New generation of cutting edge community projects changing Northern Ireland

Date: 8 May 2017

 A new generation of cutting edge community projects is changing Northern Ireland – with the work behind powering them now getting global attention.

This local, community-driven approach, which is part of the Young Foundation’s Amplify programme is gaining traction around the world –with similar projects in Canada, Wales, England and the Republic of Ireland.

The work of AmplifyNI will be celebrated at Community Powered Change: Telling Stories, Growing Ideas, at Ulster University Business School on Monday, May 8th. Some of the innovative projects being showcased include:

Gortilea Social Farm – a global pioneer, using the natural assets of a farm to benefit others. It consists of a working family farm in Claudy that helps people with learning difficulties or mental health problems by teaching them farming skills and providing a range of qualifications that can help them into the workplace. It is also the site of NI’s first hippotherapy clinic – helping young children with autism, with remarkable results. Hippotherapy uses the movement of horses to create neurological changes that can improve a person’s postural control, strength, and coordination. 

Madlug – was founded by Dave Linton who was horrified to discover that children in care are not provided with bags and have to lug their possessions around in bin bags. His social enterprise Madlug sells bags, and for every single one sold a child in care gets one of their own. In less than two years more than 1,100 young people across the UK have their own smart bags rather than bin bags.

The Clare Project – residents in Mount Vernon in North Belfast have grouped together to help older and vulnerable neighbours live independent lives by spending time with them and helping them with tasks, supplementing existing care provision, while at the same time boosting their own employability and learning new skills through their volunteering. The scheme is gaining international attention because of its potential to ease the growing crisis in social care as well as tackling economic inactivity.

These projects have been working alongside Amplify NI through its Accelerator Programme, or its wider Exchange Network.  Amplify NI is powered by the Young Foundation and supported by the Big Lottery Fund. The programme brings people together to help them develop ideas for improving their communities. To date, more than 60 community-led innovations have been supported by Amplify NI across Northern Ireland.

Roger Warnock, Programme Lead for Amplify NI said:

“We spend a lot of time listening to people, hearing their lived experiences of inequality, and then helping them develop ideas and grow innovative projects to improve their communities. To date dozens organisations and individuals have been through our Accelerator Programme and it is great to see so many doing so well.”

Mandy Cowden from Clare CIC said:

“The Amplify programme is invaluable because it allows people to step outside of their day-to-day jobs, meet up with like-minded people, and really think about how people can work together to grow their projects. It helped us to think very strategically about how developed and what we still need to do. The support and guidance we received was invaluable and the introduction to the Big Lottery was also really helpful. It really has amplified what we do as a project.”


Notes to editors:

  1. For interviews and more information the AmplifyNI summit on 8th May please contact: Rebecca Watterson on 07908 010264
  1. Amplify NI is a major five year initiative to support people in Northern Ireland to take action together, to create fairer communities where everyone can thrive. We believe everyone can make a difference, and that positive social change is most likely to happen when people from every part of society are involved. We bring people and organisations from all parts of the community together to listen to their lived experiences of inequality by spending time with them in their own places, help them develop ideas for improving their communities and to create, support and grow innovative projects, collaboration and campaigns to make change happen.
  1. Amplify NI is powered by the Young Foundation, as part of our Places programme which aims to turn the tide of rising inequality using the assets of places and communities. It is funded by National Lottery players through the Big Lottery. We are working with people across Northern Ireland with a main focus in Belfast, Derry/Londonderry and Enniskillen.
  1. The Young Foundation is a research and action based institute with a formidable track record of confronting inequalities. We work across the UK and internationally to create insight and innovations which put people at the heart of social change. We do this through research, work with communities and social innovations. Together we have created and supported over 80 organizations including Which?, The Open University, Economic and Social Research Council, Social Innovation Exchange (SIX), School for Social Entrepreneurs, Uprising, Action for Happiness and Studio Schools Trust. Find out more at
  1. We were founded by the great social scientist and innovator Michael Young and originally called the Institute for Community Studies. In 2005, we merged with the Mutual Aid Centre and became the Young Foundation, in honour of our founder.