The People's Accelerator 2018

This Accelerator was supported by the Big Lottery Fund in Spring 2018

Ulster Wildlife Trust

Sea Deep will champion the endangered shark, skate and ray species found within our local seas. By working with recreational sea users, schools and local communities, Sea Deep will create opportunities for people to actively contribute to species conservation in Northern Ireland. Ultimately, the aim for this is a step-change in peoples understanding of our hidden marine natural heritage. Engagement work will provide training and create leadership roles within local communities so a group of committed volunteers can continue to drive local conservation action after the project ends. Within four coastal schools, they will deliver an education programme that will bring our local seas to life, introduce marine conservation career options and engage students in the process to influence the protection and management of our seas.

Sharks, skates and rays are among the most vulnerable of all marine fish. They typically have long life spans and give birth to a small number of young, resulting in slow population growth rates with little capacity to recover from threats such as over-fishing, pollution or habitat destruction. Our waters are of key importance to many of these species, hosting critical spawning aggregations and juvenile nursery grounds. However, recent assessments have highlighted the severe decline in population numbers around Irish waters and many species are now classed as endangered or critically endangered (where the next stage is extinct in the wild). Throughout Northern Ireland, there is a low level of public awareness of the diverse wildlife and habitats in our seas and the conservation issues they face. Our seas are too often out of sight and out of mind. Securing healthy, productive seas into the future and achieving new protection measures for our shark, skate and ray species will need to be done with local residents at the heart of the action.


Divert NI

DIVERTNI are a newly formed CIC focused on addressing the increasingly publicised and concerning social problems of offending behaviour, substance-use, mental health and suicide. 

Having been employed as substance-use intervention specialists and psychosocial therapists within the custodial environment for many years, Divert NI utilise a range of expertise and experience to provide consistent support for a huge number of highly problematized clients in highly problematic environments and circumstances. Coming from backgrounds as diverse as criminology and behavioural change counselling, they have developed a true sense of synergy and accumulated a specific skillset to be applied to the most vulnerable and isolated members of society.

The experience they have accumulated, and success they have enjoyed from within the custodial environment has led them to the conclusion that custody does not work; in fact it generally exacerbates problems for individuals, families, communities and society itself. Due to this, Divert NI are aiming to utilise the skills and experience they have developed to facilitate a wide range of more holistic and socially beneficial 'alternative to custody' interventions including one to one intervention, group work facilitation and residential development programmes.

Angel Eyes NI

Angel Eyes NI is a Belfast based charity started by parents to help families throughout Northern Ireland who have a child who is visually impaired. Over the eleven years of its existence it has grown rapidly to meet the needs of this community and identifying the issues faced by parents of blind or partially sighted children.

Their aim is that every blind and partially sighted child in Northern Ireland will have equal opportunities in life to fully achieve their dreams, aspirations and potential.  To achieve their vision, they support parents, carers and professionals supporting blind and partially sighted children with the tools and knowledge to empower them make informed decisions for the children to ensure they realise their full capability.

The Visualise Project will develop a VR Sight Loss Simulator to help parents and professionals understand the world visually impaired children live in.  Virtual Reality puts you at the centre of a three-dimensional, interactive, computer-generated scene, using a smartphone docked into a low-cost headset.

The VR Sight Loss Simulator will accurately create the effects of a range of visual functions, which can be layered, in various ways to simulate different eye conditions. Parents can customise the level of each function using medical measurements from the child’s optometrist.  By viewing different scenes in Virtual Reality, with the layered visual impairments in place, parents and professionals will get an accurate and immersive visualisation of what the world looks like to their child. This enables them to put more effective and appropriate support in place.


Training Matchmaker

The mission of Training Matchmaker is to empower people to get learning and keep learning. 

Everyone in Northern Ireland truly does have access to education and learning to improve their employability and also their wellbeing - learning being one of the 5 proactive steps you can take to take care of your mental health.

