Social Enterprise NI, an organisation promoting and supporting social enterprises across Northern Ireland, hosted the Social Enterprise NI Awards on Thursday 20 October at Stormont Hotel, Belfast. The awards recognised and celebrated the excellence in social enterprise and the outstanding achievements of social entrepreneurs to deliver social impact.
Ortus Group (www.ortus.org), an organisation based in Belfast that is providing unique business support programmes, property services and language services to a diverse range of start-up and SME businesses, won the coveted award of NI Social Enterprise of the Year. “We are absolutely delighted to be named as NI Social Enterprise of the Year. At Ortus our social giving is central to our ethos, achieved through initiatives such as direct donations to local community and voluntary organisations, working in partnership with local influential groups.” says Seamus O’Prey, C.E.O. of The Ortus Group. “Annually we provide over 300 free workshops as well as providing over £40,000 worth of free business support and mentoring to local SMEs, plus additional monetary contributions to community groups through the Charity Initiative Fund… We are looking forward to an exciting 2017, where we can continue to grow as a company and invest in our local community.”
In addition to the recognition of social enterprises at the awards, Social Enterprise NI showcased a wide range of social enterprises through its preparations and running of the event. This included bottled water on tables from Clearer Water, a social enterprise based in Larne; filming of shortlisted candidates by Slack Press, a social enterprise filming company and table plan created by Stepping Stones, a social enterprise providing training opportunities for people with learning difficulties.
Colin Jess, Director of Social Enterprise NI said, “This has been our biggest and best awards to date, with over 250 guests attending. It is great to see the commitment, energy and enthusiasm within the room and also the increased interest in the sector. This year we have been joined by organisations representing the public and private sectors, who are keen to understand the social enterprise business model. We look forward to working closely with all sectors and political parties to continue this momentum and to position the social enterprise sector as a strong contributor to the mainstream NI economy.”
Sponsoring the awards and showing support for the sector on the night were an impressive list of public and private organisations including Belfast City Council, Department for Economy, Department for Communities, 4c Executive, Ulster Community Investment Trust (UCIT), Housing Executive, Edwards & Co. Solicitors, Charity Bank and Causeway Conferencing.
Gareth Hanna from 4c said, “4c Third Sector was delighted to partner with Social Enterprise NI at their awards this year and champion the incredible organisations that work within this sector. Social Enterprises throughout Northern Ireland not only provide vital services and support to the vulnerable and disadvantaged in our communities but also contribute a great deal into the local economy. 4c Third Sector is proud to support the ongoing growth and development of the sector and looks forward to the Social Enterprise NI Conference in the New Year.”
A special guest at the awards was Yvonne Strachan, Deputy Director in the Scottish Government and responsible for leading its work in the Third sector. Ahead of the awards Ms Strachan spoke to MLAs, government departments and the central procurement team at a lunchtime Roundtable event at Parliament Buildings, Stormont. A key learning at the meeting was the experience of Scottish government in embedding its own eco systems in the Third Sector.
For further details on the awards and social enterprise sector in Northern Ireland visit www.socialenterpriseni.org or follow the organisation’s Twitter page @socentni.
Loaf Catering is a social enterprise delivering outside catering across Belfast.