent voluntary sector as being at the core of what we are about. What we want is an independent and impactful Third Sector for Northern Ireland. This sector must be valued by the public sector and its impact must be understood.
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
Civic thinking could be the main legacy Nick Acherson, a visiting research fellow at the Centre for Social Innovation at Trinity College Dublin, poses some questions as the work of the Building Change Trust comes to an end he Building Change Trust was created ten years ago at a time of perceived crisis in the identity and purpose of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland. Worries about the ways that the sector was being reshaped by a dramatic shift in government support from grants to contracts were compounded by uncertainty about the immediate future in the face of the financial and economic crisis. I was one of a number of people commissioned to write “think pieces” for the Trust to help with its early deliberations. Those interested can download it at https://www.buildingchangetrust.org/download/files/IndependenceNICVS%2Epdf . I made what I still believe are two important points. The first was a general one, based on evidence from around the world, of the importance of creating new collective narratives of identity and purpose that are up to the job in changed times and then owning them as a fundamental building block of retaining agency. My second point was that the ways that voluntary and community organisations are structured into Northern Ireland’s divided society and its politics of ethnic rivalry makes it extraordinarily difficult to do this effectively. That piece was written in 2013 and the evidence since then is that it is hard to do this anywhere mostly because different voluntary and community organisations are structured into the broader welfare system in different ways depending on what they do and their particular histories. The idea of a single “sector” is perhaps a bit of a myth and tends to fall apart in the face of anti-austerity politics whether of the Left or Right. A quick comparison with Ireland helps illustrate my point. The financial crisis of 2008/2009 there removed on average 35 percent of government support for voluntary and community organisations, with whole programmes being summarily ended and the complex web of partnership structures collapsed. The sense of “what do we do now” was very
The propensity of the sector in Northern Ireland to shy away from anything that could be interpreted as “too political” is understandable, but it has consequences
strong. What emerged from a response funded by Atlantic Philanthropies was a strong articulation of collective value or mission around the notion of social justice advocacy that the evidence suggests was widely shared and has helped shape the terms on which government departments engage with organisations on specific issues. This story is much more complicated than that of course, but my point is to ask how likely is it that a similar shared narrative might have emerged from work funded by the Building Change Trust in Northern Ireland. It’s hard to imagine because of the way that politics would ensure any attempt at a collective identity around such a notion would fall at the first hurdle of ethno-religious whataboutery and threaten whatever fragile internal unity there is around a single sector identity. The propensity of the sector in Northern Ireland to shy away from anything that could be interpreted as “too political” in this context is understandable, but it has consequences. One is that the extraordinary work done by many voluntary and community organisations is never scaled up into a broader articulation of political demands or even a statement of collective mission. Inevitably perhaps the Building Change Trust has substituted a narrative of modernisation around finance, innovation, impact and collaboration. It is not that these are unimportant and the work in these areas of considerable potential value. But avoiding addressing questions about what it is all for, runs the risk that mission is reinterpreted as a form of organisation survival. The Trust’s solution to this problem has been to push civic thinking into a separate strand of work, separated from interventions aimed at changing practices in voluntary and community organisations and where the focus is on imaginative ways of enabling direct civic democracy. In the context of Northern Ireland this might yet be its major legacy.
Sponsored by The Building Change Trust
The Building Change Trust Board l-r: Mar琀n McCarthy, Libby Keys, John Peto, Michael Wilson, Bill Osborne, Joe McVey, Catherine Cooke, Margaret Henry (missing: Maurice Meehan)
Building Change Trust: £10 million, 10 years, 10 lessons. Ten years ago, a successful collabora琀ve bid, led by Community Founda琀on for Northern Ireland along with the then Volunteer Development Agency, Rural Community Network, Business in the Community and Community Evalua琀on Northern Ireland led to the crea琀on of Building Change Trust.
Nigel McKinney, Director of Opera琀ons , Building Change Trust
The arrangements around the crea琀on, governance and management and administra琀on of the Trust were novel for everyone involved: • The original 5 bid partners didn’t own or control the Trust, even a昀er having developed the successful bid- it was an independent organisa琀on. • The Board of the Trust comprised a group of nominees and some externally recruited members, many of whom were unknown to each other. • The Trust didn’t employ its own development or management sta昀sta ng was managed through an arrangement with CFNI.
The proposal set out that CFNI would provide management and administra琀on to the Trust over its life琀me and in January 2009, Nigel McKinney was asked to take up the new post of Trust Administrator.
Nigel was the sole ini琀al employee and he says it was a radical change for him taking up the post. “Up un琀l Christmas 2008 I was managing CFNI’s role as an intermediary funding body with the EU Peace II and Peace II extension programmes. That was a very fast regula琀on bound working environment and we had up to 20 sta昀 working on di昀erent aspects of the programme. During the Christmas 2008 period I went from that to being handed the 昀les rela琀ng to Building Change Trust and asked by our then Director Avila Kilmurray to go and do the best job possible to make it happen.” Nigel says there were lots of tensions at the start as respec琀ve roles and responsibili琀es were worked out but looking back it's been
a very rewarding experience. He says the Trust Board have been brilliant; many have been there the whole 10 years and great rela琀onships have developed amongst Board members and with the support sta昀 team. Nigel also feels that the very good working and personal rela琀onship he and the Chairperson Bill Osborne have developed has been cri琀cal to the success of the Trust. “Bill really understood and supported sta昀 with the concept that given the limited resources and the opportunity provided that the Trust shouldn’t be funding business as usual ac琀vi琀es in the sector through tradi琀onal grant making. The Trust needed to support change and that highlighted that it itself could operate in di昀erent ways compared to tradi琀onal Trusts and Founda琀ons”.
Sponsored by The Building Change Trust
CENI - Community Evalua琀on Northern Ireland. l-r: Roy McGovern, (then Department for Social Development)) Maurice Meehan, Building Change Trust Board Member, (Public Health Agency) Brendan McDonnell, CENI and Bill Osborne, Chair, Building Change Trust.
Ci琀zens’ Assembly – One of the delibera琀ve democracy ini琀a琀ves on which Building Change Trust has worked with partners to deliver.
Below Nigel sets out 10 lessons from his 10 years at the Trust. 1. £10 million both is and isn’t a lot of money. NICVA’s ‘State of the Sector’ es琀mates a total income of £618m for 2014/15 and expenditure of £587m. Our fund was less than 2% of that annual sum, even less when spread over 10 years. It’s easy to spend money doing tradi琀onal grant making, demand is always greater than supply but it's much harder to spend a smaller amount strategically. We sought to focus on strategic spending. The challenges then are with iden琀fying what to work on and working out how to spend resources in a way that can make a tangible strategic di昀erence. For example our community consulta琀ons in 2009/10 told us that support to work in partnership was important to the sector. Our research indicated that there was a body of work and prac琀ce emerging around how collabora琀on could be supported. We commissioned the Collabora琀onNI programme over a 5 year period from a consor琀um of NICVA, CO3 and Stellar Leadership, reshaping its delivery as we went along. We accompanied this with a Collabora琀on Enabling Fund to support organisa琀ons to take further steps to realise their collabora琀on plans. It was important to also share the lessons of the work and its impact with policy makers and others as the work progressed.
2. Simple grant making on its own isn’t enough to support change and development. Those prepared to take risks frequently need more than money, they need support and encouragement and mentoring along the way and any funds that are allocated need to have certain characteris琀cs such as 昀exibility. Going beyond simple grant making has enabled us to support others to bring some new ideas to Northern Ireland. For example, in 2010 there were no coopera琀ve community bene昀t socie琀es in Northern Ireland. Working with the then NI Coopera琀ve Forum and a group of commi琀ed individuals we developed a plan to s琀mulate their forma琀on and development here. We helped with the crea琀on of a new organisa琀on, Coopera琀ve Alterna琀ves and over a 5 year period 昀nanced the Community Shares Ready Programme for Northern Ireland. That investment in programme ac琀vity and organisa琀onal capacity means that there have been 18 new coopera琀ves established, 9 share o昀ers made with 1902 investors purchasing £709,950 in shares and Coopera琀ve Alterna琀ves con琀nues its work a昀er our contract and the programme has ended.
3. Doing and thinking are both important. Our strength has been the structure, freedom and resources to do both. The challenge of spending £10m over 10 years to support strategic change meant we had to think deeply and itera琀vely around both what to do and how to do it. The easy answer and natural impulse was to just focus on the doing, spend money now to help meet the immediate demands of a sector in di culty especially in the context of the 2008 global 昀nancial crash. In hindsight we might have done less doing and even more thinking at the start. For example in January 2013 we commenced a strategy development process under the thema琀c idea of Crea琀ve Space for Civic Thinking. We engaged a range of individuals and organisa琀ons through a variety of processes and events to think about what ac琀ons could be taken to develop the role of voluntary, community and social enterprises here in engaging ci琀zens with decision makers. Careful, though琀ul engagement, research, idea development can produce good results. It wasn’t un琀l 2014 that we supported the development of the NI Open Government Network that emerged from this process and not un琀l 2016/17 that further work produced the idea for the Ci琀zens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland which is now scheduled to take place in October/ November 2018.