There are thousands of free online learning opportunities and as a knowledge broker we not only want to make sure that as many people as possible know about these courses from organisations such as Harvard, MIT, Open University, Google, Disney Pixar but we also wish to empower local communities and local Trainers to run blended learning opportunities - where online learning opportunities can be completed in a facilitated way with face to face contact and peer networking support.

Training Matchmaker is the brainchild of Chartered Marketer and Licensed WorldHost Trainer Christine Watson. Founder of Watson & Co. Chartered Marketing and Former Chair of The Chartered Institute of Marketing Ireland region Christine has personally enabled over 1,000 clients and contacts to learn more and achieve more.

Training Matchmaker are in the process of developing a community-led initiative called Marketing Mums which aims to encourage mothers who now have their children in school and have at least 3 hours per day available for employability to learn more and earn more.

The Freelancer GIG economy is ideal for marketing. Many micro and SME organisations need marketing help on a regular basis but many don’t have the budget or confidence to employ for this role. 

Many mothers seek paid work that fits in with their caring responsibilities - to start after school drop off and pick up at the school gates and to work term time.

Training Matchmaker propose to match 12 top 15 of these mothers with 48 to 60 micro or SME organisations and support them with facilitated marketing education and training and a marketing audit and plan co-created with a Chartered Marketer to be able to add marketing value to their clients.

It is anticipated that participant mums and participant organisations will see the value of marketing and self-employment will be created as a result of this pilot programme.


Excalibur Press - The Merlin Project

The Merlin Project is the new CIC being launched by the people behind media and publishing company Excalibur Press.  Through The Merlin Project they will use the medium of words, pictures, video and storytelling to break down social, educational, mental and practical barriers into the publishing, journalism, blogging, writing, creative and digital worlds.

They currently deliver bespoke programmes to select groups in order to help disenfranchised and disadvantaged groups of people engage with the world around them.

At The Merlin Project, they want to expand their team to be able to offer workshops and programmes to a wider network of schools, community organisations, youth groups and the voluntary sector.

It is their mission to enable individuals within communities across Northern Ireland and beyond to unleash the power of their words.


Cable and Wake

Cable and Wake actively create social change by bringing opportunities in water sports to people across the communities of Northern Ireland.  Since its conception in 2013, the company has ran over 20 community focused programs and made an impact on the lives of over 20,000 young people. The company operates and manages water sports facilities including Lets Go Hydro at Knockbracken Reservoir and hopes to continue its growth by developing a water sports retreat for those who could benefit most by opportunities in water sports to increase all round wellbeing as well as gain water based skills and certifications.


Horn of Africa People's Aid NI (HAPANI)

Horn of Africa People’s Aid Northern Ireland is a charity, formed in response to a demand for support for refugees, asylum seekers, individuals and families from the Horn of Africa and beyond who are living in NI.  HAPANI works from an ethos of social inclusion - empowering those who are socially, financially or physically vulnerable in order to promote individual well-being and harmonious communities.

Refugees and asylum seekers experience a huge range of obstacles living in NI - connecting with services, language barriers, poverty, accessing healthcare and education, and securing employment after being granted refugee status, to name a few. The charity supports and empowers these individuals regardless of social background, gender, ethnicity or circumstance.

HAPANI hopes to assist in tackling the housing needs of destitute asylum seekers in the Belfast and greater Belfast areas.  Through extensive research, they have identified the need for a Destitution Project.  The proposed project would provide a safe and secure environment for asylum seekers and refugees awaiting the decision of their asylum application, allowing a stable setting during this period of uncertainty. The project will allow opportunities for these destitute asylum seekers to access training, capacity building as well as volunteer at HAPANI, which assists their integration into the wider Belfast community (both indigenous and new comer). The project aims to develop bespoke and tailored accommodation for these asylum seekers and refugees that operates as a social enterprise. 


Positive Carrickfergus

Positive Carrickfergus is a social movement that began on Facebook and has started to move into the real world. Positive Carrickfergus aims to create a more connected Carrickfergus, to build community and a sense of place.

