People Powered Change is the focus as new Civic Innovation Programme Launches

Foundation News

People Powered Change is the focus as new Civic Innovation Programme Launches

22 Oct 2019

The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland is launching an ambitious Civic Innovation programme to support initiatives that put people at the centre of decision-making in Northern Ireland.


The only independently-funded programme of its kind in the UK or Ireland, the Civic Innovation Programme will use a combination of intensive project design support, expertise on public participation and grant-funding to support the delivery of new initiatives that aim to deepen local democracy. Express your interest here. 


The programme builds on the legacy of the Building Change Trust’s works on Citizens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland, Participatory Budgeting Works, the NI Open Government Network and FactCheckNI.


As well as the Community Foundation’s own resources, funding for the programme is provided by a consortium of independent charitable foundations including The Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the The Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.


Open to all voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations, as well as public sector representatives and interested individuals, the programme will support projects that can deliver greater public influence over key societal issues as well as demonstrating how a more participative and deliberative model of democracy can build a better Northern Ireland for everyone. 


One of the unique features of the programme is that the individual projects don’t need to be precisely defined at the beginning. Instead, organisations and individuals will be able to complete a simple online expression of interest form via from 25th October onwards, until the deadline of Friday 17th January. 


See below a quick timeline of how the Civic Innovation programme will run …



Those who think they or their organisation might want to take part in the programme can attend one of the below information workshops:


  • Derry/Londonderry, 27th November 9.30am – 12.30pm, register here
  • Armagh, 28th November 9.30am – 12.30pm, register here
  • Belfast, Wednesday 11th December, 9.30am to 12.30pm – register here


The programme will then formally commence at the Community Foundation’s Democracy Day event on 29th January 2020, delivered in partnership with the Imagine Belfast Festival. At this event participants will have an opportunity to ‘pitch’ their ideas for projects to one another, as well as get some inspiration from international and local contributors working in the fields of public participation and democratic innovation. 


From there, programme participants will self-form into up to 15 teams, each committed to developing a specific project idea. The teams will then attend a series of project design workshops in Derry-Londonderry or Belfast from February to April 2020 where they will have time to work up the details of their idea and receive expert mentoring and support.


All of the 15 teams will then receive a small grant of up to £5,000 to test their idea at a small scale, or to undertake necessary preliminary work such as research or political engagement. Following the completion of the small grants phase each team can then apply for a major grant of up to £50,000 to deliver their project over an 18 month period, with up to 10 projects being supported. 


Across the entire programme the Community Foundation will seek to tap into the groundswell of democratic innovations taking place around the world and provide opportunities for grantees to learn from this and showcase their own work. 


Paul Braithwaite, the Community Foundation’s Head of Innovation & Voice said:

“This programme has been a long time in the making and we’re really excited to be able to get it off the ground. Public trust in government and politics is at a seriously low ebb and we believe a key part of the solution to this is in giving people a meaningful, informed say in decision-making. Creative ideas for how to do this, from citizens’ assemblies, to digital democracy, to participatory budgeting, are popping up all over the world. This programme provides a unique opportunity for Northern Irish people and organisations to take a lead in this wave of democratic innovations.”


Moira Sinclair, Chief Executive of the Paul Hamlyn Foundation said:

“Increasingly, in our grant making, we are prioritising work that starts by recognising and building on the strengths of individuals and communities and has deep participation and co-production at its heart. So, the Civic Innovation Programme was a natural fit for us. We are pleased to be involved right at the start of this, feeling that there will be much for us to learn, and we will follow the process and the projects closely to see how the ambition for democratic innovation can be made real.”   


Click here to express your interest in our Civic Innovation programme.


Never miss an update

Join our mailing list and keep up to date with Foundation news.