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 2022

Social Enterprise NI held its 10th annual awards on Friday 14 October 2022. Over 600 guests from the private, public and social sector came together at Crowne Plaza Hotel, Belfast, to honour and celebrate the achievements of the social economy sector in Northern Ireland.

In challenging times, the sector continues to grow and thrive which was apparent from the record-breaking number of attendees and the number of organisations, teams and leaders shortlisted and awarded across 18 categories at the event.

For the first time, the coveted Social Enterprise of the Year Award was split to recognise both a small and a large social enterprise. Social Enterprise of the Year - Small was awarded to Enterprise Causeway and the winner of Social Enterprise of the Year - Large was Habitat for Humanity Ireland.

For a full list of winners on the night, visit:

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.

Call for evidence - draft one-year programme

The current three-year work programme comes to an end in March 2024, and DfE has developed a draft one-year work programme to run from April 2024. The work programme has a greater focus on the outcomes that the Department would like to see, and contains draft objectives and activities developed to align with the 10x Economic Vision, specifically the inclusive growth ambitions.

Your views are welcomed on the proposals the details of which can be found at: 

It is the Department’s intention to go to open call for delivery of objectives 1-3 of the programme in November 2023, taking account of feedback obtained. The research outlined under objective 4 would be taken forward separately by DfE.

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