Meet the new boss: Andrew McCracken from CFNI
The new CEO of the Community Foundation for Northern Ireland believes more solutions to social problems will have to be local, as possible financial gloom gathers in view.
CFNI arranges grants and funding for social projects with aims including promotion of peace and equality, community development and reducing poverty.
Chief Executive Andrew McCracken has been in post for eight weeks, having previously been fundraising director with Tearfund.
He says that right now the easier part of their work is identifying funding that can be accessed by local communities, with the difficult bit giving people the confidence to pursue the available support.
“There’s a whole chunk of society who won’t apply for support, they don’t have the confidence. There’s a real passion in CFNI to go and fund these people.”
Recently CFNI helped some victims of historical institutional abuse to pursue action over their ordeals, by assisting co-operation and communication amongst victims, and instilling a belief they could achieve something by coming forward.
“Some of our staff were talking to those people, encouraging them to get together, encouraging them to think about what they might be able to do together.
“If you have got people in circumstances such as that, the confidence and belief they can change their circumstances has been shot.
“One percent of it is saying ‘here’s a list of funders you can apply for,’ 99 percent is getting them to a place where they believe they can do it.”
Since starting as CEO Andrew has met “a lot” of people in the community and voluntary sector with much talk that funding provision will soon fall off a precipice.
He says there are many reasons suggesting this could happen, and says Northern Ireland must now get beyond its current “transition phase” and learn to be more self-sufficient.
“We need to get better at looking after ourselves rather than relying on external sources of funding – international governments, philanthropy or the UK government. I think we have got some kind of responsibility about how we fund ourselves and how we as a community can do that ourselves."
According to Andrew, CFNI has a great history of attracting international funding and ensuring it made a true difference locally but, while he still wants to pursue those streams he also wishes to “mobilise and persuade and inspire” support from within Northern Ireland.
CFNI brokers grants and funding for community projects, both working with local communities to identify problems and schemes to help address those problems, and encouraging potential donors to support projects they have identified.
Andrew is keen to stress that the Foundation is not a passive hub but instead actively seeks out ways to improve society especially for the most disadvantaged.
He says the organisation is focused on community development, with an ethos that people should be helped to help themselves, resisting any paternal methods.
“We want to go to the big international donors, but also local donors, we want that word community in our title. We want NI to work as a community where there’s some common unity. We are looking out for each other, not only across political divides but also economic divides.”
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