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Awards Sweep for NOW Group

Social Enterprise Award Winner

Gauge NI's parent organisation NOW Group has been has been named Social Enterprise of the Year at the 2014 Social Enterprise Awards Northern Ireland.

The organisation received the accolade - the top award for the sector in the country - during a glittering awards ceremony at the Hilton Hotel Belfast on Thursday (October 23rd).

It was also a double celebration on the night for NOW Group as CEO Maeve Monaghan was named Social Enterprise Women’s Champion.

Over 120 attended the event which brought together social enterprises from across Northern Ireland to celebrate the success of the sector and the social impact these organisations generate.

NOW Group will now go on to compete in the UK Social Enterprise Awards ceremony on London in November where it has been shortlisted for the ‘Prove It’ Best Social Impact Measurement category and Social Enterprise Women’s Champion.

The award wins are the latest in a game-changing year for NOW Group, which, also operates two social enterprise subsidiaries – Gauge NI and the catering and café business Loaf Catering - the profits from which support NOW’s work in supporting people with barriers to employment and learning.

Loaf Catering opened two new café outlets in 2014, including taking over management of Belfast City Hall’s Bobbin Coffee Shop, and secured a number of large catering contracts.  2015 will see the unveiling of a brand new Loaf café and bakery on the site of the old Oak Bar – the last derelict building on Belfast’s Grosvenor Road - generating much-needed jobs and training opportunities for the local area.

NOW Group has also opened up a new city space called The Hive (also on Grosvenor Road), transforming a previously vacant unit into a thriving activity centre for its Youth, Volunteer and Transition Services.

Speaking about the award wins, Maeve Monaghan said it was a “wonderful result for NOW Group”.

“We are testament to the fact that big isn’t always best and that anyone can be entrepreneurial,” she said.

“I believe that anyone can make a social impact if you have a clear vision, strong foundations and the right team behind you.  We have a clear plan to diversify our income streams and make NOW more sustainable and Loaf and Gauge are all part of that plan.  The Social Enterprise sector is growing here in Northern Ireland and I would call on everyone women and men, young and old, people with disabilities and those of all ethnic origins to get involved.  We need to lead the way in building stronger more sustainable communities and creating jobs.  The time is NOW.”

Speaking at the Social Enterprise Awards, Andrew McCormick, Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment Permanent Secretary, said: “With social enterprise playing an increasingly significant role in our economy, it is important that the efforts of the sector are rightfully acknowledged and rewarded. Each of this year’s awards nominations reflects the exceptional work currently taking place in a wide range of social enterprises and which is having a real impact in communities throughout Northern Ireland.”

Director of Social Enterprise NI Juliet Cornford added: “Social Enterprises are a growth area in terms of the business world. Increasingly we are asked to look at the social value a business creates; Social Enterprises by their very design do this as part of their DNA. We are delighted as the representative body to be able to promote and celebrate such high-calibre businesses. I must also thank our sponsors DETI, DSD, UCIT, INVEST NI and Charity Bank for making this event possible.

“Congratulations to NOW Group for implementing a strong Social Enterprise model creating real jobs for those who are often described as furthest from the labour market. Its catering arm, Loaf, has seen significant growth in the last 12 months, and its successful tender to run The Bobbin coffee shop in Belfast City Hall has helped to build the public profile of its own organisation along with the role Social Enterprises play in growing the local economy and creating jobs. Well done to all of our other winners too.”

A panel of independent judges including Ulster Bank, Invest NI, Charity Bank, NIFHA and last year’s overall winning Social Enterprise, Ashton Community Trust, came together to independently evaluate the applications. Ulster Bank’s Colin Jess said: “This year’s judging unearthed submissions of the highest quality across all categories. As judges, we had an extremely difficult task as all of entrants work extremely hard to create real social change”.

To read more about the winning Social Enterprises please visit www.socialenterpriseni.org

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Gauge NI: 15-17 Grosvenor Road, Belfast, BT12 4GN