Started by Lee Robb in October 2017 in response to yet another negative Facebook thread about how hopeless Carrick is, the closed Facebook group now has over 2,000 members and continues to grow. Lee, like so many people who live in Carrickfergus, avoided getting involved in the life of the town for many years. However, after developing an interest in systems change and place based approaches to change, Lee recognised that she was part of the problem and decided to use her knowledge, skills and experience to step up and help to shape a more Positive Carrickfergus.

Using an asset based community development approach, Positive Carrickfergus promotes the good things that are already happening in Carrick to challenge the dominant negative narrative that stops people from telling good stories about the town and participating in civic and community life. By deliberately thinking about Carrick as a whole, rather than ‘areas of need’ or specific communities in need and working to break down boundaries between, for example, local businesses, community groups and the council, Positive Carrickfergus raises the visibility of people who are beavering away making Carrick a better place and highlights that there is so much more going on than most people thought - a common refrain from Positive Carrickfergus members.

In June this year, Positive Carrickfergus held its first Big Lunch in the Town Hall, a chronically underused community asset in the centre of the town. In a place that has been identified as having ‘low social capital’, that event attracted around 110 people who all brought food to share and crowdfunded almost £100 more than was needed to put on the event.  They are planning to hold another Big Lunch in the autumn and a leftovers Big Lunch between Christmas and New Year. In addition, by sharing the Creative Shops project run by Big Telly, MEA council picked up the idea and a Creative Shop opened for 8 weeks in Carrick on 20 August. Meet Up Mondays, another project shared on the Facebook page as a suggestion for Carrick, is currently being planned by Lee in collaboration with 2 local churches, Good Morning Carrickfergus, Seeds Carrickfergus and Ownies Pub and Bistro to bring together people who are feeling disconnected and isolated.

Lee has big plans for Positive Carrickfergus and Carrickfergus in general and is buoyed up by people telling her that Positive Carrickfergus is the ‘most exciting thing to happen in Carrick for a long time’. She has worked hard to build her own connections in the town and outside it but she could do with some help. People in Carrick have talked for a long time about tourists or the council as the potential saviours of the town. One day she’d like to tell the story of a town that came together to save itself.


Infinity Farm

Infinity Farm is a community interest company promoting the health and well-being of urban communities by connecting people, organisations, plants and bees in an innovative way in Belfast. They are keen to show that by making small changes collectively as a community, we can bring about real positive social change to the environment.

Infinity Farm are passionate about the connection between art and the environment.  An important aspect of their work is as bee keepers; educating schools and community groups on the fundamental role bees have on the environment.  With the continuing decline of bees globally, they let us know what we can do as a society to contribute to bees’ survival.   As well as bringing observational hives into groups, to show the fascinating way in which a colony of honey bees works up close, local communities have been sculpture casting using bees wax and making self-care products from household items.  They also hold workshops on the importance of reducing plastic, showing people how to make re-usable wrap from bees wax, instead of single use plastic film. 

Through the power of collaboration, Infinity Farm hopes to have an even bigger impact on the environment.  They recently spoke of their long-term aim to the Soroptimist Society and invited guests at Stormont, to create a bee line across Belfast which is a continuous strip of habitat for bees and other pollinators, with the line starting from the Government building itself.  The project gives local residents, community groups and small businesses the opportunity to create the bee line together as a collective, having their say in how it would look and work.  Local artists will be involved in make engaging visual art pieces with residents along the beeline, giving more accessibility to the arts.  Infinity Farm hope that the bee line will be used as a template which can be replicated all over the country, with different councils being involved.  This involvement from councils would help to influence wider policy. 



Sustrans work with families, communities, policy-makers and partner organisations right across the UK to make it easier for people to walk and cycle. They make journeys safer and empower people to make travel choices which are good for them, their neighbourhoods and the environment.

Sustrans are keen to develop a community-led environmental project; connecting local residents with their environment by empowering them to take ownership of the greenways in NI, and have a say in their development. Their long-term aim is to transform the National Cycling Network into a more resilient ecological network, to increase the numbers of people using these routes to travel more actively, with all the benefits this brings to their health and the environment.


