The 19th Annual Community Conference, which took place on the 24th of October at the Tullyglass Hotel, Ballymena, provided over 300 attendees with inspiration, examples of good practice, practical skills, and a good bit of fun too.
A joint effort between the Central Housing Forum, Supporting Communities, and the Housing Executive, the conference theme this year was “Make An Impact” and centered around the social and economic value that community work creates.
Linda Watson, chair of the Housing Community Network’s Central Housing Forum, opened the conference by emphasising to members that “This is YOUR conference. Your effort and your dedication to constantly improving your communities has always been the inspiration for this event.”
The first speaker, Eileen Mullan, presented her work in creating Strictly Boardroom, an organisation that champions diverse participation on boards and runs the Boardroom Apprentice programme which encourages people to serve on boards and make an impact for the areas and causes they care about. Her passion for this work was clear and she may find she has quite a few new apprentices wanting to get involved after hearing her talk.
Next, three projects funded through Housing Executive programmes were presented as examples of good practice.
Videos showcasing their work were shown and group representatives were presented with certificates and “Impact” Awards. Our thanks again to these, and to all of the groups we interviewed for ‘Making an Impact’ and contributing to the event.
Glenravel and District Community and Residents Association from the North Region, whose Road Safety Campaign in partnership with the children at Mary Queen of Peace Primary School is raising awareness and keeping people safe in their village.
Edgarstown Residents Association in Portadown representing South Region, whose youth involvement work has made a big difference in reducing antisocial behaviour.
Ardmonagh Family and Community Group and their Good Morning West Belfast Project representing the Belfast region, who have made a huge difference through their telephone & befriending service to isolated older people in their community.
Next, Tara Grace Connolly from the NI Youth Forum gave a stirring speech extoling the importance of including young people’s voices in decision-making processes. She talked about her own experiences of getting involved and how having opportunities to make her voice heard has impacted her life.
After a break and some time to peruse the many exhibitor stands dotted around the huge ballroom, the event turned to practical methods of measuring impact.
Ivan Annibal from Rose Regeneration and Anita Doonan, Funding and Social Value Officer with Supporting Communities, presented work they have been doing to evaluate the social return on investment of Supporting Communities’ development work in the Mid and East Antrim area.
The report shows an amazing £9.55 return of social and economic value for every £1 invested, that’s over £7 million of social value achieved in just this one area of Northern Ireland!
Anita also spoke about the next steps in piloting social value measurement amongst groups. She demonstrated using the three projects highlighted earlier to show how she worked with Rose Regeneration’s Social Value Engine to help the groups understand their impact and target their efforts to achieve the best return of social value for their work. Supporting Communities will be continuing to pilot social value measurement with 10 further Housing Executive funded groups. Anita will also be delivering Social Impact Awareness sessions throughout NI over the coming months.
The last speaker of the day literally had the crowd on their feet, standing with confidence! Billy Dixon gave a rousing talk on ‘Practical Resilience’, something we all need to continue to do the work we do and make an impact in our communities.
As the conference was concluding, Colm McDaid of Supporting Communities and Deidre Crawford from the Housing Executive offered thanks to the organisers and all the groups who attended. Suddenly, however, they were interrupted and the room was surprised to find the Central Housing Forum working group had one more trick up their sleeve! A rather nervous chef wanted to make an announcement and turned out to be an opera singer in disguise!
That certainly made an impact! Nothing like a bit of “That’s Amore” as lunch is served.