Building Change Trust
Building Change Trust was created in 2008 with a Big Lottery Fund endowment of £10 million. This fund was a ten year investment for community capacity building and promotion of the voluntary and community sector in Northern Ireland.
Citizen led and driven initiatives are being utilised to fill the gap left by the government, as well as bringing fresh perspectives to the social challenges faced in Northern Ireland.
Why it matters?
There is currently a vacuum in power in Northern Ireland – there has been no government for two years. As part of the 1998 Peace Agreement, a power-sharing government was established between the two main political blocks- the nationalists and unionists. Following a breakdown of government at the beginning of 2017, there has been no decision making body, and effects of this political standoff are now influencing health and education budgets. What makes the work of Building Change Trust important is that it explores civil society’s role when the government is absent. Crisis often creates the conditions for innovation and this is evident through the work being undertaken by the organisation.
Civil society has the capacity to think independently and differently- it is not politically constrained in the same way that elected representatives are. Citizen-led and driven initiatives are being utilised to fill the gap left by the government, as well as bringing fresh perspectives to the social challenges faced in Northern Ireland (NI).
- The first of these is a social innovation skills programme, which involved going out into communities and helping to identify, with citizens their key challenges.
- Secondly, the organisation of NI’s first ever citizen assembly, a process that is bringing together randomly selected citizens in order to serve as a model of how to involve the public in decision making.
- It is clear from the work of Building Change Trust that there is an appetite and potential for successful bottom up democratic initiatives to plug the vacuum left by the absent government.