Sponsored by The Building Change Trust
Waste No Time – Karin Eyben from Garvagh Community Development with members of the ‘Happy Hookers Social Crochet Club’, a community group in Coleraine.
4. Being life limited has advantages. The energy and focus is concentrated on delivering the strategy and objec琀ves and not on sustaining the organisa琀on. The Trust Board was able to focus on governance and mission. Achieving our objec琀ves highlighted the need for collabora琀on with others and we didn’t ever feel we were compe琀ng with our strategic partners across the 昀ve thema琀c areas. They will remain and con琀nue to work a昀er we are gone. The Trust will complete its work in December 2018, the £10 million plus the income from it and other sources will have been spent. But the work the Trust has been involved in will con琀nue through others. For example the Building Be琀er Futures Loan Fund created with UCIT and Belfast Charitable Society is a revolving loan fund o昀ering small unsecured loans for the 昀rst 琀me, that will con琀nue. Community Evalua琀on Northern Ireland have set out a strategy to con琀nue to support the development of impact prac琀ce in the sector and with funders and policy makers into the future. The Community Founda琀on for Northern Ireland is picking up the baton for the work on civic and social innova琀on for 2019 and beyond.
Community Shares – Graham Morris of Ballymacash Rangers football club pictured with Tiziana O' Hara of Coopera琀ve Alterna琀ves.
5. The voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector is more than a deliverer of public services. Unfortunately many in the sector itself and in government don’t see that and our Programme for Government for all its strengths misses the point that a strong independent sector helps make strong communi琀es.
matches VCSE organisa琀ons with a problem to solve, with a technology professional with the intent of developing a prototype digital solu琀on through a 10 week paid residency. The process, the interac琀on between the two di昀erent sectors, skills development and learning are as important as the prototype developed.
The poten琀al of VCSE organisa琀ons to make a posi琀ve di昀erence to people and places here isn’t fully realised. In a complex changing world its work will never be done. But more can be done to enable the sector to mobilise and engage people. New ideas and ac琀ons are possible.
7. Imagine if the poten琀al of our sector was be琀er realised. There are many brilliant people at all levels in the VCSE sector, its funders and policy makers here, commi琀ed to making posi琀ve change for people and places. Engage with them, listen to them and support them into the future .
6. Innova琀on in our sector can be developed and must be supported. It’s axioma琀c that the private sector needs and gets special support for innova琀on – suppor琀ng innova琀on in the VCSE sector o昀ers many opportuni琀es for societal change and individual organisa琀on development – that support remains lacking.
Our work on 5 themes - Social Finance, Collabora琀on, Inspiring Impact, Social Innova琀on, Crea琀ve Space for Civic Thinking - over 10 years did not emerge from an expert board diagnosing “failings” within our VCSE sector and prescribing solu琀ons to 昀x them. Our themes and ac琀ons evolved over 琀me based on engagement, research, analysis. We think that’s a pre琀y good place to start when trying to develop ideas that can help with complex issues!
We conceived of the Techies in Residence (TiR) programme within our Social Innova琀on NI ini琀a琀ve as we believed li琀le a琀en琀on was being paid to the mission-related use of digital technology by VCSE organisa琀ons. We engaged widely, commissioned research and tried out a smaller scale ini琀a琀ve called Social Innova琀on Camp before we came up with the idea for the TiR programme. TiR
Sponsored by The Building Change Trust
Grainne Cregan, Ambassador for the NOW group, who through Building Change Trust’s Techies in Residence programme developed the digital JAM (Just a Minute) Card to assist people with learning or other di cul琀es with using public services and developing greater independence.
8. Money is power. Isn’t it obvious that those with it have power over those wan琀ng and needing it? There can be much dishonesty in this rela琀onship and trying to engage with organisa琀ons and fund work di昀erently is di cult. There is much scope and need to change the paradigm with both funders and the organisa琀ons funded behaving di昀erently. We need an ecosystem of funding with di昀erent characteris琀cs in Northern Ireland and we need to be more sophis琀cated about understanding and explaining clearly what we mean when asking organisa琀ons about innova琀on and/or sustainability. For example innova琀on funding needs certain characteris琀cs - for us that has meant providing small amounts of 昀exible funding with quicker decision making for our Social Innova琀on NI social innova琀on skills and techies in residence programmes. It isn’t enough to ask for innova琀on and then not provide either the support or the funding with the characteris琀cs that enable it. 9. The only constant is change itself. No group of people however well meaning and however well resourced is going to “昀x” the VCSE sector in Northern Ireland and anyone who says they are should be viewed with more than suspicion. There are big and complex challenges that the
sector faces – some unique to our post con昀ict circumstances in NI , others similar the world over. But many of the issues and themes are beginning to be understood and there are some ideas as to what ac琀on needs to be taken. Working with representa琀ves from the sector, its funders and policy makers, we started our VCSE Futures ini琀a琀ve in October 2016. Our Agenda for the Future sets out 7 key areas and some ini琀al ideas that in our opinion can contribute to the future development of the sector and the posi琀ve di昀erence it can con琀nue to make to people and places. There might be a di昀erent set of issues in 10 years 琀me. 10. Does legacy ma琀er anyway? What is it which is important that it lasts, where the only thing that is constant is change itself? Is it what we’ve done and the di昀erence we’ve made through the 昀ve themes and projects that is important, or is it how we were established, structured, 昀nanced and have worked over the last 10 years that is more important? It’s both - a life limited fund with a mission to focus on suppor琀ng transforma琀onal change has demonstrated that it is possible. The Trust’s partnerships with others gear up their poten琀al to adapt to and shape change in the future.
We have developed new social 昀nance products, new models of social enterprise and a recogni琀on of the importance of investment readiness. We have demonstrated that suppor琀ng collabora琀on makes a posi琀ve di昀erence to par琀cipa琀ng organisa琀ons and their bene昀ciaries More organisa琀ons and their funders and government now recognise the importance of impact prac琀ce and the importance of considering the di昀erence they want to make in all aspects of their work. We have demonstrated that innova琀on isn’t the exclusive preserve of the private sector and that inves琀ng in and suppor琀ng social innova琀on can make a posi琀ve di昀erence to organisa琀ons and peoples’ lives. Finally, we’ve shown that there is an appe琀te for and energy in the VCSE sector here for a much greater role than just service delivery. The sector when enabled and supported is more than capable of grappling with and developing and trying new ideas to engage ci琀zens in a way that our poli琀cal ins琀tu琀ons have failed to do. www.buildingchangetrust.org @ChangeTrust
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Rebekah McCabe: ‘Health and social care is an issue which affects all citizens living in Northern ireland’
Citizens’ Assembly: A talking shop or an effective process for change? VIEW talks to Rebekah McCabe, senior project officer for Involve he Building Change Trust announced funding of £100,000 last January for the first Citizens’ Assembly in Northern Ireland which will see the random selection of up to 100 people from across the region to debate and vote on an issue that politicians have been unable to resolve. Rebekah McCabe, who is from County Roscommon in the Republic of Ireland, spoke to VIEW about the project. “I’m the senior project officer leading on the Citizens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland. I am employed by Involve (a UK public participation charity). “We have been extremely busy in the background, including fund-raising, to make sure that this goes ahead. We have recruited an advisory group (the governance structure).” The group is made up of Robin Wilson (researcher); Paul Nolan, (researcher); David McBurney, (NI Open Government Network); Jess Blair (Electoral Reform Society); Roslyn Fuller (Solonian Democracy Institute-Ireland); Jamie Pow, (Deputy Editor, Northern Slant); Lynn Carvill, (WOMEN’STEC); Cathy Gormley-Heenan (Ulster University) and Grainne Walsh (Stratagem). “We’re using a random sampling process to select the members of the Citizens’ Assembly. We’re trying to filter out the people you would hear from in any
other consultation. It’s truly random; any citizen could be part of it.” Rebekah said that religious sampling is built into the selection process. Quintin Oliver from the Belfast-based public affairs consultancy, Stratagem, is helping to advise those behind the plan for the Citizens’ Assembly. In an interview in January this year with Northern Slant, Mr Oliver said: “Talk of an unelected Citizens’ Assembly replacing Stormont is fanciful, but for generating new solutions to old problems you can’t beat it.” The Citizens’ Assembly will take place in the Europa Hotel, Belfast, on October 26-28 and November 17-19. Another £50,000 has been raised for the project on top of the £100,000 award from the Trust. The Open Society Foundation will also be funding the Citizens’ Assembly to the amount of US$80,000 The Citizens’ Assembly will be discussing Health and Social Care Reform. “One of the things that we’re interested in is where there is a consensus that the current situation isn’t working but there isn’t agreement about what the solution is,” said Rebekah. “That is what has happened in the case of health. The report from the Citizens’ Assembly will go to a number of decision makers, including directors in the
health and social care service.” People from different socio-economic backgrounds will be represented in the make-up of the Citizens’ Assembly. The lead facilitators at the event will be from Involve. Rebekah was asked is the Citizens’ Assembly just a talking shop? “The Citizens’ Assembly will give a clear, unequivocal statement of what the public supports on an issue that is frankly too important to be caught up in politics.” When it was pointed out that the Citizens’ Assembly can’t say what the public thinks, Rebekah clarified it by saying that it would be a ‘representative sample’ of what the public thinks.” “We will be doing work with politicians here to bring them onboard with this. This is potentially doing them a massive favour by taking a really hot issue out of their hands.” Rebekah was asked has the Building Change Trust spent its money wisely by supporting the Citizens’ Assembly being set up? “Yes, because, potentially. this could have a huge impact. When we get people in the room, I don’t think the issue of health and social care will be split along sectarian lines. These bread and butter issues are not Orange or Green. This is an issue which concerns all citizens living here.”
