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Boost to social enterprises could create hundreds of jobs

By Clare Weir

A new scheme which aims to create almost 300 jobs in Northern Ireland is looking for 10 social enterprises to develop their businesses into a franchise.

Up to 20 community, voluntary and social enterprises will also get the chance of assistance in starting up new social economy businesses as part of The Social Franchising Programme.

The scheme, being run by business development agency Ortus, is part of Invest Northern Ireland's Jobs Fund. It aims to create 285 new jobs here and to help community, voluntary and social economy sector organisations defy the current economic downturn.

One social enterprise enjoying the benefits of franchising is Londonderry-based firm Cúnamh ICT which has licenced out its core product, Social Impact Tracker, a secure online database.

Cúnamh ICT's managing director Peter MacCafferty said that the firm created partnerships with seven other community, voluntary and social economy sector organisations in 2011.

"To date we have directly created one full-time position, but in order to meet our projected targets we estimate the recruitment of another three full-time staff for product development and support," he said.

"From the partners' points of view we have set a target of at least 80 licence sales per year.

"However, to get these sorts of numbers of sales the partners will need extra staff dedicated to this task. We estimate each partner will require at least two full-time members of staff. We plan to grow our partnership to 15 - therefore the model has the potential to create up to 33 new jobs."

Seamus O'Prey, chief executive at Ortus, added that if this success was replicated by the number of community, voluntary and social economy sector organisations targeted, it would provide a real boost to towns and villages all over Northern Ireland.

Anyone interested in registering can do so by contacting James Scott on 028 90 311002 or email: info@socialfranchisingni.com.

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