Representing social enterprises in Northern Ireland

Social Enterprise NI, the representative body for social enterprises in Northern Ireland seeks to strive for the continued growth of a sustainable social economy sector.

Social Enterprise NI is the membership organisation for social enterprises in Northern Ireland. It has responsibility to promote, support the growth and continued development of the social economy. Through its day to day operations, it aims to create an environment where society profits and social enterprises operate to meet the needs of the community.

Social Enterprise NI are keen to point out that their members are like any other business, competing to deliver goods and services and to make a profit. The difference is that social enterprises are driven by their social and environmental goals with all profits generated through these activities, reinvested towards achieving these purposes. Social enterprises operate in almost every industry sector in Northern Ireland from health and social care to renewable energy; from retail to recycling; employment to manufacturing; and from housing to education.

Recognising the importance and growing interest in the social enterprise business model, Social Enterprise NI branded a recent event as a ‘Social Value Conference’ attracting significant interest from a wide cross-section of the local economy, all keen to hear of and to understand more of social value and how their organisations can incorporate this through their supply chains. Representatives from private, public and social enterprises heard from some well-known UK organisations who have embraced and embedded social value into their business. Speakers included private sector organisations such as, Johnson & Johnson, Wates Group, PwC and RBS, along with public bodies such as Salford City Council and City of Edinburgh Council who were joined by Belfast City Council to get a local perspective. New and up and coming social enterprises also had the opportunity to tell their story and to encourage the audience to provide support.

Colin Jess, Director of Social Enterprise NI says: “We are entering an exciting time in the sector at the moment. The recent approval by the Procurement Board to take forward legislation in the form of a Social Value Act for Northern Ireland is a huge step forward, seeking to mirror and learn from the legislation in England and Wales. This is great news and is an endorsement of the work that we have been doing alongside the All Party Working Group for Social Enterprise at Stormont under the chairmanship of Stewart Dickson. The commitment and support from all members in taking this forward has led to this extremely positive outcome. As a representative body for the sector, Social Enterprise NI offer their assistance in early discussions around the structure of the Act.”

There is already a considerable awareness amongst private enterprises of social enterprises and for including them in their supply chains, but this is perhaps less developed in Northern Ireland than in other parts of the UK. Events such as this conference hope to change this perception.

Social Enterprise NI will work tirelessly with government departments and other sector bodies to ensure that the social economy remains to the fore in all future discussions for the Northern Ireland economy.

To learn more and to get involved with the social enterprise sector or to hear of upcoming events, please visit www.socialenterpriseni.org or to speak to Colin Jess in relation to any of the above please email colin@socialenterpriseni.org or 
call 028 9046 1810

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