The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland's Civic Innovation Programme aims to support initiatives that put people at the centre of decision-making in Northern Ireland.

This website is a resource for anyone wanting to find out more about the programme, including how to apply, as well as a learning resource for anyone interested in innovations in democracy.

The only independently-funded programme of its kind in the UK or Ireland, the Civic Innovation Programme uses a combination of intensive project design support, expertise on public participation and grant-funding to support the delivery of new initiatives that aim to deepen local democracy.

The programme builds on the legacy of the Building Change Trust’s Civic Activism Programme which operated from 2014-2018. Past projects have included the Citizens’ Assembly for Northern Ireland, Participatory Budgeting Works, the NI Open Government Network and FactCheckNI.

As well as the Community Foundation’s own resources, funding for the programme is provided by a consortium of independent charitable foundations including the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation.

Open to all voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations working in Northern Ireland, as well as public sector representatives and interested individuals, the programme will support projects that can deliver greater public influence over key societal issues as well as demonstrating how a more participative and deliberative model of democracy can build a better Northern Ireland for everyone. 

One of the unique features of the programme is that the individual projects don’t need to be precisely defined at the beginning. Instead, organisations and individuals will be able to complete a simple online expression of interest form via this website from 25th October 2019 onwards, until the deadline of Friday 17th January 2020.

The programme will then formally commence at the Community Foundation’s Democracy Day event on 29th January 2020, delivered in partnership with the Imagine Belfast Festival. At this event participants will have an opportunity to ‘pitch’ their ideas for projects to one another, as well as get some inspiration from international and local contributors working in the fields of public participation and democratic innovation. 

To register to attend Democracy Day click here.

From there, programme participants will self-form into up to 15 teams, each committed to developing a specific project idea. The teams will then attend a series of project design workshops in Derry-Londonderry or Belfast from February to April 2020 where they will have time to work up the details of their idea and receive expert mentoring and support.

All of the 15 teams will then receive a small grant of up to £5,000 to test their idea at a small scale, or to undertake necessary preliminary work such as research or political engagement. Following the completion of the small grants phase each team can then apply for a major grant of up to £50,000 to deliver their project over an 18 month period, with up to 10 projects being supported. 

Across the entire programme the Community Foundation will seek to tap into the groundswell of democratic innovations taking place around the world and provide opportunities for grantees to learn from this and showcase their own work. 

For further information contact Paul Braithwaite via pbraithwaite@communityfoundationni.org