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A positive force for innovative thinking Professor John Barry, from Queen’s University, says the Building Change Trust has contributed to the evolution of post-Agreement democratic politics through it acting as a knowledge broker he Building Change Trust has been, in its relatively short time since being created 10 years ago, a constant feature of my educational and political experience here in Northern Ireland. My experience of the Trust has been limited to some of the many public workshops, conferences and events it ran in Belfast over a number of years. The Trust often, in my view, performed the function of an activist ‘think and do tank’, along the lines of UK-based organisations such as The New Economics Foundation. What marked these BCT events was the non-academic, community and policy community speakers and activists that were often invited, bringing fresh ideas and perspectives to Northern Ireland. These events, at which I sometimes was a speaker, ranged in topics from ‘Re-imaging Democracy’ in 2017 which included putting ‘democracy on trial’ to tax justice, deliberative democracy in Northern Ireland and Participatory Budgeting. The Trust thus acted as a network for Northern Irish change makers, activists, political parties, policy makers, the community and voluntary sector and the academic community. While this network was often the ‘usual suspects’ and sometimes lacked a diversity – not least in terms of workingclass voices (but this is a widespread issue) – it did perform a vital function in creating a space and links both between like-minded individuals and simply bringing people together who may have never met otherwise. And it certainly fulfilled one of its
While this network was often the ‘usual suspects’ and sometime lacked a diversity – not least in terms of working class voices – it did perform a vital function
main objectives of building capacity within the community and voluntary sector in Northern Ireland. The NI Open Government Network was another Trust initiative, enabling Northern Ireland to join the growing global movement for more transparent and accountable government here and joining local initiatives such as Friends of Earth’s ‘Who pulls the strings?’ campaign asking why NI political parties are exempt from declaring who funds them. This initiative also explored how the era of ‘big data’ can empower citizens and increase citizen trust in government decision-making. Finally, and rather appropriately perhaps given the more than 20 months we have lacked local devolved government, the Trust has also demonstrated some leadership and innovation in proposing the establishment of a Citizens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland something which has already demonstrated its value in the Republic of Ireland, and an idea also championed by the Green Party in Northern Ireland. The Building Change Trust has seeded ideas, helped promote innovative democratic ideas and more active forms of citizenship and deliberative forms of policy-making. As such it has contributed to the evolution of our post-Agreement democratic politics through it acting as a knowledge broker and establishing a high quality ‘marketplace of ideas’. And for that, all of us here in Northern Ireland should be grateful.
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Charities are not about sustaining your empire. If somebody else is doing better work then perhaps you should think about collaborating with them in the best interests of your charity LOOKING BACK:Bill Osborne, chair of the Building Change Trust, talks to VIEW editor Brian Pelan Question: What where the strengths of the Trust?
Bank? This was subsequently reduced to £1 million
Answer: Its first key strength was that it was totally independent. It had a preset tenure of 10 years. It had money upfront and it had some direction given to it by the Big Lottery. The board of the Building Change Trust had the freedom to look at emerging themes through a process of consultation with the VCSE sector.
A: As part of the process of setting up the Trust as I understand it, there was a business plan made to the Big Lottery. I was not part of it as I was appointed as chair after the Trust was set up. The business plan had looked at something that Big Lottery Fund had asked for in terms of what would be a legacy for the fund in 10 years time. One of the areas that they worked with Charity Bank was that the legacy would be the establishment of Charity Bank who were very embryonic in Northern Ireland Thus if you invested £2 million at that time you would have a legacy of a new form of finance in perpetuity of the Trust’s life.
Q: What were the weaknesses of the Trust over the 10-year period of its existence? A: The weaknesses in the model was that it was new and that it took a while for the board members to come to terms with that. It took even longer to try and explain the work of the Trust to the community/voluntary sector. We were not a grant maker but there was an expectation that we were going to fund the needs of the sector rather than challenge the sector and the State to look at doing things differently. Q: How did the situation come about whereby £2 million of the Trust’s fund was to go Charity
Q: Why was the £2 million reduced to £1 million? A: When I was appointed as chair I raised the issue with the Trust’s protector Michael Wilson about why it had to be £2 million which was a fifth of the £10 million fund. It was also a large amount of our investment. The question that I posed to the board, and Michael supported me, is this the best way to make a financial invest-
ment in social investment? We then reduced it to £1 million. We still had another £1 million so hence the investment in cooperatives and investment in the Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) loan fund Q: Did Charity Bank lend enough out? A: Probably not. If you’re looking for weaknesses that was one of the areas where there was a good intent but a weakness. However, in saying that, the Charity Bank did attract more money into its deposits. Q: Have you had a better or different relationship with UCIT than Charity Bank? A: Charity Bank and UCIT are slightly different. The preferred model that I would have looked at would have been on a collaborative basis because Northern Ireland is a very small place. We would have liked to have seen Charity Bank and UCIT coming closer together. Q: Was too much emphasis put on social innovation/social
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At the helm: Bill Osborne, chair of the Building Change Trust in Northern Ireland finance/collaboration to the detriment of civic activism? A: In the early days of the Trust, we did do some funding around the whole issue of volunteering and helping Volunteer Now with their merger. We also took our time in looking at civic activism. Towards the end of the Trust we have done some timely work around civic activism given the current hiatus in Northern Ireland. We’re now in the right space on the question of supporting civic activism. Could we have done this type of work earlier? Possibly. Q: One of the aims of collaboration/social innovation was to get the private sector to work better with the VCSE sector. Do they share the same aims? A: If you are talking about shareholder profit then definitely not. A charity, whether it is a social enterprise or a community body, is not about unrelenting growth. But the more you can encourage the private sector to be considerate of the society in which it lives in, then the better. Many firms have social responsibility built into them. The private
sector has a role to play Q: How did you feel about the Collaboration NI project, which the Trust funded, coming to an end in 2016? A: I suppose there is a sadness about that but again I would temper that by saying that the work we did over the 10 years has left a legacy in the sense that when we came into the arena, collaboration was a dirty word. Some people just thought that we were doing the government’s business. Charities are not about sustaining your empire. If somebody else is doing better work then perhaps you should think about collaborating with them in the best interests of your charity. Q: Does the VCS sector here have enough independence? A: All the evidence would show in the UK that there is a self-censoring atmosphere the more you become contract driven. I think that part of the Trust is to be that contrary voice or to encourage contrariness. Charities have to be contrary because you are dealing with people who are marginalised. The independence in the
community/voluntary sector in Northern Ireland is in a weaker state. Q: What are you most proudest off during your role as the chair of the Trust? A: Part of the success of the Trust was to bring diverse groups together over the 10 years who may never have met to share their experiences. We don’t know the ripple effect that this might have. Q: What would you do differently if you had another 10 years with another £10m? A: The model that we had was good because it was time limited. If we had another 10 years I would want a similar type model that was also independent. Q: What would you like the legacy of the Trust to be? A: A legacy is made by the people who write the stories after you. I have to use the biblical analogy of Christ who lived his life but who didn’t write the story. The storytellers will have the legacy of writing the story of the Building Change Trust.
