Supporting enterprise and innovation in the third sector

The Department has a key role in supporting Social Economy Enterprise (SEE) growth within the Voluntary and Community Sector. This is being taken forward through the following initiatives.

Community Asset Transfer

Community Asset Transfer (CAT) is a change in management and/or ownership of land or buildings, from public bodies to communities. 'Community' ownership and management of public assets encompasses a range of third sector organisations:

  • voluntary and community sector groups,
  • faith-based organisations,
  • community enterprises and social enterprises.

A cross-departmental Steering Group was established to develop the Community Asset Transfer policy framework. This was subject to consultation and was approved by the Executive in May 2014. Development Trusts NI (DTNI) have been appointed as the Department’s delivery partner for CAT. DTNI’s role is to raise awareness of CAT in the Voluntary & Community Sector and facilitate organisations to access CAT opportunities. It is hoped Community Asset Transfer will stimulate social enterprise activity as communities look for sustainable ways to operate these assets. Guidance for asset owners on how to deal with Community Asset Transfer requests is available.

Social Innovation

Innovation is wider than Research and Development, including changes to products and processes, introduction of new business models, organisational changes and entering new markets. InnovateNI, the NI Executive’s Innovation Strategy, recognises that if innovation is to play its full part in realising the vision of the Economic Strategy, then we need a complete step change in terms of an innovation culture, priority and performance across the public, private and third sectors.

The aims of the strategy

The Northern Ireland Innovation Strategy aims to deliver a vision that Northern Ireland, by 2025, will be recognised as an Innovation Hub and will be one of the UK’s leading high-growth, knowledge-based regions which embraces creativity and innovation at all levels of society. 

The role of the Department

The Department leads a working group to bring together senior representatives from Government, the private sector and local and UK wide third sector interests, to identify areas where social innovation could make a difference (the problem spaces), scope the current activity/ interest in social innovation, recognising the context of Innovate NI, develop some potential social innovation pilot actions and advise on key opportunities to connect the work on social innovation  with other projects and initiatives taking place in Northern Ireland.


If you have any queries please contact Voluntary and Community Unit 

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