Social Enterprise and Social Economy

Oral Answers to Questions — Social Development – in the Northern Ireland Assembly at 3:15 pm on 11th January 2016.

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Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP 3:15 pm, 11th January 2016

T3. Mr Poots asked the Minister for Social Development, in light of the importance that he has previously recognised and that he attaches to social enterprise and social economy, how he sees us going forward in supporting those schemes given the financial constraints that have been imposed upon us as a result of austerity. (AQT 3293/11-16)

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

I thank the Member for his question. I know that he takes a particular interest in this in relation to the work that is done in his constituency through a number of organisations. In particular, one that comes to mind is the Resurgam Trust.

Innovation NI, the Northern Ireland Executive's innovation strategy, aims to deliver a vision for Northern Ireland by 2025. Northern Ireland will be recognised as an innovation hub and be one of the UK's leading high-growth, knowledge-based regions that embraces creativity and innovation at all levels of society.

The strategy also recognises the importance of social innovation: new ways of doing things or altogether new things that deliver social benefit. I concur with the Member that it is an important issue. Sometimes, there are those who are dismissive of having such a strategy, but I do not think that that is the case. It is something that we need to continue to improve and build on. My Department chairs a social innovation working group, the aim of which, in its initial phase, is to bring together the key policymakers and practitioners to identify areas where social innovation could make a difference and scope out the areas of activity that they want to continue to work in.

Photo of Edwin Poots Edwin Poots DUP

I welcome the fact that Northern Ireland will be a leader in social innovation. I take it, therefore, that we will be able to provide support for innovation in the social economy sector to ensure the sustainability that many groups require but which public funding will make it a challenge to achieve?

Photo of Mervyn Storey Mervyn Storey DUP

Yes. The other area that would be useful to place on record is, of course, my Department's support for The Young Foundation in doing some pilot social innovation work. This work supports people across communities and sectors to come together to create the social innovations needed to deliver that change. Through a co-creation process, they will identify, scope and prioritise. This is not a generational issue, but we still need to have a focus. As mentioned earlier by the First Minister when she took up office, it is about giving young people a sense of hope and a sense of place. These initiatives are a means, although not the ultimate place where we all want to be, of achieving benefit and progress.