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The Building Change Trust was ahead of the times in terms of the work it carried out Denise Hayward: “The big challenge at the moment is a demographic shift. Younger people are still volunteering but many older people are not
VIEW talks to Denise Hayward, Chief Executive of Volunteer Now collaborative process between the then Volunteer Development Agency (now Volunteer Now), Community Foundation of Northern Ireland, Rural Community Network, Business in the Community and Community Evaluation NI led to the setting up of the Building Change Trust. VIEW talked to Denise Hayward, Chief Executive of Volunteer Now about the support her organisation received from the Trust. “A piece of work was created when the Building Change Trust was first set up,” said Denise. “It ran from January 2009 to December 2011. It covered asset mapping and looking at where volunteering was low and also doing some focused pieces of work. “There was also some initial work around time banking. We were fortunate to be able to build on that work which led to us receiving a grant from Atlantic Philanthropies to do some more work on time banking. “There was also directly funded work for Investing in Volunteers which is the UK quality standard organisation for good practice in volunteer management.” Denise was asked if the funding from the Trust had helped people to volunteer in their communities to bring about
positive change. “Yes. Because with the first tranche of money from the Trust we were able to invest that in our website which is regional in its nature. We are able to put volunteering opportunities on our website which the public can find. There is a direct link between the Trust’s aims of wanting people to participate and our website assisting people to volunteer. “In fact, we’re applying to the Trust again, as part of their legacy, for upgrade money to do some more work on our website. The big challenge at the moment is a demographic shift.Younger people are still volunteering but many older people are not. “People are now working longer and are not retiring in the way that they once did. They also look after grandchildren and take part in family care. And people who do have disposable income are travelling more.They now have choices in a way they didn’t have 20 years ago. “Volunteering is now competing in the leisure space. The decline in faith has also had an impact.” Denise was asked how Volunteer Now would be impacted as the Building Change Trust winds down. “We won’t find it easy to get funding around new ideas that the Trust provided. “We also had another cut this year in
terms of the funding provided to us from the Department of Communities. “The absence of the Trust will have an impact on the voluntary sector.” Denise was asked to outline, in her view, the main strengths of the work of the Building Change Trust. “Its main strength was thinking outside the box. ‘It tried to look at new ways of doing things and pushed the agenda for the voluntary sector. “The Trust tried to get organisations to think about the question of independence. They provided a creative space. Those questions are very important.” In terms of any perceived weaknesses in the work of the Trust, Denise said: “Because it was a small organisation in terms of staff numbers, they were not always able to deliver on their ambitions for the sector. “But in many ways, the Building Change Trust was ahead of the times in terms of the work that it carried out.” Denise concluded the interview by saying how difficult it had been for Volunteer Now in terms of the effects of austerity. “When we merged in 2010 we had 71 staff. We have 39 now. And our budget has been reduced from around £4 million to £1.2 million.You now have to do more for less.”
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COMMENT Vital need to embed work of Building Change Trust As Northern Ireland’s first Citizens’ Assembly is set up, the chair of the Community Relations Council, Peter Osborne, argues that we need to involve ordinary people in decision-making s others manage the fall-out from the failure of politics in Northern Ireland, there are some who would do well to remember what the non-violent Gandhi and more recently author EA Bucchianeri said. Gandhi taught that the best way to find yourself is in the service of others. Because that should be what those in government should aspire to do rather than serve individual or sectional interest. Bucchianeri’s most famous quotation tells us that: “There are times when wisdom cannot be found in the chambers of parliament or the halls of academia but at the unpretentious setting of the kitchen table.” Because the conversations of citizens at home is often as informed as conversations elsewhere and not distorted by party political calculation. Democracy is strengthened with more deliberation, informing and involving citizens in decisions that affect them. Democracy is strengthened with evidence-based policy development. Democracy is strengthened when government trusts people, and people can trust a government that serves them because it is open, transparent and working genuinely for the wider civic interest. I visited the citizens’ assembly in Dublin a couple of years ago and heard they had interest about their work from all over the world, yet not a single query from 50 miles away, north of Dundalk, before our contact. The Irish citizens’ assembly, and its pre-runner the constitutional convention, have tackled many politically sensitive issues in Ireland. They have been massively successful. Whether same-sex marriage, abortion or environmental protection they didn’t just find answers that changed laws and constitutions, but the process itself strengthened democracy. While integrated into the political system through the Dail and Taoiseach’s office, and using ordinary citizens to make recommendations based on evidence, the convention and citizens’ assembly have been world leading and world learning processes. Great credit should go to those in government that took the risk, to the
Gandhi taught that the best way to find yourself is in the service of others
secretariat and workers, to all political parties that engaged and, especially, to the citizens who took part. Some of the principles behind strengthening democracy used by the convention and citizens assembly have been used by Building Change Trust:
• Understanding that democracy is so much more than people elected to be representatives, and so much better for it. • Understanding the benefits of involving citizens well and often, trusting people to be able to pursue evidencebased policy beyond the prism of party political interest. • Understanding that strengthening deliberative processes benefits everyone and requires tools to be available for use by those who seek the benefit. • Understanding that civil society is the driver of change, which politics will inevitably follow. Building Change Trust supported the development of deliberative toolkits; it supported eight civic activism projects that, amongst other things, pioneered deliberative polling on what sort of education parents wanted for children in three areas; it championed the introduction of participatory budgeting initiatives where – wait for it – people that pay rates and taxes have a direct say in what their money is used for; it helped establish the Open Government Network that gained the first open government commitments and is supporting the running of a first Citizens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland because no one else will. Embedding these processes is critical. The tools are available; people understand the benefits of making better policy. What is needed now is an imperative to embed the deliberative processes – it’s hard not to think of a better imperative than the dreadful stasis in Northern Ireland currently. Those wise people sitting around their kitchen tables reading this know what to do on issues like same-sex marriage, abortion reform, poverty, culture and language. They need to be asked; they need to be brought in to the decisionmaking process so that they can help drive the change. • Peter Osborne was the first Big Lottery nominee to the Trust Board. And his consultancy Rubicon Consulting is carrying out the evaluation of our Creative Space for Civic Thinking work.
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COMMENT Lessons we can draw from Building Change Trust Dr Peter Doran, from the School of Law at Queen’s University, argues that there is a need to protect and build upon the legacy of the work that the Building Change Trust started n the 10 years of the Trust’s operation, the post-crash Anglo-liberal economic model has been characterised by an acceleration of ‘disciplinary neoliberalism’. This presents two faces of power: at the macro and transnational level, it is associated with the structural power of capital to impose discipline on public institutions and to make governments accountable to markets. At the micro/local level, it operates as a form of behaviour control through which individuals are subject to the disciplines of the market place. The community and voluntary sector and social enterprise movement are – potentially – a key intellectual and practical arbiter of how our people and communities come to reflect and collaborate on the forces that now bear down on the market-state. The onus on the sectors to understand and navigate global trends – progressive and otherwise – is heightened by the institutionalised gridlock in the Northern Ireland Executive, which neutralises capacity for ideational innovation. What marks the Trust’s contribution is the way in which the organisation stood at a number of important thresholds: • The threshold between emerging social movements on open governance, deliberative democracy and a resurgent network of networks engaged in bids to re-embed economy within the values and imperatives of social justice and our largely professionalized, pacified community and voluntary sector; • The threshold between our own peculiar post-conflict mise en scene where politicians cultivate a comforting narrative of exceptionalism and the depth of urgent global challenges to the role of civil society and social economy activists to take an intellectual and practical lead (rather than follow), in the face of a rapid transformation in the nature of the State. The ambition of the Trust’s vision of a ‘strong, independent and innovative community, voluntary and social enterprise sector’ was underlined by an important piece of research on the compromised independence of the community and voluntary sector, conducted by Ulster University. In contrast, pockets of
We are witnessing a new wave of countermovements and forms of resistance to the neoliberalisation of the state
Generation ‘platform’ and Oxfam. At the heart of the report is a timely call for ‘systems thinking’ and a recognition that ‘to have impact at scale within complex systems requires simultaneous support to multiple and interconnected innovations.’ At its most profound, a systemsbased approach demands that funders look again at ‘system health’ and commit to push back against the toxic disciplinary impact of intense competition for funding: the internalisation of ‘scarcity’ as the departure point for too many of our interventions, resulting in fragmentation and co-option. • Social Economy: We are witnessing a new wave of counter-movements and forms of resistance to the neoliberalisation of the state. New commons-based forms of deeply relational organisation are beginning to experiment with a return to economies of solidarity, sustainability and openness. Conclusion and recommendations The lessons we can draw from the Trust: 1. The need to engage with and invest more in movement building;
the community and voluntary sector across the UK and the rest of Europe are beginning to reflect more critically on their ‘own actions, objectives and activities’ and how these risk reproducing ‘certain ideological, normative and political stances.’ (Ulster University, 2016, 28) The Trust’s legacy includes pioneering contributions on: • Democracy: Serving as a key deliberative pre-cursor for a hybridization of devolved democratic decision-making (blending deliberative and representative forms) the Citizens’ Assembly can act as an important corrective for the acute vulnerabilities of the current arrangements in the ‘empowered space’ (Executive and Assembly) to ‘clientelism’ and ‘pillarization,’ as evidenced by the RHI scandal. • Social Innovation: An initial contribution by the Trust came in the form of its report on Social Innovation Ecosystems, informed by the work of Canada’s Social Innovation
2. Locating the urgent task of building our social enterprise and social investment sector within a rigorous shared and critical understanding of the political economic forces bearing down on our communities, workplaces and ‘empowered political spaces’ (the Executive and Assembly); 3. Overcoming the binary politics of opposing deliberative democratic experiments and the existing institutions under the Belfast Good Friday Agreement; 4. A more nuanced critique, based on a dynamic appreciation of the post-conflict institutions as a complex adaptive system operating on and demanding civic interventions at multiple scales (local, regional, bi-national, and global), will provide a firmer footing for the Citizens’ Assembly and associated innovations.
