DfE and the Social Economy

The Department for the Economy (DfE) leads on the development of social economy policy for Northern Ireland on behalf of the Northern Ireland Executive.

DfE's role in Social Economy

Developing the social economy sector has been a priority for the NI Executive for some time and the Executive is well aware of the important and unique contribution which the sector can and does make to the local economy.

DfE has always recognised the importance of supporting social enterprises and has responsibility for social economy policy on behalf of the NI Executive. This remit includes chairing the Social Economy Policy Group (SEPG), a cross departmental forum including agencies and the local councils. The local councils have responsibility for social enterprise after it was transferred to them in 2015 as part of the Review of Public Administration. DfE also provides a grant to promote the social economy sector through the development and implementation of a Social Economy Work Programme (SEWP).

DfE and the NI Executive recognise that the social enterprise sector has been and continues to be absolutely vital in helping our society to get through some very recent difficult times and will have an important part to play in the recovery phase and the longer term building of a stronger NI economy. 

The Covid-19 pandemic resulted in unprecedented financial difficulties for many businesses including social enterprises. Noting the importance of protecting social enterprises, the NI Executive has put in place a number of Covid Support Grant Schemes to help protect jobs, prevent business closures and promote economic recovery.    

Social Enterprise NI report

Social Enterprise NI launched its report on the size and scale of the SE sector on Thursday 27 June 2019. The 'Re-balancing the NI Economy Report 2019' is the first comprehensive survey of the social enterprise sector since 2013. The report is available at:

Support for the Social Economy

Social Enterprise NI Awards 2019

The Annual Social Enterprise NI Gala Awards Dinner, in association with Sparq AV, took place on Friday 11 October in The Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast. The awards, showcasing the Social Enterprise Sector in Northern Ireland, was attended by over 470 guests from Social Enterprise, Private, Public and Educational Sectors. The awards ceremony was hosted by UTVs Paul Clark.

Social Enterprise NI awarded a Lifetime Achievement Award to its former chair and CEO of Lisburn-based Employers For Childcare, Marie Marin. Marie has over 20 years’ experience as a Social Entrepreneur. 

On the evening there were thirteen categories with the introduction of a new category for Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year.

The big winners on the night were IncredABLE from the Armagh, Banbridge and Craigavon area, who scooped four awards in total including Employee of the Year for Samantha McCartney with their CEO Nigel Hampton being named Joint Social Enterprise Leader of the Year alongside Leigh Carey of The Hummingbird Project.

There was also a Double Celebration for Jubilee Farm CIC from Larne which won the “One to Watch” category and saw its Founder, Jonny Hanson win the first “Young Social Entrepreneur of the Year" award.

Social Enterprise NI Awards 2019
Dan Cartland (Department for the Economy) is pictured presenting Employers for Childcare with the Social Enterprise of the Year Award.

Commenting on the evening, Colin Jess Director of Social Enterprise NI said: "Our Annual Awards evening is always the highlight of the social enterprise year however this year’s event exceeded all expectations. We are delighted by the numbers who entered, attended and supported the Awards, particularly those new and existing sponsors of the event. The social enterprise sector in NI is making great strides forward and we are delighted to play our part in this. Well done and congratulations to all who entered and were shortlisted with a special shout out to those who were successful”.









Social Enterprise of the Year

Department for the Economy

Employers for Childcare


One to watch

Go for It Programme

Jubilee Farm CIC

Roar & Explore

Social Impact

Department for Communities

The NOW Group


Health and Social Care

Ulster Bank

Stepping Stones NI


Education, Training and Jobs

Hays Recruitment

Orchardville Society

Open College Network Northern & Ireland Network Personnel (joint)

Local Council of the Year


Belfast City Council


Credit Union of the year


Coalisland Credit Union


Stakeholder of the Year

Lockton Companies LLP

Queens University Belfast Graduate School


Housing Association of the year

Sparg AV

Apex Housing Association


Young Social Entrepreneur of the year

NI Housing Executive

Jonny Hanson , Jubilee Farm CIC


Leader of the Year


Nigel Hampton, IncredABLE and Leigh Carey, The Hummingbird Project CIC (joint)

Alison Blayney, Kilcooley Womens Centre

Employee of the Year

Firmus Energy

Samantha McCartney, IncredABLE


Volunteer of the Year

Edwards and Co, Solicitors


Tony Quinn, GLL/Better

Peter Hanna, IncredABLE

Social Economy Work Programme

In April 2021, Social Enterprise NI (SENI) was awarded a grant by the department to develop and implement a Social Economy Work Programme (SEWP). The main objective of the SEWP is to develop and implement an agreed programme of initiatives to enable the continued growth of a sustainable social economy sector.

Social Enterprise NI is a consortium of social enterprises and social entrepreneurs which have come together to design, manage and deliver a programme of initiatives to support the continued development of a sustainable Northern Ireland social economy sector and to develop an environment where society profits and social enterprises excel at meeting community need.


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