#NICVAPeople - a minute with Helen McLaughlin

Helen McLaughlin

The second in our #NICVAPeople series sees us interview Helen McLaughlin.

Job Title

Co-ordinator of the East Belfast Community Capacity and Leadership Programme

How would explain what you do every day?

I co-ordinate the training and support provided to community and voluntary organisations in East Belfast through the East Belfast programme, which is funded by the Northern Ireland Executive’s Social Investment Fund as part of the Delivering Social Change programme. This means NICVA working with our partners (Interaction Institute, Youth Action and TIDES Training) to meet the training and support needs of community and voluntary groups active in East Belfast.

How long have you been with NICVA and what did you do before?

I’ve been with NICVA since November 2017. Before that I worked independently as a trainer, facilitator and evaluator for over 20 years.

What are you working on right now and how will it impact the wider sector?

Right now, we are entering the final six months of the programme. This means that we are planning all of our delivery up until the end of the programme – and encouraging East Belfast groups and organisations to make the most of it. I also see this as a chance to consolidate the work to date – and to make sure we build on it. This means we’ll have an even stronger focus on bringing leaders together and encouraging partnership working. We’d love to see the programme have a strong and enduring legacy in East Belfast long after it closes at the end of April 2019. In terms of impact on the wider sector, I think that there are important lessons arising from this programme which could certainly be applied more widely.  The substantial appetite for capacity building and leadership support evidenced in East Belfast and the relationships that are being built as a result provide evidence that this kind of intensive support programme has a important place in building communities in Northern Ireland and could have wider application.

What’s the most rewarding aspect of working at NICVA?

After years of working independently, it has been a revelation to discover what it means to work with such a supportive and talented team. Members of the NICVA team are supporting the programme by providing training and mentoring to East Belfast groups, by managing accreditation, helping to plan and oversee progress and managing budgets and reporting. This team effort has been central to the success of the programme so far.

If you had to pick just one thing to change about the sector in Northern Ireland what would it be and why?

The single most important change would be for groups, organisations, service providers and decision-makers to come together to work more strategically for change in the particular area or issue they work on. However, collaboration and partnership take time and resources, and of course both are currently constrained. So, for all stakeholders to work together, they all need to be adequately resourced to participate in collaborative meetings, design and planning – in this way we’ll achieve the best possible outcomes for real people.

What’s the last app you downloaded?

SONOS – great - but I’m kind of missing the crackles of my ancient LPs!

Last holiday you took?

Connemara in August – bliss!

Favourite blog?

Our own East Belfast one of course – you can find it under “Programme News” at http://www.nicva.org/eastbelfast.

What advice would you give to anyone who wanted to get into the world of training?

First of all – go for it – it’s fantastic and is the part of my job that gives me the greatest buzz. But also, never assume you know what people want and need – always talk to groups and organisations, find out what’s really of most value to them and be as engaging and interactive as possible.

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