Pioneering a New Delivery Model for Social Enterprise Development


The ‘TRANSFORM’ Social Enterprise Development Programme offering the award of an Advanced Diploma in Social Enterprise.
This programme is being generously supported by the Flax Trust up to the value of £2,000 for successful applicants. 

TRANSFORM is a highly focused and interactive programme designed to enable individuals to gain the knowledge and skills required to start or build social enterprise activities as a means of social regeneration, community development and financial sustainability.

Who is TRANSFORM designed for?
Individuals engaged in one or more of the following activities:
Community development and regeneration e.g. Housing Associations
Social entrepreneurs
Members engaged in existing Social Enterprises
Board members of Social Enterprises engaged in economic development through Social Enterprise
Charitable organisations looking to develop Social Enterprise activities
We will also consider individuals who are self-employed or unemployed, who wish to pursue social enterprise activities.

What does the Programme cover?
The programme is designed to provide knowledge and practical applications that will enable participants to develop and grow through a blend of; Theory, Best Practice, Case Studies, Site Visits and presentations from Exemplars & Practitioners.  By the end of the programme participants will have the knowledge to start or grow a sustainable social enterprise which can lead to real transformation within their community and beyond.

You can download the draft programme overview here.

How do I apply?

There are two ways to apply for the bursary.

  1. Online: Click here to apply online and follow the instructions provided
  2. Offline: Click here to download an application form which can then be manually filled in and emailed to

Closing date for applications is: 5pm Tuesday 16th November 2021 with interviews scheduled prior to 2nd December 2021.

How much do I or my organisation have to contribute?

The total fees are £2,250, but with bursaries provided by the Flax Trust  up to the value of £2,000, that leaves a remaining contribution of just £250 per participant. Note this might be provided by sponsoring organisations in some cases.

Who are the key stakeholders?
Programme Provided by: The School for Social Enterprises in Ireland (SSEI)
Programme Delivered and Accredited by: Ulster University Business School
Programme Partners:
The Flax Trust
SSEI (School for Social Enterprises in Ireland)
Ulster University
Podiem are the official operations partner for SSEI

Why is a Cohort approach important?
This programme is designed to fully engage participants in building a cohesive cohort that supports and learns from each other in the short term and that will begin to build support networks that are sustainable beyond the life of the programme.

What is an Advanced Diploma?
It is a recognised University accreditation normally identified as just below a bachelor’s degree and is particularly suited to participants with a range of academic backgrounds as well as those who have the requisite experience. It is seen as very appropriate for this type of programme which is mix of academic study and practical application

What if I don’t already a higher education qualification?
Applicants can demonstrate their ability to undertake this programme through the accreditation of their prior experiential learning gained through work experience. The application process, including interviews, will provide scope to fully highlight relevant experience.

When is the deadline for submitting application forms?

Closing date for applications is: 5pm Tuesday 16th November 2021 with interviews scheduled prior to 2nd December 2021.

When are interviews?
Interviews will scheduled prior to 2nd December 2021. The interview is an opportunity to expand on your application form and will help secure places and bursaries for this sought after programme for individuals/groups where potential and long term impact can be fully realised.

When does the programme start and how long does it last?
The interview process is viewed as part of the programme and successful applicants will go on to participate in 10 delivered sessions (1 – 2 days per month) commencing in February 2022 . The ADSE Graduation will take place in winter 2022. Delivery of the programme will mainly be at Ulster University.

View the course timetable here.

What happens if I am not able to attend or drop out?
As this is s developmental programme it has been designed on the basis of full attendance. If participants have any difficulties they should contact Steve Pollard at the University in the first instance. Where there is reasonable grounds for absence, each case will be assessed on its own merit. Participants will be expected to catch up with the materials and complete all assignments.

If individuals decide to drop out there may be a requirement to return the value of the bursary or make a suitable contribution. Again each case will be assessed on its merit. (TBA)

If you experience any issues in  applying online or  downloading any of the documents please email and we can arrange to email  copies directly to you. 

Interested in Enrolling?

Are you interested in social innovation? Could a social enterprise development programme be for you?
Come to us with a passion to make a change, develop something new, deal with a social problem – we will support you with the knowledge, skills and tools to turn ideas into real world projects that change lives.



