Here you’ll find some great examples of Social Innovation from Northern Ireland and around the world.
To help you, we’ve split them up into the different stages of the Social Innovation Cycle.
This is when the idea becomes everyday practice. Sustaining involves sharpening ideas (and often streamlining them) and identifying income streams to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the firm, social enterprise or charity. In the public sector this means identifying budgets, teams and other resources such as legislation.
A great example of this is Community Based Restorative Justice.
The 30 years of political violence which scarred Northern Ireland left deep divisions between the Catholic and Protestant communities. It also fostered widespread mistrust of the police and criminal justice system. This mistrust of state policing led to the evolution of violent paramilitary systems of punitive beatings, banishments and attacks.
Such paramilitary violence came under increasing local and international scrutiny and criticism in the build up to the 1998 Good Friday Agreement. In 1996 two ex-prisoners undertook research into understandings of justice in their own communities and concluded that a non-violent system of community-based justice was needed to replace the existing systems of punishment beatings.
Projects were set up in both communities: Northern Ireland Alternatives (NIA26) in the Loyalist areas and Community Restorative Justice Ireland (CRJI)27 in the Republican areas. The development and success of these community-based approaches to restorative justice have been remarkable. The concept has been readily adopted by communities and the idea of restorative justice has become widespread across different interventions and practices in Northern Ireland.
The community based programmes originally operated independently of the formal criminal justice system, sometimes often experiencing fraught relationships with statutory authorities, particularly the police.
However, as they have demonstrated their value, relationships have improved and they are now formally accredited by government. This has allowed them to receive public funding and develop formal partnerships with the police, a wide range of statutory services and professional organisations. Community-based Restorative Justice programmes exemplify social innovation.
They were created to better meet an unmet social need. The concept emerged from the community itself, in opposition to existing institutions, and now has scaled and is widely used across different sectors in Northern Ireland.
There is now growing international interest in these successful programmes.