Community Wealth Building in Northern Ireland

The Minister for Communities convened a Ministerial Advisory Panel in March 2022, to undertake a focused piece of work that would advise on the most effective and sustainable approach to embedding the principles of Community Wealth Building into all relevant departmental investment, policy and practice.

Independent advisory panel

The panel was also asked to identify potential actions which could be taken forward as part of the next Executive Programme for Government. In October 2022 the panel produced a report entitled Independent Report to advance Community Wealth Building in Northern Ireland. The Ministerial Advisory Panel consists of:

Sarah McKinley (Chair)

Sarah McKinley is the director of community wealth building programs  for The Democracy Collaborative, working out of her home office in Brussels, Belgium. Sarah builds transatlantic partnerships to develop new community wealth building models and learning exchanges to advance the democratic economy in the United Kingdom, continental Europe, and the United States.

Previously, she was director of European programs and was the European representative for The Democracy Collaborative’s Next System Project. Her background is in community development and she has worked with community development organisations at different levels, including with the Greater Southwest Development Corporation, a Chicago-based community development corporation, and the National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations in Washington DC.

Harry Connolly

Harry Connolly is the Director of Fáilte Feirste Thiar, a local tourism development agency tasked with the responsibility of developing West Belfast’s tourism offering and building sustainable tourism infrastructure. Previous to working in tourism development, he worked for a number of years in youth, sport and community development.

Harry is the former vice chairperson of the West Belfast District Policing & Community Safety Partnership (DPCSP), he is also a former board member with Visit Belfast. He is the chairperson of Féile an Phobail, Ireland’s largest community arts festival and as a co–founder of Áras Uí Chonghaile, Belfast’s latest visitor attraction which opened in April 2019, Harry has led the development of the James Connolly project. He is also a board member with Tourism Ireland. Harry has taken the opportunity provided by peace to develop the West Belfast tourism product and infrastructure, supporting tourism related business and social enterprises, promoting local social and economic regeneration via small business development and promoting tourism and sport as a model for delivering peace and reconciliation.

David Hunter

Previously David Hunter held the role of Chief  Executive of the award winning Access Employment Limited, widely regarded as one of the top Social Enterprise Companies in Northern Ireland.

David was recognised as the Social Enterprise ‘Leader of the Year’ in both 2018 and 2021. With a background in business development, he has always played an active role in community wealth building  both  at a local and regional level. David is a Director with Social Enterprise NI, a Director at Larne Football Club, and he also sits on the Executive’s All Party Working Group on Social Value. David is passionate about developing cross-sector collaborative working to maximise community benefit.

Joe Guinan

Joe Guinan is vice president of strategy and programs at The Democracy Collaborative, based in Washington DC. His focus is on political economy and economic system change, and he is co-author of The Case for Community Wealth Building and of People Get Ready! Preparing for a Corbyn Government, which was named one of The Guardian’s best politics books of the year.

A former journalist, he was previously a program director at the Aspen Institute, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and a consultant to the William & Flora Hewlett Foundation. Born in England with dual Irish and British citizenship, he grew up in British labour movement circles and was educated at Balliol College, Oxford. He was the executive director of the Next System Project at The Democracy Collaborative when it was launched in 2016.

Brendan Murtagh

Brendan Murtagh is Professor of Urban Planning at Queen’s University Belfast. He also leads the social economy strand of the Queen’s Communities and Place (QCAP) initiative designed to support local economic development and social enterprises across Northern Ireland. He has researched and written widely on social economics, community development and urban regeneration and his books include Social Economics and the Solidarity City; Understanding the Social Economy and the Third Sector; and The Politics of Territory.

Working across interdisciplinary teams, his research projects include commercialising the social enterprise sector (Innovate UK); the social economy after peace (Swedish Research Council); locally owned economies and coastal communities (EU Horizon Europe); and asset-based development for community health (UKRI). Professor Murtagh Chairs the Faculty Research Ethics Committee and sits on the university’s Research Governance and Integrity Committee. He is a Board Member of the NGO Community Places and sits on the Department for Communities Ministerial Advisory Panel on Shared Housing.