2019 Cohort Graduation

Past Participant Testimonials

  • This was so empowering, this give me and many others a chance to study and make a bigger impact socially by being equipped from the Knowledge we gained. Big massive thank you to Flax Trust Bursary, you are helping transform lives and communities. I would recommend this programme, and all the support you get from Podiem and UU is wonderful. Getting a chance to be around positive inspirational people, gaining the knowledge has been so valuable. I couldn’t have done it without the Flax trust. It really gives you the confidence to go and make a bigger social impact I want thank everyone who was involved , in the teaching, running, organising, the passion. You do a great job and you are making a real impact.

    Terry Conlon, 5th Element NI
  • The assignments allowed me to learn and strengthen new and existing skills. I now believe that I have the knowledge and necessary skills to set up a creative hub. As a result of being able to develop a business plan for this social enterprise and its implementation I am now much more aware of the Belfast city infrastructure and the regeneration initiatives in the area. Without the Flax Trust Bursary, I would have been unable to attend this course. I am very thankful for the financial contribution that the Flax Trust Bursary gave me. I would recommend this excellent course not only does it teach you the necessary skills for setting up a social enterprise but also helps improve your confidence in the meeting of like-minded people

    Alberta Riley, Founder, Creative Hub DPCF
  • Coming from a community organisation I was thrilled to get a place on the programme as the financial support from The Flax Trust made the difference between going and not going. We have an exciting and challenging initiative to regenerate the heart of Carryduff through a mix of social enterprise, community initiatives, private sector development and the local Council. The course content, the support from the lecturers and the experiences of the rest of the cohort, has helped develop my business skills which has given me the confidence to play my part in building sustainable social enterprises for the benefit of our community.

    David McPhilips, Killynure Community Association
  • The skills transfer provided by the guest speakers was particularly useful. For charities looking at social enterprise as a means of sustainability, it helped put in context that ‘moral’ challenge we often face when considering ‘commercial work’.

    Laura Couser, Tides Training
  • A great deal of my inspiration, understanding and learning came from my peers. I have gained connections and friends that will be with me for a very long time. It was beneficial to see how others think and approach community work and fantastic to hear their innovations and ideas for the future. Through the excellent academic sessions my new understanding of governance, risk, finance, marketing, measurement, funding opportunities, human resources has allowed me to contribute in a more meaningful way to this organisation.

    Christine Edgar, Advisor for Social Enterprises
  • Like most community organisations, wanting to excess this type of learning is required but hard to pay for. I don’t think we would have secured a place without this support. This programme provides you with a wider view of the world and excess to a wealth of first hand experiences from various individuals and organisations. I enjoyed getting to know and hearing from the various organisations/business out there. Some great discussions and sharing of ideas. I got a lot out of listing to the various issues faced by people attempting to get business up and running their ideas, how they have worked through particular problems

    Gerard O Neill, Springfield Charitable Ass
  • My experience and feedback so far has stirred quite a lot of discussion around planning and finance in our community group. It has made us look at how to harness the expertise we have and how to attract that which we are lacking. The bursary was crucial in funding my participation.

    Majella Farrell, Annaclone Community Engagement Group
  • Very interesting mix of practical and theoretical content. Guest speakers sharing their expertise has been particularly inspiring. The learning from a diverse group of participants is invaluable, sharing perspectives, knowledge and understanding etc. It is also pleasing to have the reassurance that ‘you are not alone’.

    Gary Teer, Survivors of Trauma
  • The assignments were useful in that they forced us to think about what we had learnt to date and the research involved in the assignments has been useful in terms of sourcing new ideas for SE ventures. The programme has been very useful as well as making contacts and networking particularly with my class mates.

    Jim Caples, Connswater Homes
  • Parts of the programme have given me the confidence to participate more in meetings and also in the visits we receive from other organisations I am more confident talking about social enterprise and what it is or can be. I have new ideas and better understanding of how I can bring these to fruition.

    Vince Curry RESURGAM
  • Outstanding programme, the confidence and encouragement I received was overwhelming.

