What differences can social enterprises make to a community?

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By Una Murphy

HEALTH, happiness, well being and empowerment are the potential social impact benefits to the community from the growth of social enterprises, a Social Enterprise Means Business With Purpose master class in Belfast has heard.

Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive, Belfast City Council,

Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive, Belfast City Council,

Speakers Suzanne Wylie, Chief Executive, Belfast City Council, Alan Herron, a PlayBoard NI director and Stephen McGarry a manager with Gauge NI addressed the ‘Social Impact Equation’

They were asked by VIEWdigital community media to share one thing they felt social enterprises could make a difference.

Ms Wylie said skills development and getting people into jobs was one of the main areas where she believed social enterprises could benefit the community.

Mr McGarry said improvements to well-being such as a Springfield Charitable Association project working with older people who have been diagnosed or at higher risk of developing dementia was worth taking note of.

Mr Herron said that innovative ways to make sure play can improve children’s health through initiatives such as street play and community play could have a big social impact. He added it was important to work on what children want rather than what those at the top thought they needed..

Maeve Monaghan, Chief Executive of NOW Group

Maeve Monaghan, Chief Executive of NOW Group

Maeve Monaghan, Chief Executive of NOW Group who chaired the masterclass organised by Podiem, said social enterprises needed to address the “So What?” question by demonstrating that they were having social impact and changing society for the better.

The Inspiring Impact pilot programme, financed by the Building Change Trust, was helping organisations put social impact at their organisations’ core, the meeting at Belfast City Hall was told.

Ms Wylie said that 35 per cent of social enterprises are in Belfast where challenges include persistence disadvantage, so it can be difficult to achieve improvements in health, happiness wellbeing and empowerment.

She added The Belfast Agenda – a 15 year plan – aspired to improve citizens’ health, happiness, wellbeing and empowerment by schemes to help them to become active and empowered citizens and improve skills and employability particularly among young people.

Social impact and social value is important to the council and the “so what” question is at the heart of the change process”, she added.

Today’s children hopefully will benefit now and in the future from the impact that social enterprises and the council are planning for Belfast.

What are your views on social enterprise? You can leave a comment on the VIEWforNI Facebook page or VIEWdigital on Twitter and LinkedIn or contact Una Murphy e: unamurphy@viewdigital.org

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