Social Economy at the Heart of the Community


Enterprise, Trade and Investment Minister Arlene Foster today highlighted the important role of the social economy sector at the annual Community Faiths Forum Conference in Belfast.

The conference provided the opportunity for key figures and local organisations to meet and discuss how faith based organisations can help contribute to the social economy sector.

The Minister commented: “My department, on behalf of the Executive, has been involved in developing a social economy policy for a number of years. A strong social economy sector can help build local job opportunities, encourage entrepreneurial spirit and in turn contribute to the local economy.

“The Invest NI Social Entrepreneurship Programme has to date helped 49 social enterprises to get started, which aims to create 132 jobs in their first year of trading. Enterprises taking advantage of this funding are offered support throughout the business planning process to help realise their potential.”

Last week, the Minister launched a new Skill project at East Belfast Mission, which aims to assist organisations in Northern Ireland and Great Britain to develop their social enterprise ideas.

Arlene Foster added: “I was very impressed by the work being carried out by East Belfast Mission and commend them for their new project, which will give them the ability to offer help and advice to others who want to set up their own social enterprise.

“I am encouraged to see so many local churches and faith based organisations taking a lead in promoting the social economy model through models like the Skill project and, of course, events like today’s conference.”

The Community Faiths Forum was established in February 2010 and meets on a quarterly basis to discuss faith based engagement across a range of social policy and community issues. Past topics have included social policy, personal debt and volunteering.