Enterprise Week: Social Economy Counts!

Invest Northern Ireland continued its series of Enterprise Week events today with a seminar targeted at the social economy sector.

The ‘Social Economy Counts!’ seminar recognised the important role that social entrepreneurs play in building the local economy and encouraging social inclusion. The event provided an insight into the success of a number of social enterprises and highlighted the support available to such organisations.

The keynote speaker was Liam Black, Director of Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Foundation and one of the UK’s best known social enterprise leaders. Liam founded the ‘Cat’s Pyjamas’, an international network of social entrepreneurs.

Also speaking at the event was Ian Murphy, Invest NI‘s Managing Director of Entrepreneurship. He said: “The social economy stimulates the creation of wealth in disadvantaged areas and provides routes to mainstream employment for those who are the farthest removed from the labour market.

“In Northern Ireland the social economy currently produces between five and eight per cent of economic activity and we want to see that increasing. But if social economy businesses are to survive, grow and compete alongside their mainstream counterparts, there needs to be a greater focus on quality of products and services on offer, on business growth and skills development. That’s why Invest NI’s Social Entrepreneurship Programme focuses on helping social entrepreneurs build capability and innovation in their business.”

Social enterprises operate to a commercial business model but also focus on delivering economic, social and environmental benefits to society.

Over 60 social economy enterprises, support providers, emerging businesses and key stakeholders registered for the event at the Black Box Theatre in Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter, to hear from local best practice champions including the Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities, Footprints Women’s Centre and Loughgiel Community Development Association.  

The Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment (DETI) has also recently launched a major new survey to collect baseline data on the number of Social Economy Enterprises operating in Northern Ireland. This will include details on the size of the workforce, turnover, products, social purpose and the people the Enterprises help.

To ensure that it is as up-to-date as possible DETI is encouraging all social economy enterprises from across Northern Ireland to complete and return the survey to DETI so that the data can be used to help demonstrate to policy makers, providers and users of services and society as a whole the benefits and  value of the work being done.