Advisory panel terms of reference


  1. The Department for Communities has committed in its five year strategy, Building Inclusive Communities, to “grow and scale community wealth building” to support sustainability and inclusive growth.
  2. The Minister for Communities has decided to appoint an Independent Advisory Panel on Community Wealth Building (the Panel). The Panel will undertake a focused piece of work to advise the Minister on the most effective and sustainable approach to embedding the principles of Community Wealth Building into all relevant departmental investment, policy and practice.
  3. The Panel will build on the learning and capacity building work undertaken to date by the Department in partnership with Trademark and Development Trusts NI (DTNI).
  4. The Panel will bring to bear the significant experience, skills and knowledge of its members to identify how the Department can grow and scale community wealth building approaches to deliver outcomes against the 5 pillars  of the CLES model for Community Wealth Building.

Role of the panel

  1. The Panel is being established to:
    • Consider relevant research and analysis relating to the application of Community Wealth Building principles, informed by successful on the ground approaches;
    • Make evidence informed recommendations to the Minister on the scope of a departmental Community Wealth Building model and the key actions needed to support it; including proposals regulatory  and  legislative change;
    • Advise on the elements of community wealth building that are within the Department’s remit to implement;
    • Identify areas where the Department can influence the actions of key partners, including Executive departments, local government, its Arm’s Length Bodies and funded organisations who can deliver further impact in relation to Community Wealth Building;
    • Identify potential actions which can be taken forward as part of the next Executive Programme for Government, directly by the Department and in partnership with others;
    • Advise on relevant resourcing requirements for the co-ordination of a mainstream Departmental approach to community wealth building, drawing on comparators in other jurisdictions, including Scotland and Wales;
    • Advise on the development of policy implementation tools to support progress in effecting outcomes against our community wealth building goals [for example, appraisal and decision making templates/impact assessment, OBA indicators, outcomes/”Report Card”]
    • Recommend Cross-Sectoral (Public, Private & Social) solutions that encourage partnership or collaboration as a means to deliver Community Wealth Building.

Membership and appointments

  1. The Panel will have five core members. Panel members may also be called upon during the subsequent implementation stage of our Community Wealth Building journey on an ad hoc basis. Indeed, the Panel may recommend further support needs as part of its report.
  2. Panel members will be selected based on their relevant knowledge and expertise. They will have a range of expertise, lived experience and knowledge of Community Wealth Building.
  3. The Panel will nominate a chairperson who will serve as the main point of contact and will be supported by a Secretariat.

Conduct and confidentiality

  1. Panel members will be asked to declare any conflicts of interest, and must adhere to the Seven Principles of Public Life and GDPR obligations.
  2. Panel members may be given access to information not yet in the public domain or which is policy under development. This information should not be shared outside the Group, including in the press or on social media, without prior written permission from the Department. This applies both during  and after the Group’s term of appointment.

Note from the expert panel

The Panel provided the following paragraph when agreeing the Terms of Reference;

  1. The Expert Panel accepts the ToR as presented, viewing it as permissive of an ambitious and wide-ranging set of recommendations  for Community Wealth Building in Northern Ireland concerning both the direct remit of the Communities Ministry and its opportunity and ability to influence other vitally important actors across all sectors. We recognise the great work, past and present,  that has been done and can be  built upon. In particular, we believe it is important for the Panel to set forth and articulate a definition  of Community Wealth Building  principles  within the context of and as they pertain to Northern Ireland in particular. While there are common goals and unifying approaches to CWB globally, the framework for CWB in Northern Ireland  must reflect local conditions and possibilities. We see significant potential in Community Wealth Building as it relates to peacebuilding and the unmet needs of frontline communities in a society  still emerging  out of conflict. We will focus on the common purpose of a CWB strategy for Northern Ireland, lifting up what has worked in communities there and elsewhere, while pushing a "whole-of-government  approach"  to supporting and scaling these solutions for deeper impact and sustainable and transformative change. We will focus on action-oriented recommendations that address social, economic, and environmental needs in the short term, while building structures and institutions that imbed CWB for the long-haul. We look forward to beginning this much-needed and ambitious body of work.

Minister's statement

I welcome this report from my Advisory Panel on Community Wealth Building and the energy and creativity which they have brought to this agenda. The recommendations of the Panel are ambitious and cross-cutting and call for a sustained commitment to delivering real change. I note that many of the recommendations require further analysis and research to establish scope and potential costs and this will need to be taken forward as part of prioritising the next steps for action.

Delivering on the potential of Community Wealth Building will require a collective effort to drive systemic change in our economy and for our communities.

This report provides a series of recommendations aimed at addressing poverty and the structural inequalities that exist in our communities. These recommendations will need to be considered by a future Executive as a foundational element of a new Programme for Government.

Communities Minister, Deirdre Hargey
27 October 2022

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