The voice for Social Enterprises & Social Entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland. Connecting, supporting, developing and sustaining vibrant businesses to create social change.


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Social Value Conference 2019

Social Enterprise NI – Social Value Conference 2019


On Thursday 31st January 2019 around 200 delegates from cross sector organisations attended the annual Social Value Conference, hosted by Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council at the Theatre at The Mill. The theme of this year’s conference was Social Value: How can it be properly Implemented. 

The conference host was UTV’s Paul Clark who has been a supporter of Social Enterprise NI events for several years.

Delegates where welcomed by the Mayor of Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, Councillor Paul Michael who told delegates that Social Enterprise is fast becoming a huge part of the NI Economy and passed on the Councils best wishes for the event and Social Enterprise NI going forward.

The “Member Spotlight” slot was on Tara Mullan from Refuge Hot Chocolate. A social enterprise making luxurious thick liquid chocolate, established to support survivors of human trafficking. Tara’s big break came at the end of 2018 by being included on the supply chain of Lidl Stores across Northern Ireland.   

Sue Gray, Permanent Secretary for the Department of Finance was welcomed and thanked for her interest and support of social enterprise sector.  Sue spoke of the role that social enterprises can play as part of a collaborative NI economy.  Sue commented “Social enterprises make a huge contribution to the local economy in Northern Ireland. This event has showcased the entrepreneurial spirit of social enterprises, the real difference they make within communities and the amazing work going on in the sector.

 “My department, through its role in Procurement, is committed to ensuring that opportunities are available to those in the social economy sector by providing guidance and encouraging more bids. I look forward to visiting a number of Social Enterprises in the near future to see first-hand the great things that have been achieved.”

The “Dragons Den” competition, arguably the highlight of the Conference was once again supported by Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT) and provided the prize fund for the event.  6 organisations pitched, namely IncredABLE in Lurgan, MACS NI from Belfast, Parent Action CIC Downpatrick, Shared Threads Belfast, Stellas from Newtownards and The Turnaround Project Belfast.  Judges, Phelim Sharvin from our Sponsor UCIT, Tara Mullan, Refuge Hot Chocolate and Sue Gray selected Shared Threads Belfast commenting on their social impact not just here in Northern Ireland but across the Globe.

Chair of Social Enterprise NI, John McMullan spoke of his recent trip to the Philippines and how that part of the world sought to understand the role that social enterprises in Northern Ireland played in post conflict resolution.  Delegates then heard a keynote address from Jonathan Bland, Founder of E3M and Julian Blake of Stone King LLP. Both gentlemen spoke of their experience of implementing Social Value into procurement contracts and challenged commissioners in Northern Ireland to be “bold” and understand the benefits of Social Value.  Despite no current legislation in Northern Ireland, this should not prevent public sector commissioners and procurement officers from seeking to apply Social Value, and both speakers encouraged them to do so.

In closing, Colin Jess Director of Social Enterprise NI thanked all delegates for attending the Conference.  He also expressed his thanks to all the speakers, sponsors, Antrim and Newtownabbey Borough Council and to Paul Clark for their contribution in making the Conference a success.  Colin wrapped up the Conference by stating, “Social Enterprise is a growing sector; Social Enterprise is the future. The ‘B’ word for today is not Brexit – The ‘B’ word is Business. Social Enterprise NI continues to lobby for Social Value Legislation. Please support us and embrace it”


For photos of our Social Value Conference 2019 go to: