In 2005/2006 DSD/VCU produced a series of research reports under the heading Supporting and developing the Community & Voluntary Sector in Northern Ireland. The idea for East Belfast Network Centre came from one of these reports.
The report highlighted 6 key purposes for a network centre:
The Network Centre Model enhances co-ordination between organisations and joint working and sharing of resources by community and voluntary organisations.
Community and voluntary groups located in a Network Centre can share skills and information and co-operation in needs analysis and the provision of services to local communities.
Resourcing Support Services
Generate income from a diverse range of sources, which facilitates more effective sharing of resources by groups within a Network Centre.
A Network Centre can develop the social, human, physical and financial capital within the sector. Centre’s generate improved understanding and better working relationships between groups and thus create opportunities for joint working for common goals and outcomes.
Partnership structures are likely to be more effective where the social partners have prior experience of collaboration within their own sectors. A Network Centre provide this and also provide a focal point for statutory agencies seeking to develop working relationships with the sector.
The central premise of a Network Centre is the sustainability of voluntary and community activity in that the sector can increase its access to physical, financial, human and social capital through a network centre. Access to these capitals allows the sector to manage better the risks associated with the challenges of community activity. The mix of the four capitals provides for organisational development, coordination between and within sectors, and more sustainable strategies and outcomes. This underpins the financial sustainability of the sector by drawing income from other sectors, improving efficiencies and reducing dependency on grant aid.