I happened to be in Belfast to meet a good friend from my New York days - we hired a car to go up the coast to the Giant’s Causeway, a thoroughly recommended trip in my view
Photos from the road
Coincidentally, I had come to hear about an innovative model being operated by the East Belfast Mission so we took a small detour before we headed up the coast. We parked up in a side street in a rather deprived area that had some striking political murals like the more famous ones on the other side of the city
East Belfast Murals
I was met by Gary Robb, Centre & Development Manager at the SKAINOS Centre which is a state of the art facility operated by EBM since 2012 hosting other community support organisations like New Life Counselling, Tear Fund and Age NI. Gary was kind enough to tell me more about the local context, EBM’s work and in particular how it extracts value from the circular economy.
The local area of Ballymacarrett of East Belfast is particularly socially deprived having been decimated by the decline of the shipping industry resulting in high unemployment and homelessness. EBM continue to play its historic role since the 1800s of supporting and regenerating the community through a variety of activities including outreach, homeless support, employability training, day care, cheap access to community spaces and a community café. A small but poignant symptom of the pressures of the area’s deprivation was highlighted in the café – I noticed that we were only given disposable cutlery and our hot drinks were provided with just the milk required. This was because unfortunately there was a tendency for proper metallic cutlery and jugs of milk to go missing.
EBM operate a triple bottom line i.e. social, environmental and financial objectives for their business arm (‘social economy projects’) that help the sustainability of the social projects. They run several ventures that showcase the circular economy through the social enterprise model, going to market with a nice suite of brands:
Refresh and Restore (including some Refurb, Recycle and Repaint products)
Beyond this EBM provide cheap access to high quality facilities i.e. sharing economy:
Employment project poster, chapel and sports hall for hire and therapeutic garden
It was great to see the excellent work EBM was doing, delivering social and financial value from the principles of the circular economy. Thanks to Gary for his time and sharing his insights.