Meet the Innovators- Claire Ferris from Work West

Ahead of FuSIon Fest, we sat down with some of the people that are working at the coal face of Social Innovation in Northern Ireland and are helping to deliver some of the programmes- next up is Claire Ferris from Work West. Work West deliver many programmes, including the Social Innovation Skills Programme and Knowledge Exchange as part of Social Innovation NI.

Tell us a little about yourself and your journey to Work West
I joined Work West 18 years ago having formerly worked with my father to set up a family business and then managed Ballymoney Enterprise Company for 4 years. Work West has been in operation for 28 years and is located in the heart of West Belfast.  In that period we have supported thousands of individuals and organisations to set up new ventures both private and social.  We have a workspace portfolio which comprises 50,000 sq ft of workspace for private sector businesses and we also have established a social economy village space of 15,000 sq ft where our bespoke design thinking space, the thinc lab is located. The income we derive from the rental of space helps us achieve our social objectives. In addition we deliver a wide range of support using the thinc process which has design thinking at the core. These interventions include, thinc schools and thinc social.

How did you first get involved in ‘social good’ work and why is it so important to you?

As a social enterprise, social impact is our key driver.   Over the past three years we have been developing and testing new ways to support innovation with design thinking at the core as we believe there is a need to
think differently about how we encourage enterprise and innovation, both private and social.

How do you think Social Innovation can help Northern Ireland based organisations?

With funding reducing there is a need to achieve more with less. Social innovation can help organisations come up with imaginative solutions to long standing problems.  It can empower organisations to reduce their dependency on traditional income streams.

Do you think cross sector collaboration is important to the social innovation agenda? If so, why?

Innovation often happens whenever you create opportunities for new connections. Cross sectoral collaboration can only help with this with bringing together different people with different backgrounds and experience and different points of view.

What interests you in FuSIon Fest?

FuSIon Fest provides an excellent opportunity to network with organisations and individuals who are passionate about making a difference and trying new approaches.  I am looking forward to attending the sessions and learning also.

What and who inspires you?

Father Joe Parkes, a Priest from Cristo Rey in the Bronx whose mission is ‘to change lives, one young person at a time’.

Fusion Fest is brought to you by Social Innovation NI in association with the Building Change Trust, supported by the Department for Communities and managed by Innovate-NI.

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