Checking the Vital Signs of communities

A good project can only come from the people you want to support, and we expect any projects we fund to listen and respond to what people need and want to change their lives and communities. This is at the core of our flagship programme, People and Communities.

a screenshot of the vital signs website.That’s why we were interested to hear about Community Foundation for Northern Ireland’s Vital Signs research. It is gathering data, comments and perspectives from people in local communities to provide a picture of life in Northern Ireland. The research will take various forms including an online survey and focus groups.

A team of researchers from the Vital Signs project will hit the streets and communities of all 11 council areas over the coming weeks and months, with research findings due to be released in October. The results will help identify gaps and opportunities for communities, and help inform philanthropy.

Sara Houston from Community Foundation said the organisation wants to give community and voluntary groups the tools and support to help them change lives.

To do this effectively we want to fully understand what those needs and causes are. Vital Signs will allow us to understand our communities better. The dialogue we have with communities through workshops and interviews, along with the answers provided in the survey will help us to identify trends, which will guide our work, enabling us to be more strategic in terms of where our funds go.

We will use the information to help communities come together to act on priorities and opportunities and the findings will also help us to provide donors and philanthropists with up-to-date information about community need.

The aim of this report is to inform the development of community philanthropy and giving in Northern Ireland, by providing a ‘health check’ on key local issues.

We also hope it will encourage people to engage in conversation with us about the issues raised in the report.

Norrie Breslin, head of policy and learning at Big Lottery Fund NI, said Vital Signs is a great example of putting people in the lead

It is encouraging people to identify issues and priorities in their areas. This will be a valuable source of information for both Big Lottery Fund and communities, as we support them to build on the knowledge, skills and experience they already have to make the changes they want.

The Vital Signs research is carried out by more than 70 Community Foundations in countries throughout the world, including over 20 regions in the UK. To get involved in the Northern Ireland project, go to

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