How can new civic initiatives put people at the centre of decision-making in Northern Ireland?

Civic Innovation Programme Partner
Community Foundation for Northern Ireland

We're working with the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland (CFNI) to support their new Civic Innovation Programme.

The programme supports 14 teams made up of public sector and civil society organisations and individuals to develop new initiatives that aim to deepen local democracy. 

Background to this project

Between 2014 and 2018, Building Change Trust ran the Civic Activism Programme. That programme supported VCSE organisations across Northern Ireland to pilot new tools for civic engagment. Involve, along with DemSoc, provided mentoring to that programme, which ultimately saw the development of a number of notable projects, including Participatory Budgeting Works, Fact Check NI, The NI Open Government Network, and the Citizens' Assembly for Northern Ireland

This project builds on the legacy of the Civic Activism Programme. Through it, CFNI is providing 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. 

The Programme is currently in the first of two stages, with 14 teams receiving seed funding to prototype an innovation that connects the public with decision-making process on a wide range of issues, including community planning, integrated education, welfare reform, and climate change. 

What we're doing

Involve has been working closely with CFNI and the individual teams to support the development of their ideas, connect them with a wider network of practitioners, and maximise the impact of their projects. We're doing this through a combination of training and one-to-one mentoring. 

We've been helping teams to refine their ideas by offering guidance on:

  • Defining the purpose of their projects 
  • What tools for public participation are available, and how to choose the best one for the outcomes they want
  • Defining the scope and framing of their issue
  • How to make sure they are reaching the people to they need to engage with, including methods for recruitment
  • How to work with decision-makers 
  • How to design and facilitate deliberative processes
  • How to do digital engagement well

What happens next

Once the prototyping phase is complete in Autumn 2020, teams who wish to move into the next stage will make a grant application for up to £50,000 to CFNI. That grant will be used for delivery of the projects over a period of about 10 months. Up to 10 projects will be supported. 

Image credit: Photo by Dimitry Anikin on Unsplash