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It will be a real loss when the Building Change Trust has gone Brian Pelan talks to Kate Clifford, right, Director of the Rural Community Network uestion: The Rural Community Network (RCN) was established in 1991 to give a voice to rural communities in Northern Ireland on issues such as poverty, disadvantage and equality. How successful have you been in tackling those areas?
Answer: Our community development approach has been very much about supporting groups on the ground and to articulate their needs at a government level. I think we have been hugely successful in regard to that role. Often we are a lone voice in reminding government that there is a rural constituency. We are hugely under-resourced and we have seen significant cuts to our budget. Also, welfare reform has actively created hardship for many people. Have we won the battle against poverty and deprivation? No, we haven’t. But are we there shouting and screaming for rights for rural communities? Yes, we are. Q: Why did the RCN decide to become involved in the tender to set up the Building Change Trust in 2008? A: I’m not sure as that was before my time. I took up my post as director in 2013. Q: How would you define your relationship with the Trust since you took up your position? A: It has been hugely positive. They have been an agency that we have been able to go to with our frustrations at the way that practice has panned out across the community/voluntary sector Q: Was the £10 million wisely spent? A: I think it was the first money ever that
came to the sector which enabled us to begin to pursue goals around civic participation. It also supported innovative practice for the first time in a very long period. Q: In your view did the funding from the Trust for the Charity Bank and Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) assist deprived rural communities? A: Without a shadow of doubt when it came to the work of UCIT. I am not as aware of Charity Bank. I know that UCIT has been a significant funder of small rural communities which has been welcomed by us. Q: What were the highlights of the work carried out by the Trust? A: The Trust’s work on Shaping the Future for the Community/Voluntary sector in Northern Ireland in tandem with Ulster University was hugely important along with its belief in civic participation, which involved ordinary people being involved in policy making. This was a new way of working. Another thing that came from the Trust was academic rigour. It did the research and then it brought these ideas to the sector to work on. In 10 years time, we will see the legacy of that approach. Q: Can you identify any weaknesses in the work of the Trust? A:I think, unfortunately, it hasn’t reached deep enough and far enough. Potentially it could have reached further across Northern Ireland. That was probably a resource issue as the Trust only had a small team. Q: Is there a big gap now in community development–
collaboration projects as the Trust comes to an end? A: There is a gap. There is a real need for this sort of catalyst organisation that shakes the sector up to look at itself – internally and externally. The Trust was that catalyst. I think it will be a real loss when it’s gone. Q: Where are the main areas of funding now for Rural Community Network projects? A: This is our real difficulty. We’re a charity but we’re expected to work like a business. We’re unable to do strategic planning for the future because we are working on an annual budget for the last four years which is announced on March 30 every year at 3pm. We’re then told what our budget will be for the following year. We’ve gone done from 35 staff to six staff (three full time and three part-time) since I took over. Q: Is the absence of an Assembly in Northern Ireland a big problem for the VCSE sector? A: It is because civil servants can’t make decisions and we can’t have a review of our annual budget. What we need is an effective government. What we have at the moment is a vacuum. Q: What are your main concerns regarding Brexit? There is nobody at the moment having a conversation about what is going to happen to rural regions post-Brexit. People talk about the border but they’re not talking about border regions and border populations. We’re not talking about the peace process and the gains made over the years.
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I think you have to be able to answer the question: Have you made a difference? VIEW talks to Seamus McAleavey, left, Chief Executive of the Northern Ireland Community Voluntary Association (NICVA), about the impact of the Building Change Trust and the work of Collaboration NI partnership uestion: Has the Building Change Trust helped to change the nature and thinking of the Voluntary/Community/Social Enterprise sector over the last 10 years?
A: I think it’s been a really good initiative. It was trying to make a stab at making a major impact over 10 years. One of the big complaints was trying to do things on a hand and mouth basis. This was visionary with a lot of good themes within it. We’ve engaged with a variety of them. It arrived at the right time with the recession kicking in. Q: Did NICVA bid for the Big Lottery NI tender which led to the Trust being set up? Yes, we did bid for the tender to set up the charitable trust. Q: Where you disappointed to lose it? A: Naturally, we were disappointed to lose it.
Q: What were the main strategic aims of Collaboration NI (one of the areas of work supported by the Trust) and did it work? A: In 2008 with the recession kicking in we realised that this was bad compared to the ups and downs we were likely to experience at any given time. We knew that income to the voluntary/community sector was going to get cut back. This would hit all our sources from the public and private sector. We were trying to help organisations to prepare for that and collaborate much more. We got a lot of collaboration going but there is still a long way to go. Q: The aim of Collaboration NI, which was comprised of NICVA, CO3 and Stellar Leadership,was to “deliver better outcomes through high quality, professional services”. Can you demonstrate how an outcomes-led approach has improved the lives of people in disadvantaged communities? A: In our case, in terms of the
collaboration work, it was about helping groups of organisations to focus better on their beneficiaries and what they were trying to do. If you look at the area of advice, which was really important during a recession, the demand for advice goes up as resource availability goes down. So we did quite a bit of collaborative work with the main advice organisations – Advice NI, the Law Centre and Citizens Advice. We provided the professional help. It was about making the best use of all the available resources for people who were disadvantaged. Q: Academic Toby Lowe (from Newcastle University) argues that there is a spectrum of Outcomes Based Performance Management of hard and soft approaches. The hard end is payment by results. The soft end is where groups will be monitored on a performance basis but ultimately that leads to a hard outcome approach. What’s your opinion? A: We didn’t get hung up on an Outcomes Based Accountability (OBA) approach. (a
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particular model pioneered by Mark Friedman). But we would definitely support an outcomes-based approach. We think that people who are involved in the voluntary/community organisations are about trying to change the world – it’s the outcome you’re trying to achieve. We found that there was far too much time spent on the approaches rather than what it was you were trying to achieve. I also think you have to be able to answer the question: Have you made a difference? Q: Can a small voluntary organisation work more effectively at producing outcomes than big private providers such as Serco, Capita and G4S? A: I think there is no doubt about that. Smaller organisations, focused on what they’re trying to achieve, can produce better outcomes. Q: Do collaboration projects
ultimately lead to greater private sector involvement in areas such as health?
Has the work of the partnership continued on a formal or informal basis?
A: The positive outcome is the actual beneficial change you make in people’s health, particularly in areas of disadvantage. I don’t see big private sector health organisations as being any better at achieving that outcome than public sector health organisations.
A: The work between us, Stellar Leadership and CO3 has been parked.We don’t have the staff now that we had during the Collaboration NI project. The ending of the project has had an impact. Once the money goes you are not able to do the things you once did.
Q: Can an outcomes-based approach work in a climate of budget cuts?
Q: What were the key strengths of the Building Change Trust?
A: Potentially I think it could work in any climate. I wish that there was more money available but if there isn’t what are you going to do? I would say that you should focus on the outcome no matter what. Q: The overall investment from the Trust for Collaboration NI was £1.36m. I’m aware that Collaboration NI ended in 2016.
A: I think that its key strength was being strategic. I also think that it was very far-sighted of Big Lottery NI to set it up. Q: What were the weaknesses of the Trust? A: It probably took a few years to get reasonable traction. It also took a couple of years for the five organisations who formed the Trust to make it work.
