In October 2016, NCB was privileged to host a global summit about changing outcomes for communities. We brought 38 expert speakers to Belfast for the two-day event and held 18 different workshops exploring how communities across the world have aspired to work more collaboratively, to use evidence and to value impact measurement. Over 480 delegates attended the two-day summit in our wonderful Belfast Waterfront venue and the collective enthusiasm, resilience and passion for a better Northern Ireland was palpable.
Our small team in Northern Ireland had worked tirelessly to make this summit happen, engaging with our partner, Clear Impact, to ensure that we all made the most of the experience.
In doing this work, NCB were building on the foundation laid by the children’s services planning committees many years ago, when the needs of children and families were reconfigured to the centre and outcomes planning commenced. Roll on 20 years and as result of many stakeholders applying this outcomes thinking, and persevering with the outcomes based approach, we now have an outcomes based Programme for Government. I was delighted to welcome our then First Minister Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness onto the Waterfront stage to tell delegates about the progress being made on the drafting of the Programme for Government and how the population outcomes would set the vision for citizens in NI.
Those two busy days at the summit were followed up with an evidence session for the Committee for the Executive Office and I felt honestly and justifiably hopeful for our future as individual citizens, families and communities in Northern Ireland. Fast forward by only 3 months and the collapse of the NI Executive had forced me to think again.
So I did.
It is not my job to unpick the “What happened? When?” - I’m content to leave that to the pundits.
What I think is that the need for leadership, for holding the space created for new ways of thinking and doing and regaining the momentum to deliver on those well-articulated aspirations are urgent and legitimate demands. Absence and inertia on the hill are having a detrimental effect on our children, young people and families and that is not good enough. We know that a number of forward-thinking approaches to improving the lives of children and young people such as the “E-safety strategy for Northern Ireland” have been stalled by this vacuum but that is only the very tip of the iceberg. Our children deserve positive leadership. They are entitled to it. At the front line, the work of protecting, respecting and fulfilling children’s rights continues. There is no ‘negotiation’ about that.