We launched the consultation on Dormant Accounts funding in October and since then we’ve been out and about listening to the Northern Ireland Third Sector.
We hosted major regional events in Newtownabbey, Craigavon, Derry-Londonderry and Enniskillen with over 300 people across all 4 events.
We’ve hosted, facilitated or taken part in 25 roundtable discussions with over 350 VCSE representatives and have received 36 written submissions as well as hundreds of emails, phone calls and conversations.
As we’ve gone through the consultation, we’ve shared some of what we’ve been hearing in blogs – you can read the previous one here. As we finish this phase of the consultation, we wanted to share a couple more reflections.
In our discussions, there has been lively debate about the balance between direct support for smaller organisations and the benefits of collective support.
People have been telling us that one size doesn’t fit all. The change each individual organisation would make to become more sustainable and fit for the future might look different. So, any fund should be flexible enough to accommodate that.
But people also really value what they learn from each other – they’d like to reduce competition and see collaboration enabled, not enforced.
Some would like to have collective resources or expertise to draw on which they might not necessarily be able to afford themselves e.g. professional financial, HR, legal or governance advice.
Many people have commented that support networks, particularly in rural areas, have faced cuts and are no longer able to provide this kind of support to smaller voluntary and community groups.
How could this funding help foster collaboration or connectedness while still supporting local groups on the ground?
We’ve also been talking about loans and other types of social finance.
We’ve heard some great examples of organisations which have benefited from existing loan funds which support VCSE organisations in Northern Ireland. But a large proportion of the sector say they aren’t ready to access this type of social finance.
The main issues around loans or hybrid social finance models seem to be confidence and capacity. Some organisations say they don’t want to have to prioritise paying off a loan over their core purpose. Others say they don’t have the skills to understand the difference finance models which might help them realise their long-term goals.
Could the Dormant Accounts fund invest in organisations to build those skills, enabling them to leverage other, more sustainable investment or income?
We may have finished this stage of our consultation, but we still want to hear from the sector. You can make written submissions over the Christmas break and up until January, or you can call or email.
Our office will be closed from lunchtime on Tuesday 24th December until Thursday 2nd January, but we will respond to any queries when we return in the new year.
We’ll be analysing our findings and working on programme design in January but we won’t turn down any chance to talk or discuss any of these issues once that process begins.
If you have any thoughts, ideas or views on any of this – send them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can comment on this blog, drop us a line on the phone or social media.
Finally, thank you to everyone who has taken the time to be involved so far.