‘Social economy hub’ could boost city

Sinn Fein Councillor Maeve McLaughlin pictured at the Glen Road traffic calming chevrons yesterday afternoon. 2106JM22
Sinn Fein Councillor Maeve McLaughlin pictured at the Glen Road traffic calming chevrons yesterday afternoon. 2106JM22

Sinn Fein MLA MAEVE MCLAUGHLIN says there are office space and units available in Derry to provide bases for new social enterprises . . .

Based on the principle of the co-operative model, social enterprise is first and foremost a business entity established to create meaningful jobs with decent pay in worker-owned workplaces. Such enterprises build and strengthen communities by fostering enterprises and facilities which provide local employment and in turn increase the disposable income available to support and encourage further local entrepreneurship.

It is estimated that any new business start-up has a 75% chance of failing within the first five years. But being part of a collective hub or co-operative, I believe, would greatly increase the chances of success. The hub would provide a range of integrated support services to meet the full range of business needs, from generic business support to training and educational skills.

In the North in 2007, it was estimated that there were nearly 400 Social Economy Enterprises (SEE’s) with a total of 6,700 paid employees, 5,000 volunteers and turnover of just over £355 million. DETI and DSD are currently undertaking a scoping exercise on the size and scale of the Social Sector to assess the potential of community and voluntary organisations making the transition to the social enterprise model. A final report is expected by next month.

In the 26 Counties, Social Enterprisers are facilitated through POBAL. A not-for-profit organisation POBAL manages programmes on behalf of the government. Two specific successful programmes that provided local employment were:

1) Community services programme; in 2008 this programme supported 363 community enterprises, employing 2,558 people.

2) Local Development Social inclusion programmes, which in 2008 funded 55 social enterprises.

Quite a number of social economy businesses already exist in Derry although most work as individual entities. Despite this they have often led dynamic regeneration of deprived areas.

There is an abundance of office space or units available in the city and region which could be used for social enterprises. Government is now showing greater interest in the social economy as a viable sustainable economic sector.

We had a recent announcement of 10 Social Economy Hubs, with the Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment due to launch a three year strategy through a consortium including representation from the North West.

The Social Economy is viewed as a key catalyst in Derry’s economic regeneration plan, explicitly connecting with seven of the other ten catalyst projects. With proper application and support from statutory agencies, Derry could show the way in developing the social economy. We must seize this opportunity for economic and social regeneration.