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 2021

Social Enterprise NI held its annual awards on Friday 15 October 2021 in partnership with Sparq AV and Digi Leaders. The awards, showcasing the social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland, was attended online by over 200 guests from the social enterprise, private, public and educational sectors and hosted by Social Enterprise NI Ambassador, Cate Conway.

The awards recognised the significant impact of the sector during Covid across 14 categories, including the new category of Aspiring Leader, as well as awarding a Lifetime Achievement Award to Gerry Ford who has recently retired as CEO of Advantage NI.

The big winners on the night were Madlug CIC who picked up the coveted Social Enterprise of the Year Award. Other winners on the night were:

Award Recipient
One to Watch You Glow Girl
Social Impact Joint winners: Parent Action CIC and Tidal
Health and Social Care The Hummingbird CIC
Education Training and Jobs The NOW Group
Local Council of the Year  ABC Borough Council
Credit Union New Horizons Credit Union

Highly Commended: Farrans Construction

Winner: Kilwaughter Mineral

Consumer Facing  GLL Better
Housing Association Radius Housing
Aspiring Leader 

Highly Commended- Jayne Hamilton and Siofra Frost, Studyseed CIC

Winner – Eileen Wilson Footprints Women’s Centre

Leader of the Year David Hunter – AEL
Employee of the Year Evan Fleming – Kilcooley Women’s Centre
Volunteer of the Year Grace Finn, Springfield Charitable Association
Social Enterprise of the Year Madlug CIC

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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