Community Innovators Programme

The Community Innovators Programme is the first of its kind in Northern Ireland and is for organisations who want support to explore and develop new solutions to a real world challenge facing communities. Participants will also learn a really practical social innovation method for use across their organisation.

Two rounds of the programme have already been completed in 2017 and 2018 with 19 organisations benefiting – for case studies see the videos below and our impact report here.

Thanks to funding from the Hospital Saturday Fund and the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland, the Community Innovators Programme (formerly known as the Social Innovation Skills programme) re-opens for applications on 1st March 2019. This round aims to recruit up to 5 new teams, working specifically on health and wellbeing challenges, to participate in the programme in 2019.

To be eligible applications must fit within the Hospital Saturday Fund’s parameters as follows:

“The Hospital Saturday Fund supports work across the UK and Ireland from palliative care to medical research which includes mental health, respite and charities that centre on cures. We also support work on medical, health and wellbeing aspects which covers both physical and mental health. We do not support social and welfare projects.”

Applications will be via the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland’s website. All constituted voluntary, community or social enterprise organisations operating in Northern Ireland are eligible to apply.

The programme is delivered by Work West who will facilitate a programme of group workshops and mentoring based around the Human-Centred Design methodology.

Human-Centred Design is a creative approach to problem solving that puts end users at the centre of the solution and focuses on experimentation, prototyping and evidence-gathering as key methods.

The programme is free to access and all applicants need is an issue they’re passionate about, an interest in social innovation and the time and ambition to develop an innovative new solution to their challenge together with their team.

Those thinking of applying should first come along to one of our promotional workshops in March 2019:

  • Belfast, Tuesday 12th March 2pm – 4pm – register here
  • Omagh, Tuesday 19th March 11am – 1pm – register here
  • Newry, Friday 22nd March 11am – 1pm – register here

Then, if the Community Innovators Programme seems a good fit you can apply via the application form on the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland website here . The application deadline is Thursday 11th April 2019 and successful applicants will be notified by Friday 19th April 2019.

Those receiving a place on the Community Innovators Programme will  be invited to nominate their teams (of up to 4 individuals who can be staff, volunteers, Board members or beneficiaries) with a common interest in the same challenge. Teams will then be taken through a facilitated programme of workshops, starting with further refining their challenge and helping them gel as a team.

They’ll then gather user insights to help ‘get into the shoes’ of a person experiencing the challenge they’re working on. This will be the foundation for the ‘ideation’ phase where teams come up with as many ideas for solutions as possible. These will gradually be combined, adapted and whittled down over the subsequent weeks until only their top idea is left. The final stage is to build a physical prototype (model) of their idea – literally getting their hands dirty – to show to the other teams and potential users for feedback.

All teams completing the Community Innovators Programme will then be eligible to apply for the Social Innovation NI Seed Fund to enable them to start delivering their solution for real.

For any queries please contact Paul Braithwaite at the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland via

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