Social Investment Pilot Programme for the Heritage/Environment Sector Launched

Background to the Programme

In 2016, with the support of the Building Change Trust, NIEL commissioned research to consider new means and methods of developing the financial resilience of the heritage/environment NGO sector in Northern Ireland. This research explored the potential for social investment to support the activity of the sector. The research was undertaken by New Philanthropy Capital, who produced a report indicating a genuine interest from the sector in this type of finance and identified a number of significant barriers.

It is understood that the heritage and environment sector, traditionally, has had a high dependence on government and public funding. Given current public funding austerity, there is a need to increase the capacity of the sector to identify and earn unrestricted income and, specifically, to explore social finance as a new source of funding. Organisations are feeling pressure to diversify investment and assess how “investment–ready” or “attractive” they are to potential investors.

This pilot programme will build upon the work of the HLF Catalyst Umbrella Programme, “Investing in Northern Ireland’s Heritage” which is designed and delivered by NIEL, and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.

About the Programme Deliverers

Chief Officers 3rd Sector (CO3) and the Ulster University’s Business Institute, part of the Business School will jointly partner to deliver NIEL’s Social Investment pilot Mentoring programme for the Heritage/Environment sector.

The Ulster University’s Business Institute has a national and international reputation for excellence, innovation and regional engagement and continues to make a major contribution to the economic, social and cultural development of Northern Ireland.

CO3 is a leading membership based organisation that focuses on supporting, developing and connecting Third Sector leaders in NI.

Together, these organisations have the knowledge, skills and proven track record in the design and delivery of highly effective mentoring programmes to support both personal and organisational development.

What is Mentoring?

Mentoring is a fantastic leadership development service that enables individuals to benefit from the experience and knowledge of their peers. This programme is aimed at supporting the key individual responsible for diversifying investment within their organisation. This programme will increase the capacity of the individual Mentee as well as providing enhanced support to the organisation.

About this pilot programme

The approach of this pilot programme is focused on building capacity through providing external advice and support. A qualified mentor will be assigned to assess an organisation; discuss options for improving their “investment readiness”; gain an understanding of their available sources of income; identify social investment opportunities, products, tools and resources; and provide business planning and financial management advice and support.

The pilot programme will last for six months and will offer one–to–one mentoring advice and support to these organisations in the following areas:

  • Investment Readiness Assessment
  • Business Planning advice and support for a project/programme
  • Financial Management
  • Social Investment products, tools and resources available

Who is the programme for?

This programme is designed for a range of organisations from the heritage and environment sector; from those organisations that are already investment ready and have a strong business idea identified that would suit social finance, to other organisations who are just beginning the process to become eligible to apply for social finance.

The programme will support a key individual in the organisation who is tasked on leading on investment readiness for the organisation.

NI Environment Link will be looking for participants who can demonstrate amongst other things:

  • The organisation is from the Environment or Heritage Sector
  • The organisation has genuine interest and commitment to Social Investment readiness
  • The organisation has a genuine need for support in this area

As this is a pilot programme, some other desirable criteria may be applied by NIEL in order to make their final selection so that a good range of impact can be demonstrated this may include organisational turnover, sub sector and the support request from the organisations.

What is the time commitment?

The pilot programme will last for six months and we will ask mentees to meet approximately every 4 weeks over the period with their mentor.

How to Apply

Interested organisations can apply for one of the limited places on the pilot mentoring scheme by completing the attached application form.

Completed Application forms should be emailed to Tracey McCreanor at

Closing Date for receipt of applications is: Monday 24th April 2017 at 2:30pm

If you are successful* you will be provided with all the training, information and materials required. The programme will formally start in May with an induction session on Wednesday 3rd May at 10:30am.

*As we can only support a small number on this pilot programme, we are delighted to also offer other organisations the chance to attend the Social Invest Clinic on the morning of 20th June 2017. More details on this will follow.