19 Jul 2022
Today (19th July) Roisin Wood, Community Foundation NI CEO was delighted to join ‘National Conversations on Civic Innovation’ sharing examples of civic innovation in Northern Ireland. The event was hosted by The Research and Innovation Office, Glasgow and other panel members included Stevie McGowan, from Glasgow City Council and Pauline Grandison, The Coalfields Regeneration Trust.
Civic Innovation is a concept that is gaining increased relevance as our society recognises the fact that we all should be empowered to be problem solvers. Civic innovation encourages community-driven ideas and solutions to address inequality and build trust. In 2020 the Foundation launched a new initiative called the ‘Civic Innovation programme’.
The Programme supports communities and individuals to find their voice by raising awareness of the need for more public participation in decision making. So far £900,000 has been invested into innovative projects which are making change across Northern Ireland.
Civic innovation has huge potential for wider scope and reach in addressing social and environmental issues. However, it does pose some challenges:
Civic innovation as a concept can be out of reach for many people or organisations in terms of buy in. Why? The language that is used can be high level – we need to ditch the jargon and bring the concept alive by ensuring it remains about getting more people involved as change makers.
Lack of trust in Government
Politics in Northern Ireland remains divided, within Westmister polarisation is growing, and issues such as Brexit and the Cost of Living crisis will have a real impact on people’s outlook, time and willingness to engage. The ‘everyday survival’ can consume people’s efforts. It can be difficult for communities to engage in discussion on other issues /build relationships.
Collaboration is not always easy! Competing priorities and managing relationships can be a barrier
Costs and sustainability
Giving time, space and resources for creative thinking and testing innovations, – costs money; creates risks: not all innovations will work and that is ok! In terms of sustaining those that do survive, what happens after funding ends? Can the project continue to run without funding support?
The Community Foundation has been working with local organisations and has made a tremendous impact on giving local people a voice. The willness of organisations and individuals to take part and make their voice heard clearly highlights the need and desire within communities.
We have seen individuals get involved in the running of their local forest, making changes that they want to see that will benefit the users. An Irish language project has been re-engaging with active language communities in understanding, designing and assessing language rights promised in the New Decade New Approach agreement. We now see these rights and entitlements being legislated for within Westminster.
Time never stays still and neither does civic innovation. Civic Innovation Programmes can and do work – Investment is key. That’s not just financial investment but support in terms of guidance, time and direction.
To find out more about the Civic Innovation programme click here or get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org