The Relationship Centre

The Relationship Centre provides mentoring for both adults and young people to address issues which are important to them, for example, parenting, work, leadership, school, distress and relationships.  All the issues people face in life have a common denominator; the nature of my relationship with myself. There is not an issue (conflict, drugs, alcohol, stress, fear, avoidance, passivity, aggression etc.) which is not fundamentally about suppression of my own individuality.   

Educational courses, mentoring and psychotherapy are run from the perspective that human beings are vastly intelligent and do not need advice or strategies (these rarely work in the long term). Instead, they need the support, safety and patience to find their own answers, which they are aware of but not necessarily conscious of - consequently classes and mentoring are focussed on reaching (creating safety) rather than preaching. 

When people reflect and become conscious of how they are living, everything changes and they begin to lead. Before I can lead a family, a team, an organisation or a country I must first learn how to lead myself.

Parenting - When parents begin to listen and become conscious of what’s going for them, they begin to take action for themselves. As their relationship with themselves becomes deeper, so their approach to parenting also changes.

They begin to accompany their children on their journey rather than to control and to allow their individuality to flourish while setting loving boundaries to keep them safe. In turn as children sense there are no conditions on love and boundaries reflect care rather than punishment their challenging behaviours reduce significantly. 

Young people are very quick to redeem the qualities they hid away and unless very deeply hurt become conscious much quicker than adults. They understand the symbolism of behaviour and how we are always communicating. There is always deep meaning as to why a young person doesn’t study or why they drink or take drugs or rebel or cut themselves.  For example when a young person steals the symbolism is usually communicating what was stolen from them but which they cannot speak about, (a parent’s death, or their innocence)      

Teachers like parents, when teachers begin to really care for themselves their relationship with their students change. They no longer mix them up with exam results but begin to see the individuality and creativity of each student and do not mix up their success as a teacher with their student’s learning.

St Columb's Park House - Peace in the Park

The aim of Peace in the Park is to make the park surrounding St Columb’s Park House a shared and open space for all community members. The project works to animate the park with the goal of bringing community members together and reducing anti-social behaviour (and also sectarian tension as a result of the anti-social behaviour). So far, St Columb’s has focused on creating social events for park users and community members, and encouraging alternative sport use in the park (disc golf, ultimate Frisbee, parkour). 

For the most part, the opening of a Peace Bridge in Derry/Londonderry has been extremely positive. However, over the summer tension erupts when young people from different communities gather in the park. Local community members feel threatened and this fear has previously escalated into violence. Reactive suggestions have been to close the Peace Bridge down at night, as well as a plan to fence off a large part of the park. We know from experience that when barriers are put up in communities, they are very difficult to ever take down, and therefore need to be thought through carefully. Research shows us that when people are using green spaces, anti-social behaviour is reduced. Over the last year, St Columb’s has designed a programme of events in the park. 

As well as continuing this work, they would also like to engage in consultation with park users, community members and young people to create an action plan that is evidence based and community-led to animate the park.



Mini Explorers

Mini Explorers was set up by two mums, Laura Stitt, a qualified teacher, and Leanne Alawi, who has 10 years experience of working with children in a variety of educational settings.  They are keen to address and reduce the stigma of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression in both parents and children, by actively promoting mental well-being through their interactive programme.  As well as facilitating exciting and fun play based workshops using multi-sensory play in order to promote the benefits of play and learning through play and development, they have spent the last year creating a programme of mindfulness and yoga based activities to complement these workshops.   

Mini Explorers are keen to expand their work and help parents from all communities.  They aim to set up a project called “Positive Play Dates” in accessible locations across Northern Ireland such as community centres.  They want to make these play dates informal, interactive and un-intimidating to people facing certain obstacles such as mental health or disadvantage.  Through these workshops they will be promoting parents’ and children's mental and overall well-being through play activities, mindfulness and yoga with a laid back session, cup of tea and a chat.


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