The Manager of Work West Enterprise Agency in Belfast, Claire Ferris from Portstewart has been recognised for her work in supporting social enterprises and promoting social change at Northern Ireland’s top Charity Awards.
Claire, who has been the Manager of Work West for more than 17 years, received the prize for Social Innovation at the CO3 Leadership Awards, sponsored by Ecclesiastical Insurance, which recognises leaders who have made a big difference to their communities.
Throughout her 17 year professional career Claire has promoted private and social enterprise with her business experience going back to when she helped her family set up their Portrush catering business while completing her Masters Degree in European Business.
It is not the first time Claire has been recognised for her dedication to local enterprise. In 2012 she was the first female recipient from Northern Ireland of the Queen’s Award for Enterprise Promotion.
Her work is constantly evolving. During the past two years Claire and her team have developed the award winning ‘thinc’ process (test house for innovation and creativity). This is an innovative approach which applies design thinking principles to addressing key social challenges.
‘Thinc schools’, ‘thinc social’ and ‘thinc youth’ are three of the approaches Work West is currently piloting. Claire is currently working on the opening of the Work West ‘thinc Lab’ a social innovation hub where new ideas will be generated and new enterprises and innovations launched in West Belfast.
She said: “The team at Work West is delighted to be recognised for our work in the area of social innovation. We are passionate about supporting individuals, groups and organisations to identify new ideas and find new ways to deliver social change.
“The thinc lab due to open in the next two weeks will provide unique space in Belfast where schools, groups and socially innovative people can spark ideas, prototype and test new products and services using design thinking approaches in the heart of West Belfast.”
Over recent years Work West has evolved as one of the market leaders in the field of social enterprise support and one of the high points of Claire’s career to date was the opening of the Work West Social Economy Village in 2009.