'Creating the good economy' conference has challenged us all

9 Nov 2011     Last updated: 20 Jun 2014

NICVA held its first annual economic conference yesterday in the Stormont Hotel. The event was addressed by keynote speakers Will Hutton, David McWilliams and the Minister for Enterprise Trade and Investment, Arlene Foster MLA. The conference sought to

Conference delegates were treated to some captivating and challenging presentations which examined the numerous issues facing Northern Ireland’s economy, from the tumultuous global position, to our longstanding structural weaknesses.

Speaking after the conference Seamus McAleavey, NICVA Chief Executive, said:

In the midst of the Eurozone saga and the growing sense that we need a major shift in the way we manage risk taking, reward and job creation in our economy, NICVA wants to promote an informed debate. We need a debate that facilitates innovative ideas which can lead to practical and implementable policies which help deliver a local economy that benefits everyone in our society. Through our Centre for Economic Empowerment and the ‘Creating the good economy’ conference I believe we have started that process.

"However, this challenging and successful event is only the start, and we must go away and properly digest the ideas and comments that we have heard and turn these into tangible proposals”.

Rapid technological advancement

There was general agreement that the proposal of the day came from keynote speaker Will Hutton. Will Hutton, Chair of Hertford College Oxford, developed a thesis that the economies of the 21st Century will be driven by evermore rapid technological advancement, compelled by small companies that, due to the speed of that advancement and technological change, will often have short life spans. This will lead to enhanced risks both for employers and employees.

As a means to counter the increased instability, Will Hutton suggested the creation of employee mutuals or worker corporations, which would see people employed directly by the mutual, whilst sub-contracting their services to businesses. Worker corporations would be able to support people when they were not in employment and help them develop their skills to get back into work. It would reduce the severance and redundancy risks to employers and provide stability and development to employees.

Northern Ireland's and the sector's unique position

Will Hutton suggested that Northern Ireland and the voluntary and community sector are in a unique position to test this thesis. Speaking after the conference he said:

Northern Ireland has the potential to develop a unique proposition for its small population of SMEs and potential investors by simultaneously releasing them of their severance and redundancy risks, whilst offering stability to employees and to members of the community.

"It will only take a small amount of capital and after that only the support and enthusiasm of the local population”. 

Reacting to the proposal Seamus McAleavey stated:

This was an extremely thought-provoking idea which caused a significant amount of interest amongst the delegates. The great thing about the voluntary and community sector is that it is open to new ideas and I think people immediately saw the potential for the sector and beyond. However, this was a very initial view and NICVA, through the Centre for Economic Empowerment, will begin to examine in more detail its possibilities and how we might go about developing the concept”.


David McWilliams gave an inspiring and entertaining presentation which focused primarily on the opportunities that are open to both the Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland economies.

He spoke of the potential of developing consumer markets in China and Asia and the the network of millions of people around the world who associate themselves with Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. David McWilliams suggested that further utilising this network will develop our soft economic power and may be the key to our future economic success.

On the issue of creating the good economy David McWilliams stated:

Solving the key economic issues of today boils down to the basic question: what type of society do we want to live in”.

He continued

“We need to face into the crisis to help solve it”.

Additional information and media

A flavour of the event as it took place through social media will be available on Storify.

Photographs of the event are being added to NICVA's Flickr account.

Presentations from the day are available for download below.

The CEE will also make available a video of the conference in the next week.

The promotional video shown at the beginning of the conference:



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