23/06/2009

Social Enterprise Gets Stormont Support

A new £2.5million support programme for social enterprises has been announced this week.

NI Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster (pictured here with Invest NI's Graham Davis) launched Invest Northern Ireland's backing for social enterprises - which are non-profit-taking organisations operating as a commercial entity to then re-invest any profits back into the business or local community.

Voluntary bodies, co-operatives and charities across a range of sectors including property, financial services, and health, are amongst Northern Ireland's range of such social enterprises.

Announcing the details of the new Social Entrepreneurship Programme at the historic venue of the former Crumlin Road Gaol in Belfast, the Minister said: "This new Social Entrepreneurship Programme will help potential social entrepreneurs to start a business. It will also encourage existing social enterprises to grow, create additional employment, exploit opportunities to export products or services and maximise their positive impact on society.

"Groups already in the voluntary and community sector will also be assisted to become social enterprises through this initiative.
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"Social enterprises contribute to the achievement of many objectives of the Programme for Government, including the development of a dynamic, innovative economy," she continued.

"Through this new Social Entrepreneurship Programme, Invest NI will promote innovation and enterprise, and build the transferable business skills of people who manage social enterprises. It will also help create more sustainable, cohesive communities and regenerate local areas."

The Minister highlighted the contribution that social enterprises make to the Northern Ireland economy noting that over 11,000 people are employed or volunteer in social enterprises in Northern Ireland, and this demonstrates the considerable contribution the sector makes to the local economy.

"This region is ranked fifth in the UK for social enterprise activity, and it is important that we enhance the strong network of social economy businesses that exists here," she revealed.

Tailored mentoring, business planning support, and capability advice will be provided to participating groups on the programme, helping them to successfully develop their socially-oriented business. There will also be the potential for groups to avail of financial assistance.

Disadvantaged groups and groups in areas of high social and economic need will be specifically targeted to ensure wide-ranging accessibility to the programme.

(BMcC/JM)

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