Our 'UK regional and national spotlight' campaign focuses on ‘Place’, spotlighting the power of social investment from each and every corner of the UK. Today, we’re spotlighting Northern Ireland...
Renowned for jaw-dropping scenery, this small but mighty nation is truly a treasure trove just waiting to be explored.
UNESCO World Heritage Site The Giant's Causeway is made up of some 40,000 massive black basalt columns sticking out of the sea and this dramatic sight has been said to inspire tales of giants striding across the sea to neighbouring nation Scotland. It's been attracting visitors to Northern Ireland for more than 300 years, and more recently, the dramatic coastline of this part of the world has attracted Netflix Television creators of Game of Thrones, who filmed many scenes here.
With such a diverse and rural landscape, it's no surprise that Northern Ireland has a thriving social enterprise / charity space, with organisations aplenty tackling some of the nation's unique challenges.
In this blog, we explore the examples of social investment in Northern Ireland we do have, along with a call to action to let us know of any stories we could and should be sharing on Good Finance.
Northern Ireland: Social Investment in Action
One of the best ways to learn more about social investment and how it can be used is through examples. Good Finance has 115 case studies and counting – here we spotlight just a couple of recent stories from Northern Ireland...
East Belfast Mission
Hosford is the homeless service of East Belfast Mission (EBM) based in the Skainos Centre on the Lower Newtownards Road in East Belfast, and for over 20 years, Hosford has provided services to people who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
Under the new pilot project, known as ‘You’re Home’, EBM and Commonweal are using social investment to purchase five properties in East Belfast. These will be rented to people to move on from EBM’s homeless hostel and who couldn’t otherwise find or afford anywhere else to live. This will provide a good quality affordable home for five households and free up five spaces in our homeless hostel for people in need.
Learn more about their social investment story via the full case study.
Carrick Greengrocers is a community-owned greengrocer established by people who live in, work in, or are otherwise passionate about Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland. They aim to trade in a way that supports a sustainable environment and economy and all profits are directed back into the business and local initiatives.
With support from a co-operative advisor, the group registered as a community benefit society in July 2022 and began working on a community share offer. The nature of this finance meant it brought people in and along with them on the journey and they benefited from having customers before they’d even opened their doors.
Learn more about how they exceeded their target for the Community Shares offer via the full case study.
Headliners UK used social investment to help them in their mission of empowering young people to tell their stories and care about their community more.
They wanted to improve the choices and opportunities for the most socially isolated young people in the North East, London and Northern Ireland, enabling these young people to become more independent, socially equal, employment-ready and active citizens.
Read the full case study to explore how social investment has supported them to deliver their social impact.
Check out our Case Study Mapper to view all of the case studies we have from across the UK, showcasing organisations that have harnessed the power of social investment in Northern Ireland and beyond...
Have you got a social investment story to tell? We know there are plenty more examples of social investment in action in Northern Ireland and we'd love to be able to spotlight more from this fantastic nation via our full collection.
Northern Ireland: Must-Reads
We also have various blogs, media and news from Northern Ireland that help to provide a place-based perspective on the region. Here’s a couple of must-read blogs...
Home Nations Taking Centre Stage
In celebration of International Women's Day 2020, this blog spotlights incredible women-led social enterprises across the Home Nations, including Northern Ireland. Learn about their inspiring journeys, the challenges they've overcome, and how they're shaping a more equitable future through social entrepreneurship.
Martina Bell of Artspace who told us about her experiences running a social enterprise in Northern Ireland, “there is a vibrant Social Enterprise sector here in Northern Ireland where community led organisations are directly impacting on their local communities by developing facilities and often providing essential goods and service”.
Discover her key learnings via the full blog post.
Northern Ireland: Spotlight on Co-ops UK
In the case study section of this blog, we featured Carrick Greengrocers who used Community Shares via Co-Operatives UK to provide a community-owned greengrocers that champions Local Produce. We were delighted to catch up with John Dawson, Head of Market Development at Co-Operatives UK, on his reflections on 2023, top tips for organisations exploring social investment and some myth-busting!
What has been your highlight for 2023?
At Co-operatives UK we support communities to raise finance through community shares including via our Booster Fund. We started the year with a new report finding over £210m has been raised in community shares in the last decade from over 130,000 investors.
We were delighted to see community share offers receive lots of national press this year, such as the big Music Venues Properties offer where they raised over £2m from 1,261 investors to save grass roots music venues.
