Social Innovation Skills Programme-The story so far……

We’re about to reach another milestone in the second iteration of our Social Innovation Skills programme; At this point, our participants have gone through the ‘human centred design process’ facilitated by WorkWest and crystallised their ideas with support from mentors. The next stage of the process will be to pitch to the Social Innovation NI Seed Fund, resourced by the Building Change Trust and the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, to take their solutions forward for additional testing and delivery.

Human centred design is focused on the end user and their needs, rather than what an organisation BELIEVES those needs are, while social innovation is finding new and innovative solutions to existing social problems!

We put three simple questions to each participating organisation, asking them to outline what difference the Skills programme has made to their approach to the issue they identified at the outset, and what they have learned so far by taking part. These are some of the insights from the groups who responded.

What idea did you come up with at the end of the human centred design process and how will this address the social issue/challenge you had identified at the outset?

Start360 whose challenge was how to better address alcohol misuse among young people, without alienating their target audience, devised the idea of a platform which triggers a thinking process around alcohol consumption, on a personal and societal level.

The Nerve Centre, Derry has been looking at addressing youth employment in the Greater Shantallow area of Derry City. The team has developed a project called ‘Fab: Communities’ which will help them to work with local families, giving them access to training in Digital Fabrication and sparking an interest in STEM/Steam.

Garvagh Development Trust wants to grow good mental and physical health through creatively and safely using the outdoors. Their focus is on designing and delivering a pilot across the Causeway Coast and Glens & Mid Ulster Council area to explore how a ‘green care’ social prescribing network might work locally and within the Northern HSC Trust for people suffering from poor mental health. These activities are prescribed as a ‘non-clinical alternative to a medical prescription.’

What have you/your team/organisation learned by going through the human centred design process?

St. Columb’s Park Reconciliation Trust’s challenge is to develop a community owned vision for the park, to ensure its benefits are accessible to everyone. They found the process extremely beneficial, helping them to see the potential for the space and has provided individual and organisational learnings for the trust members.

It has ‘really motivated us to do more research and clarify this vision. It developed the individuals in the team and help each person understand how we work with others and understand others in the team. It also developed the team as a group working together for a common purpose who were stronger together than we are as individual organisations”.

Fighting Words Belfast’s challenge lies in better using creativity in the school system to address underachievement. The team of four was enthusiastic about several aspects of the human design centred process. In particular they called out the storyboard process as being, ‘……the most useful, where we followed the journey of a volunteer through our programmes, from recruitment, through to participation, development and recognition.

This revealed many areas where we could introduce new, often simple and very achievable (free) ideas” The team also highlighted the importance of open channels of communication and empathy. The design thinking process taught them that it is important to concentrate on their ‘end user’ and to ‘walk their walk’

The objective of the Social Innovation Skills programme is the creation of tangible outputs with real problem solving potential, so we challenged each participating organisation to tell us how they would realise their ideas…..

What are the next steps your organisation will take to turn your idea into reality?

NICVA presented a challenge around helping the VCSE sector to ‘grapple with and adapt to GDPR’. In this area of focus/concern for every sector, NICVA is currently working on developing the ‘NICVA GDPR Toolkit’. “The development of the animations will be in line with the content/resources developed for the Toolkit. The launch of the animation will signal the availability of a new resource on the NICVA website to support the sector to comply with the legislation.”

Fighting Words has indicated their next step will be ‘to build our capacity to support further volunteer recruitment and development……and we hope that seed funding from BCT will provide a stepping stone… deliver creative writing experiences to foster children and young people’s creativity and empower them to become the authors of their own lives.”

Meanwhile Start 360 highlights how mentorship stretches the capabilities of participants. They intend to use further funding to develop and test their platform, to find a way to engage meaningfully with their service users around alcohol misuse as a barrier to achievement.


Training and mentoring around new ways of thinking have given every organisation a fresh perspective and a way to approach their perceived challenges. We’ve enjoyed seeing the evolution of these organisations and their proposed solutions. What form the solution takes is almost incidental-it could be a product, a service or a process…-what we will be looking for at the pitching event on May 17th, will be its ability to address an immediate problem and its potential to be leveraged for future use.

Good luck to all our participants!

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