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
Funding aimed at research into wind farms was hugely significant
Capacity: Lauri McCusker
Lauri McCusker, Director of The Fermanagh Trust, talks to VIEW about a range of issues, including the impact of the Building Change Trust, Brexit and the absence of an Assembly
Question: The Fermanagh Trust was established to “improve the conditions of life for the people in County Fermanagh and the immediate hinterland”. How successful have you been in tackling those issues? Answer: We’ve done some good work over the last 24 years. We’ve empowered a lot of people to make a difference in their communities and make Fermanagh a better place. Q: How many jobs have the Fermanagh Trust created? A: Our focus is on community development, not job creation. We have empowered a number of social enterprises. Q: In your opinion was the £10 million wisely spent? A: I’m not sure. The Building Change Trust has done very important work in areas such as collaboration and social innovation. They’ve also shone a light on the challenges within the community/voluntary/social enterprise sector. Have they steered a path which has led to a huge amount of innovation? I’m not so sure about that. I think it was a weighty challenge that they set themselves as an organisation. I’m also not sure that the model of a spend down organisation was the best model. I also don’t have enough insight into the results to say that it has been well spent. Q: How much of the Trust’s funding initiatives, directly or indirectly, aided the work of the Fermanagh Trust? A: We got two grants. The first grant was the most important one because it helped us to do a specific piece of research on the relationship between wind
farms and local communities. We were interested in the relationship between these huge private sector initiatives and the people around them in rural communities. The Building Change Trust gave us the capacity to look at the relationship. The research grant we got enabled us to produce a report. The outcome of that has been hugely significant. Resources that were not going into rural communities in Northern Ireland are now going into rural communities.
have liked to have seen those organisations, which were working together to encourage collaboration, I would have liked to have seen them collaborate much further. I don’t see evidence of that today. It’s also interesting in itself that Collaboration NI doesn’t exist any more. Where is the legacy of this work?
Q: Did the Trust’s support for the Charity Bank and the Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) help deprived rural communities?
A: I’m not sure whether the gap is always about money or is that gap about the learnings and transferring the knowledge.
A: I think they are helping. I don’t have the detail to what extent they are helping. Q: How much knowledge was there on a local level in Fermanagh of the work of the Trust? A: I’d say there was a knowledge within some sections of the community/voluntary sector. The community/voluntary sector in Fermanagh is very different from the professional set up in Belfast. We’re talking about volunteers who give up their time. It’s not a large elite, professional environment here Q: Did you identify any weaknesses in the work of the Trust? A:The work of the Trust in collaboration was interesting. They resourced a number of organisations to lead on it. (Collaboration NI which comprised NICVA, CO3 and Stellar Leadership). I just wonder was that a good model of collaboration or not? If you’re developing or supporting a partnership to lead on collaboration then that partnership should probably be a model of best practice. I would
Q: Is there a big gap now in community development and collaboration projects as the Trust is coming to an end?
Q: Where are the main areas of funding for the Fermanagh Trust? A: We have a model that is based around three areas of activity. 1; We receive gifts or donations. 2; We have a very successful social enterprise in Fermanagh House which is operating at nearly full capacity. 3; We tap into some grant monies through partnership working. Q: Is the absence of an Assembly a big problem. A: Overall it has had a significant impact in Northern Ireland. Q: What are your main concerns regarding Brexit. A: People are in Portlaoise Prison today because they have espoused republican ideas. That’s in 2018. These people believed that what they were doing would advance, in their minds, a united Ireland. They believe that they are carrying the torch. They had absolutely no justification or reason for doing whatever they did to end up in jail. Throw Brexit into that, throw a hard border into that. This is Ireland with its 800 years of history. I would have a significant concern about a return to violence.
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
It is a way for citizens to have a direct say in how public funds are used to address local needs
Collaborative: Dr Louise O’Kane
he Participatory Budgeting Works Project is a collaborative effort to raise awareness of and advocate for Participatory Budgeting (PB) across the region. The project is coordinated by Community Places and includes a range of organisations from the public, community and voluntary sector working together to create an enabling and supportive environment for Participatory Budgeting. Participatory Budgeting can be described as “Local People deciding how to allocate part of a public budget.” It is a way for citizens to have a direct say in how public funds are used to address local needs. Originating in the city of Porto Alegre, Brazil, in 1989 it is now recognised worldwide and is practised in over 3,000 cities. PB is much more than just deciding how resources are allocated. It provides opportunities to engage in non-traditional ways that reach out to people who don’t often have a voice and it can become a celebration of positive action in the community. The Participatory Budgeting Works Project is delighted to announce that we will be working with and providing support to: • Rathlin Development and Community Association • Newry, Mourne and Down District Council and Community Planning Partners • Parent Action CIC, Downpatrick. The support will be tailored to each
Dr Louise O’Kane, Planner and Engagement Officer at Community Places, explains the thinking behind the Participatory Budgeting project in Northern Ireland which was funded by the Building Change Trust project to facilitate the planning and implementation of their PB grant-making processes. This will result in practical examples of PB on the ground with opportunities for local people to get involved in shaping and having a say on how resources are allocated in their areas. Each of the projects is excited to be involved and are embracing the challenge. On Rathlin, islanders can join in with the ‘Grugach’s Gold’ by pitching or voting for an idea that will allocate resources from the Rathlin Manor House, the community’s social enterprise guest house and restaurant. PB is an ideal method to return the benefit directly to the community. This way islanders will decide together how it is used and get stuck into delivering whatever projects are voted through. ‘Communities leading change’ will be the focus in Newry Mourne and Down. Two PB events are planned. The first event will be based in the Mournes District Electoral Area and will seek ideas in relation to Rural Isolation, Health and Wellbeing, and Improving the area. The second event will be district-wide with a focus on improving the lives of younger people. Parent Action will focus on ‘Getting our voices heard’ where parents of children, young people and adults with disabilities and long-term health conditions will collaborate with public service staff to explore how public budgets are spent.
Our support partners are PB Partners and The Democratic Society. Each project will deliver the PB processes by the end of November 2018. Participants will capture and share learning from their PB projects to inform and encourage further PB practice across the region. More information on each of the PB projects will be available as they progress on the PB Works website. PB Works will also be providing support to a number of other organisations to help with their initial developmental plans for a PB process. This includes: Fermanagh and Omagh District Council; Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council; Newington Housing Association and Forward South Partnership. • If you are interested in contributing your ideas, learning and enthusiasm to advancing PB across the region join the PB Works Network via the website. PB Works is funded by the Big Lottery Fund through The Building Change Trust. • If you would like to find out more about the PB Works Project visit our website www.participatorybudgetingworks.org or contact Dr Louise O’Kane email@example.com
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
We had a direct impact through a number of collaboration projects
Challenge: Nora Smith
Nora Smith, Chief Executive of CO3, talks to VIEW about the work of Collaboration NI which was funded by the Building Change Trust Q: Has the Building Change Trust helped to change the nature and thinking of the Voluntary/Community/Social Enterprise (VCSE) sector over the last 10 years? A:Yes is the short answer. I have been in this post for about four and a half years. During that time I’ve developed a strong working relationship with the Trust. We’ve been involved in the Collaboration NI and Inspiring Impact programmes. We’ve also attended many of the Trust’s conferences and events. They really led the way in the whole area of social impact. I also think they played a central leadership role in putting impact practice on the map. The Citizens Assembly which they have recently set up has the potential to be a game-changer in relation to democracy, given the political situation that we find ourselves in now. Q: Did the Trust’s work have an impact on disadvantaged communities in Northern Ireland? A: The work of Collaboration NI, which I think was another key piece of work that the Trust focused on, did directly impact on people in disadvantaged areas. One such example was MIDAS (Mid Ulster Advice Service) It was able to offer enhanced advice services. We did have a direct impact through a number of collaboration projects. The impact on the ground isn’t necessarily felt immediately. It takes time.
What you are doing is offering infrastructure support to organisations. Q: The Collaboration NI project formally ended in 2016. Are you still informally meeting with the other two partners NICVA and Stellar leadership?
by cuts in the VCSE sector? A: We operate as a social enterprise model. In the past, we lost close to 75 per cent of our core funding. Most of our income now is raised by ourselves, including membership, training and our conference and awards events.
A: No. We did talk about furthering the collaboration process but the three partners weren’t in agreement that it should continue. But separately, as organisations, we have been doing what we can. It’s such a shame that Collaboration NI closed its doors whenever it did. Because the environment that we are all working and leading in now has changed dramatically. Some of the members of CO3 are being affected by death by a thousand cuts and they are looking for partnership working and partnership opportunities. I was disappointed that Collaboration NI had to close its doors.
Q: Where there any weaknesses in the Trust’s approach and delivery to the VCSE sector?
Q: A lot of Collaboration NI’s work was about outcomes. Can an outcomes-based approach work in a climate of budget cuts?
Q: Have you any final thoughts?
A:Yes is the short answer. I can see the impact that our members are having on the people that they are representing, The work they are doing on the ground does have an impact, but it is really challenging. Q: Has C03's work being affected
A: I think there was a missed opportunity to focus more on leadership. I think when you talk to anybody within or outside the sector that they will recognise the investment that is needed in leadership development and support. We have worked very closely with the Trust and I’m very grateful for that opportunity. However, the opportunity to have delved deeper into leadership was something that we would have revelled in.