Also we’ve seen more communities and more business models use community shares such as a hardware shop in Birmingham called York Supplies, Tollesbury a school energy project in Essex and Carrick Greengrocers, in Northern Ireland. The government’s Community Ownership Fund has also proved to be a useful form of match finance for many projects using community shares.
As ever, communities agitating to make things happen, raise money locally and build their own membership of invested members never ceases to be inspiring.
Do you have any standout social investment deals that you think demonstrate the resilience of the charity / social enterprise sector?
We’d like to highlight two, especially at Christmas time, that are working hard to tackle homelessness and affordable housing from a grass roots level. Latch in Leeds ran their second community share offer this year raising another £600k. They go to great lengths to empower, train and upskill their client base as well as providing housing. While East Marsh United in Grimsby have shown the power of local action, by starting to buy and renovate housing in their community after raising £500k in community shares.
What would be your #1 tip for a charity or social enterprise at the very start of their journey with social investment?
Speak to other organisations and individuals who have been there and done it. That peer support and access to their contacts can be a huge support and encouragement. The sixth co-operative principle is ‘co-operation with other co-operatives’. At Co-operatives UK we can help you make those connections and plug into the wider movement of knowledge, expertise and hard-won experience.
What’s one myth that you hear about social investment that you’d like to debunk once and for all?
It doesn’t have to be scary. Speak to investors and speak to other organisations who have been through the process. We are all here to help and make things happen. It is actually easier for us to make an investment if we start to understand your project from an early stage, rather than just when an application comes in.
Community shares can be a really flexible, more affordable and patient method of raising investment. We even have a really strong network of trained ‘practitioners’ we can put you in touch with who can work through any technical details with you and we may even be able to pay for their time to plan our your journey, even if you think you are only in the foothills!
What do you think will be your biggest challenge(s) for 2024 and beyond?
In 2023 we expanded our early stage support offer, providing hands on support to communities thinking about using community shares, as well as continuing with development grants to prepare offers. As a result, we now have a strong pipeline of new share offers around the country that will move forward in 2024. A challenge for us is making sure we have enough capital to keep supporting and co-investing in these offers!
What is your favourite festive song?
Fountains Of Wayne - I Want An Alien For Christmas
Northern Ireland: Spotlight on East Belfast Mission
Earlier in this blog, we featured East Belfast Mission, an inspirational charity tackling homelessness in Belfast. We were delighted to hear from Tom Dinnen, Hosforth Community Homes Lead at the organisation as he reflects on their experiences with social investment, challenges and highlights for 2023 and what's next for the organisation...
What has the social investment enabled your organisation to do?
Working with Commonweal Housing and it’s social investors has allowed us to run this Community Led Housing pilot. It is the combination of social investment, technical support and evaluation that has made this project a success. Now that we have proof of concept and the experience, we can grow this project and increase it’s impact. We are always interested to speak to other organisations to share ideas and work together to tackle the housing issues that are faced by marginalised groups.
What has been your biggest challenge in 2023?
Finding contractors that can carry out renovations and maintenance. To tackle this, we have been building up relationships with local contractors and working with our partner Street Soccer NI ( www.streetsoccerni.org ) who have their own social enterprise doing house clearances, PAT testing, and selling furniture and white goods. We are very happy to support their work and increase the impact of our project by keeping our expenditure local and support local charities and businesses.
In the new year we are planning to set up our own cleaning, decorating and maintenance Social Enterprise that will maintain our properties and give training and work experience to people who have been homeless.
What’s been one highlight for you in 2023?
The visit of the Prince of Wales for the NI launch of The Royal Foundations homeless project Homeward. It was a privilege to be chosen and we are working with Homeward to look at novel ways of tackling Homelessness.
What’s one hope you have for your organisation in 2024 and beyond?
We hope to grow Hosford Community Homes, we currently give a home to 13 households, and we hope to grow HCH to support 50 households in the next 3 years. We are also working with Queens University Belfast’s Community and Places Project to develop a strategy to grow our impact over the next 10 years. We are looking to use a blend of social investment, regeneration grants, fundraising and loans to expand our portfolio.
Would you consider taking on social investment again?
That’s a wrap for today! We are delighted to celebrate the social investment space in Northern Ireland and we know there's many stories left untold for this nation in particular.
If we’ve missed anything or you’d like to chat to us about featuring more content based in Northern Ireland on Good Finance, please email email@example.com and we’d love to chat further!
- Spotlight series: South East
- Spotlight series: Scotland
- Spotlight series: Yorkshire and Humber
- Spotlight series: East England
- Spotlight series: North East
- Spotlight series: Wales