CEO note of reflection: ‘Investing in Social Enterprise’ Event

( L-R) Head of the Civil Service Dr. Jayne Brady, Speaker of the Northern Ireland Assembly, Alex Maskey, Chief Executive of Social Enterprise NI, Colin Jess and the US Special Envoy to Northern Ireland for Economic Affairs Joseph Kennedy III.

This week, I had the honour of speaking at an event in the Long Gallery, Parliament Buildings on the invitation of The Speaker, Alex Maskey. Many in attendance were social enterprise representatives, MLAs of all main political parties along with senior officials from government departments.

As I sat at the front of the room, and waiting to take part, to my left was the Head of the Civil Service, Dr. Jayne Brady and to my right, the US Special Envoy for Northern Ireland Joe Kennedy III. The event was chaired by Alex Maskey who was keen to ensure the social economy got the opportunity to present to the US delegation and to profile the amazing work that the sector engages in on a daily basis. I was honoured to be asked to contribute alongside such esteemed company. From only a few minutes being in the room, I began to realise that this was an event like no other!

I have attended many events over the years to promote social enterprise, however the energy generated in the room was palpable, with the opportunity also provided to those in attendance to contribute to the session by making concise and succinct comments on their work. All listened to intently by our visitor from the US.

As I looked out at the assembled audience, I couldn’t have felt prouder. Proud of every social enterprise leader in the room. Proud of the work they do to support those in most need. Proud that through their social business they make, not only a social contribution but also an economic one and proud that they were being listened to as the US Special Envoy took notes of their work.

It was such a successful event and those from the social economy sector heard directly from the Head of the NI Civil Service, Jayne Brady. She spoke of her support for the sector and recognised the valuable benefits that social enterprises can deliver in making Northern Ireland a more inclusive economy. These words were backed up by those of the US Special Envoy who recognised the important role of the social economy and stated his support to do all that he can to provide meaningful support, making introductions to similar organisations back home. And to hear of the encouragement of The Speaker in ensuring that the social economy got its time in presenting to the representatives from the US.


It is evident that more cognisance is taken of the work and contribution of the social economy across Northern Ireland, and the role it plays to improve the lives of those in most need in today’s society.
I firmly believe that Wednesday was a turning point for our sector. A huge thank you to Jayne Brady, Speaker Alex Maskey, and US Special Envoy Joe Kennedy III for your support. Social Enterprise NI will continue to lobby and seek support for the social economy in NI.

Watch this space everyone! The social economy is a movement! One that all private and public sector organisations need to embrace and in doing so, build social value by including social enterprises in your supply chain. If you work for a private or public sector organisation and are interested to learn more and keen to develop closer relationships with social enterprises in NI, get in touch (
Let’s all “Empower Profit with Purpose and Inspire Lasting Impact.

If you would like to read a copy of my speech, please see below:

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