A: Everybody recognises from the people that we talk to in the Third Sector or the public sector that leadership development and support is needed. But access to leadership development from funders is really restricted. What I loved from the Trust was that it felt that they were a step ahead in their thinking when it came to Collaboration NI, social innovation and the Inspiring Impact programme.
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
COMMENT Peace needs to be built from the bottom up John Brewer, Professor of Post-Conflict Studies at Queen’s University, argues that one of the problems for Northern Ireland is that large parts of civil society remain divided rofessional observers of peace processes have begun over the last 10 years or so to refer to what they call the ‘local turn in peacebuilding’. This is roughly the same period in which the Building Change Trust has been active in Northern Ireland as an excellent exemplar of the local turn. Arising from dissatisfaction with topdown approaches to peacebuilding – and indeed, their abject failure in some notorious cases in the Balkans and in Africa – the United Nations, humanitarian aid agencies and academic observers recognised the need to empower local agents for change and to use local knowledge to shape what local needs were. Off-the-shelf blue-prints from above were replaced by local empowerment projects. The Building Change Trust has funded and endorsed many such projects as people in Northern Ireland emerged out of conflict and learned to live together in tolerance and respect. This approach had its precursor a generation or so before, in the recognition accorded to the critical role of civil society and the voluntary sector in supporting and enhancing peacebuilding. Civil society was promoted as the conduit between the grassroots and the state, often performing key roles in service delivery where the state was weak, as well as in information exchange between important stakeholders and constituencies. Again, the Building Change Trust exemplified well this buffer role. The wider point that lies behind the emphasis on civil society and the local turn is the realisation that peace processes are too important to be left to politicians and to professionals. Ordinary people need to become their own peacebuilders, and to be empowered and upskilled to take back control of the peace process from politicians and professionals. A problem for Northern Ireland is that large parts of civil society remain divided, being appropriated by large political groupings so that they offer no critique and do not act as a conduit between the grassroots and the state. Those sections of civil society that do
The Building Change Trust was one of a small number of bodies offering a lifeline and an escape for voluntary groups from the burden of chasing money
perform this role are mostly hugely under-funded. They attract little media attention, have no major supporters and public profile, and suffer from the constant pressure of scratching around between one funding scheme and another. Some of the most important work being done in civil society and by the voluntary sector is seriously under-funded and the chase after money risks becoming an end in itself to dissipate the importance of their work. The Building Change Trust was one of a small number of bodies offering a lifeline and an escape for voluntary groups from the burden of chasing money. As these bodies go – including those connected to the EU – the burden and the risks increase to the detriment of local peacebuilding. Let me suggest that one solution to this is the notion of everyday life peacebuilding that focuses instead on the grassroots rather than civil society, although it still epitomises the local turn. Everyday life peacebuilding argues that peacebuilding skills are not the monopoly of trained practitioners and professionals. Ordinary men and women have the capacity to build peace in those ordinary everyday settings they find themselves in at school, work, in the supermarket, in church, leisure pursuits, over the garden fence and the like. They can do so by showing small gestures of tolerance, respect for diversity, and by displaying forgiveness and hope; by calling out hate speech, by refusing to demonise and condemn, by refusing to stereotype and hate. A handshake, a brief word of condolence or acknowledgement, or whatever, are as much forms of peacebuilding as the off-the-shelf blueprint. The Building Change Trust showed that peace needed to be built from the bottom up. Everyday life peacebuilding suggests that we all possess the skills and competencies to be peace-builders in the everyday settings in which we find ourselves. The issue thus becomes whether we want peace enough to change ourselves sufficiently to become our own peace-builders.
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
Glen Mehn who was former Managing Director of Social Innovation Camp
Social innovation is like throwing a pebble into a pond. Ripples spread out and you don’t know whether they will be big or small VIEW talks to Glen Mehn who helped to run Social Innovation Camp which was funded by the Building Change Trust n 2013 the Building Change Trust provided grant aid to a London based specialist not-for-profit organisation SI Camp to work in Northern Ireland for the first time. According to the literature of the Trust, “SI Camp seeks to enable people to explore how new technology can be used to solve social issues and match up software developers and designers with people who know about a social problem they want to solve in a unique event called a Social Innovation Camp.” VIEW spoke to Glen Mehn who was formerly the Managing Director of Social Innovation Camp, “SI Camp was set up to try and answer the question: Why do our hospitals look the way they did in1995?; Why do our schools look the same? And how could we bring the power of technology to bear on all of our social problems – healthcare, education and the environment? “We would go into communities and talk to people who understood social problems and we’d try to get them to come up with interesting ideas on how to tackle them. We would then hold one to three-day camps where people would try to come up with interesting solutions to social problems. “We would try to create a prototype of an app or some other kind of user
technology to tackle the problem. “We would then offer a bit of support to the teams at the SI Camp. “We received about £129,000 in support from the Trust for the project which ran for around two years.” Glen was asked to describe the positive effects of social innovation. “The direct output was the building of the social innovation community in Northern Ireland. We have seen the creative abilities of younger people being used to tackle social problems. “We didn’t have that much follow up to see how our work progressed.” VIEW then asked Glen to outline any possible weaknesses in the work carried out by SI Camp in Northern Ireland. “There is always a risk about doing this type of project where it all culminates around a one-day event in Crumlin Road Gaol. Participants may be excited on the day but if follow up work is not done some people might say that social innovation doesn’t work.” We then moved to discuss wider areas such as could social innovation tackle social problems such as wage inequality “I think that wage inequality is an intractable problem.You need sensible policies such as minimum wage legislation to try and tackle it; you need public pressure on companies to address policies
such as zero hour contracts. A joined-up approach is needed. “One of the strongest criticisms of former prime minister David Cameron’s idea of the ‘Big Society’ is that it enabled lots of voluntary work, which is useful, but it was replacing paid work. “But it’s not always about money. There are things that people do on a voluntary basis that brings great benefits to society. “Social innovation was sometimes like throwing a pebble into a pond. Ripples would spread out and you were not sure whether they would be big or small.” As the interview came to an end, Glen was asked to comment on the strengths and any weaknesses of his involvement with the Building Change Trust. “The Trust team were all very committed to their work and were trying to build change. They also wanted to see the results of their work in 20 to 30 years time. That was a good approach. “In terms of ‘weaknesses’ there were a few times when things moved very slowly but it was a small Trust team. I think they had a pretty tough job because they were operating in one of the poorest environments in the United Kingdom. “I was really glad to work with the Building Change Trust.”
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
Banker: Martin McCarthy
We were prepared to be a bit radical and think outside the box and do things that other people weren’t doing
VIEW talks to Charity Bank NI manager Martin McCarthy he Building Change Trust’s involvement in social finance stems from its award of a £1 million capital grant to Charity Bank in 2010 to help develop its deposit-taking, loan making and investment readiness activity in Northern Ireland. Charity Bank is described on its website as an ‘ethical bank’ owned by and dedicated to supporting charities and social purpose organisations. It lends to charities, social enterprises and other organisations where the loan is being used for a social purpose. It made its first loans to social sector organisations from Northern Ireland in 2008. As part of this edition, I spoke to Martin McCarthy, Regional Manager NI at Charity Bank. Martin has also been on the board of the Trust since it was formed in 2008. He was nominated by Business in the Community. I started off by asking Martin to give a brief description of who he is. “I’m a lifetime banker. I joined Charity Bank this year. I’ve also had a long time involvement with the voluntary sector. I never thought I would be working for Charity Bank one day. “I was a bank manager for many years with First Trust. I took voluntary redundancy in 2016. I wondered what was I going to do next and then the
opportunity to work with Charity Bank arose. “There are three things I do in my new role. “1, I make a bit of noise and let people know I’m here. 2, I look after our customers, 3, I try to get some new ones and try to lend some money.” We moved into talking about the decision of the Trust to give a £1 million capital grant to the Charity Bank and the thinking behind it. “There was more of an understanding when we first met that the social finance piece would be handled through the Charity Bank. The Charity Bank had various relationships with the Community Foundation and that might have influenced it at the time. “We decided to spend £2 million in the social finance field but not all with Charity Bank.” In terms of the irrecoverable capital grant made to Charity Bank based on targets for deposit taking, loan making and running an investment readiness support programme in Northern Ireland for a five-year period, how did that work out, I asked Martin? “They panned out well, certainly for the bank as a whole.” Martin was asked to comment on the view at the time that enough money wasn’t loaned out.
