Value of the Sector

A thriving voluntary, community and social enterprise sector is an essential component of a successful society. Without it many of the services we have come to rely on simply would not exist.


Our work embraces every aspect of life from health and social care, to arts and education, to social issues and the environment, and our sector includes voluntary, community and social enterprise bodies (VCSE).

Perhaps because of this extraordinary diversity, the full extent of our collective contribution to Northern Ireland is not fully appreciated. It is important to address this.

This new project sets out to fill that gap, providing evidence of the value of Northern Ireland’s more than 6,100 VCSE organisations and bringing our work to life through a series of case studies.

Value of the Sector is intended as a resource for our members, policy-makers, the media, academics and anyone with an interest in this vital sector.

We hope it will help promote understanding, emphasise the critical importance of the sector, and be a valuable resource for our members as they build their own evidence about the value that they bring.

What all charities have in common is that they must, by law, work for public benefit. And unlike the profit-making private sector any charities that do make surpluses invest those funds back into the services they provide.  We are, quite literally, in the business of doing good. This project is all about demonstrating the extent of the public benefits we bring.

Our Research 

The first phase of this research was a survey carried out with NICVA members earlier this year.

This focused on the provision and beneficiaries of various types of benefits to NI society including health, economy, poverty, community, environment, sports, arts and culture, education, housing and homelessness, transport and travel, and rights and inclusion. Its findings will be used to demonstrate the contribution and importance of the VCSE Sector and the need to support it.

It reveals that promoting health and well-being, promoting community, and education are the three areas of public benefit most commonly delivered by NICVA members.

Health and wellbeing services tops the list with almost two thirds of organisations delivering well-being services, including the provision of health and social-care and prevention activities. 

In 2018, Richard Ramsey, Chief Economist at Ulster Bank, commented that the VCSE sector had "a central role to play in delivering key services and highlighted that a shrinking third sector could become a major concern for Northern Ireland as pressures grow on the health service and other parts of local government."

The research is categorised withing the key themes below:

Health and Wellbeing

Poverty, Housing and Homelessness

Community, Rights and Inclusion

Finding Solutions



Sports, Arts and Culture

Economy, transport and travel



The work of VCSE organisations is vital in helping to ensure the protection of our natural environment with more than 1 in 10 members delivering services that promote a healthy natural environment through 5,000+ volunteer hours per year.

Finding Solutions

Our sector has a long and successful record of helping policy-makers find solutions for a whole range of social needs.

Community, Rights and Inclusion

For decades the voluntary and community sector has led many difficult discussions and forward thinking decisions with regards to community, rights and inclusion. It also provides services to enable a shared and inclusive society.

Health and Wellbeing

From providing face to face services, to advocating for those with specific health related conditions, organisations who promote health and wellbeing make up the largest part of the voluntary and community sector.

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