“Yes,” he replied. “But I’m doing my best to fix that. I think that demand was part of the agenda and also competing against other banks. We were active on the ground but we didn’t find as many opportunities as we would have liked. We were more active on the deposit front than the lending front. “There was also a frustration within the Trust at the time that we couldn’t get as much interest for borrowing money as we thought we might be able to generate. People are more open now to having income generated from social enterprise and borrowing money than there was 10 years ago. The final questions to Martin were for him to give his views on the strengths and any weaknesses of the Trust “It had a couple of main strengths. Firstly, it had money upfront and didn’t have to fundraise. And secondly, the board was able to act independently of Big Lottery NI and everyone else and that we were prepared to be a bit radical and think outside the box and do things that other people weren’t doing. “It probably took us a bit longer to do things than we thought. Also, some might say that only lasting for 10 years is a weakness. I would have liked to have done work for the Building Change Trust for another 10 years but the money isn’t available now.”
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
Innovative models such as the Citizens’ Assembly can encourage people to speak up Andrew McCracken: “I think we need greater private sector/Third Sector collaboration”
VIEW put a number of questions to Andrew McCracken, Chief Executive of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, about the impact of the Building Change Trust Question: When you took over the CFNI, did you make any fundamental changes in your relationship with the Trust? Answer: I didn’t make any fundamental changes in the dance between us and them except in the mood music of wanting to see the Trust as part of the family of the CFNI and draw it into that family a bit more. The foundation is this amazingly flexible beast where we can provide space for a lot of different programmes and collaborations. Q: Catherine Cooke, who is a director of the Building Change Trust, is described on their website as being nominated by CFNI. What is her role in relation to your organisation? A: She was nominated by the Community Foundation to the board of the Trust but she is not a representative of the Foundation. We nominated her because we think she is a good advocate for community perspectives. Q: Was the relationship too close given that the Trust shared the same premises as the CFNI and two members of its team (Nigel McKinney and Paul Braithwaite) are from your organisation? A: When I started my current role, Nigel and Paul were already on a journey to make sure that the Trust was completely independent of the CFNI. The desire to
show that the Trust was independent was really important to them. Q: What was the financial benefit to CFNI from the Trust? A:We received grant funding of £240k for the Observatory Project (2009-2011), a research project on the potential impact of cuts in public expenditure to the community sector. A £9k grant for a specific bit of research into the legacy of the trust. We hosted the Trust staff with the direct Trust staff and support costs totalling £1.5 million. These were the Trust’s costs paid for through the Foundation. We also received £155k towards the costs of hosting the Trust Q: The CFNI is going to take on areas next year which were previously run by the Trust such as social and civic innovation. How much have you raised in funding. A: So far we have raised around £150,000. I would hope that in the next six months that we would have raised another few hundred thousand pounds. Q: Why do you think that it so important to keep this type of work going? A: Social innovation shows that there are creative and evolutionary ways to solve social problems. We want to build that approach into our grant-making. As regards civic innovation, we would like to see the Third Sector having a stronger and more
independent voice. Innovative models, such as the Citizens’ Assembly, can encourage people to speak up. Q: What were the key strengths of the Building Change Trust? A: It created space for thinking. The themes that it dealt with – social innovation, social finance, civic thinking and collaboration – are the more specific strengths of its legacy. Q: Do you think there were any specific weaknesses in the Building Change Trust model? A: I would have liked them to have been more challenging in terms of the uncomfortable messages that the Third Sector wants to be able to say to the public sector. Q: How do you see the future unfolding in the next 10 years in terms of the Voluntary/ Community Social Enterprise Sector? A: There is a lot to be worried about with streams of funding drying up. A more positive outlook would be more innovative forms of financing and a better focus on showing and demonstrating impact. if you’re not getting better at it you are going to die. If we can’t demonstrate an impact what is the point of getting up in the morning? I think we also need greater private sector/Third Sector collaboration.
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
Focus on outcomes is fundamental Business in the Community was one of five organisations who came together to form the Building Change Trust.VIEW editor Brian Pelan talks to Managing Director Kieran Harding, left, about the relationship met up with Kieran Harding, Managing Director with Business in the Community at Ormeau Baths in Belfast – a building where thousands of people first learnt to swim now hosts growing numbers of tech individuals and companies all eager to create the must-have app. I started off by asking Kieran to tell me a little bit about himself and the organisation he leads. “As an organisation, we exist to challenge and support companies to play a greater role in society and support local communities. We provide support to help them,” replied Kieran. “We have been more successful than any other part of the UK. Our business leaders are from here, their children go to school here, their grandchildren go to school here, they’ve been to school here.” We then moved on to discuss the Building Change Trust and the relationship between it and Business in the Community. Kieran said: “It goes back to the start when a number of organisations came together to look at changing the nature and shape of the community/voluntary sector. We were keen to say that business had a critical role to play. “Around £200,000 came to Business in the Community to carry out a number of projects through its relationship with the BCT.” We then moved on to discuss the Charity Bank and the decision of the BCT to make a £1 million irrecoverable capital grant to Charity Bank based on targets for deposit taking, loan making and running an investment readiness support programme in Northern Ireland for a five-year period. Business in the Community nominated Martin McCarthy to sit on the board as a director with the BCT.
“We didn’t go to him and say: ‘Right, you’re representing Business in the Community’. Because he wasn’t. Martin was there to represent the Building Change Trust. That’s what his task was. “I think in principle the project with the Charity Bank was a good one.” I then went on to ask Kieran did the BCT carry out genuine transformational work over its 10-year period. “We’ve seen a transformation in the way that small charities and community organisations now recognise that business is a key partner. Charities are now embracing with us more than ever. Kieran went on to praise how charities have embraced The NI Programme for Government and the Outcomes Based Accountability (OBA) model. “Community Evaluation NI (CENI) played a huge part in building the culture of measurement and evaluation. “There is now an acceptance that the charity/voluntary sector has to measure and evaluate the work that it’s doing. The sector has now embraced the OBA approach. A focus on outcomes is fundamental,” said Kieran. As our interview came to an end, my final question to Kieran was did he identify any weaknesses in the work carried out by the BCT. “It took some years for the BCT to raise awareness and help stakeholders understand its work – partly compounded by the idea that opportunities and initiatives would grow organically. I understand the reasoning for this but it can be hard for some to grasp. “In addition to the funding for the five community organisations to deliver, funding should have been made available for local groups supporting their delivery, for
example the cross-working Catalyst for Change piece. Organisations like Volunteer Now and us were viewed as ‘parachuting in’ to deliver with a significant resource. “Local groups thought the five organisations got the £10 million between them which wasn’t the case. “These groups also fed back that even a small pot of money to cover their time to engage would have been useful and may have increased engagement further. “It would be interesting to know the number and geographical location of organisations that received funding and where their beneficiaries are drawn from. “The BCT was to support the evolution and survival of the VCSE sector across NI. Has this been reflected in practice or are there areas that have missed out? If so why?” And what worked well in terms of the BCT’s work? “Engaging the business community, which is often overlooked as a community stakeholder by funders. “It was good to see beneficiaries of some of the BCT’s initiatives speaking at the Digital DNA 2018 event. BCT took a Techies in Residence platform and ran a series of speaking sessions/workshops. It helped to raised awareness of BCT’s work and the developments their funding is helping to inspire and create. “Social innovation has emerged as an approach that has potential to drive innovation and change within the sector. The BCT played a key role in this with the pioneering work it has led which continues to grow.” • Business in the Community – www.bitcni.org.uk/
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
Alliance MLA Kellie Armstrong beside a cardboard cutout of President Donald Trump at a recent NI Open Government Network event which was held at Riddel Hall in Belfast
VIEW, Issue 49, 2018
Invited speakers: Peter Osborne, chair of the Community Relations Council, left, with Professor of Social Policy Deirdre Heenan, Ulster University; journalist Sam McBride, News Letter; and Steven McCaffery from the Social Change Initiative
‘Trump on Trial’ at NI Open Government Network event he Northern Ireland Open Government Network has been one of the key initiatives of the Building Change Trust’s ‘Creative Space for Civic Thinking’ programme. The NI Open Government Network (OGN) links to wider open government initiatives through the UK and Ireland Open Government Action Plans. The OGN was established in November 2014 to provide a regional focus for both the UK and Ireland action plans going forward and to directly liaise with the then Northern Ireland Executive and departments, local government and civil society in taking forward regional commitments to more open government. Building Change Trust provided financial support to further the work of the OGN. After a tendering process, Northern Ireland Environment Link (NIEL) was appointed in July 2015 to provide secretariat support to the Network. On September 13 this year, the OGN held a ‘Transparency for Accountability event at Riddel Hall, Belfast. Sessions at the event included: • Beyond RHI: How to restore democratic accountability at Stormont • Trump on Trial • How will a Citizens’ Assembly work in Northern Ireland? Among the speakers were Sam McBride from the News Letter, Professor John Barry, Queen's University and Professor Deirdre Heenan, Ulster University.
Above: Some of those present at the event and, left, Professor John Barry from Queen’s University
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We look at the impact of the Building Change Trust on the Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise sector in Northern Ireland