    Emma Mullen, Feile FM
  • The programme has giving me greater understanding of the sector, increased my networking opportunities and given me the ability to develop my idea into a viable business plan for my organisation.

    Claire Walsh, East Belfast Mission
  • My objectives for joining this course was to give me the confidence and the information I need to succeed in developing my ideas into real enterprises which will ensure the longer term financial sustainability of MUCAT and impact on the local social community. I am very grateful to Flax Trust for the opportunity to become involved as what I have learned so far has really provided me with the knowledge and tools I need

    Aisling Nugent, Centre Manager, Mid Ulster Community & Arts Trust Ltd.
  • Completion of the Advanced Diploma in Social Enterprise has been an interesting and rewarding experience. It has enabled me to gain insights into the operation of social enterprise and the challenges of developing successful social enterprise activity. I would recommend this course to anyone who is seriously considering starting a social enterprise.

    Eamonn Donaghy, Disability Action
  • There has been no part of the course which has not effected in some form my views of where our fledgling social enterprise needs to go, and all the lessons learned are consistently being applied to our overall strategic plans etc. Through contacts made and lessons learned we hope now to embark on a collaborative community venture to provide more enhanced social capital to our own communities in Harryville

    Billy Millar Slemish n’ tha Braid & The Raglan Project
  • Gave me a wonderful insight into the whole social economy sector. Coming from the private sector I thought I had a good grasp on business and while that was the case, the programme helped me to transition in to a social business mind-set and understand the different nuances that are so important. The networking was also very important and beneficial for me.

    Rosin Wash MBE
  • My main objective was to further develop my knowledge in the area of social economy businesses and the third sector. I was really thrilled to receive a Flax Trust Bursary as it provided the support I needed to gain a place on the programme. The assignments have challenged me to think in a more strategic way. Having to put my ideas and actions into words makes the process much more meaningful.

    Fionnuala Black, Childcare Manager, Kinderkids, Ashton Community Trust, Belfast
  • As a recently appointed Business Development Manager, my role is to develop several new business ideas from concept to operational enterprises. This programme gave me the skills to work through this process using research and feasibility studies and the creation of business plans. It gave me the confidence to implement my ideas and take on the operational management of the new ventures.

    Michael Paul, The Oasis Centre
  • I was impressed with the quality of the teaching materials, the range of issues covered and the experience and mix of staff delivering the modules. The course has made the organisation more outward looking, taking a more business perspective on project concepts and be more conscious about the financial viability of any new developments within the Bryson group.

    Gavin Bell, Bryson Charitable Group
  • Completion of the Advanced Diploma in Social Enterprise has been an interesting and rewarding experience. It has enabled me to gain insights into the operation of social enterprise and the challenges of developing successful social enterprise activity. It is not always possible for people in social enterprise to gain access to high quality development such as this and the Flax Trust bursary is invaluable so I would recommend this course to anyone who is seriously considering starting a social enterprise especially.

    Eamonn Donaghy, Disability Action
  • The course has giving me greater understanding of the sector, increased my networking opportunities and given me the ability to develop my idea into a viable business plan for my organisation. Participating on this programme, made possible through the Flax Trust Bursary, has enabled me to enhance my career in management made a real impact on my organisation.

    Claire Walsh, East Belfast Mission
  • The course gave me the opportunity to think and generate new ideas for the organisation. It has also been a great opportunity to let new people learn about the charity and the work we do, again allowing me to feed this back to our management. I have been able to take many of the tools back into the organisation. It has allowed me to evaluate were we are with our organisation and ideas. It also allowed me to see what we still need to do and feed this back in to our plans for the management. I really enjoyed the opportunity from start to finish. It was a great way to learn new things which will benefit me personally, professionally and Housing Rights will also benefit from my experience. Thank you so much for the experience Flax Trust. I really enjoyed the opportunity from start to finish.

    Bronagh Flynn, Development Officer, Housing Rights
  • I have definitely taken away some of the structures for marketing and promotion and applied them to my own business. The governance module has also been really helpful, not only in my understanding but in applying it to some of the projects and activities I am currently working on Through research and development I have identified a number of new opportunities in different markets offering a range of new products and services. I would just like to take this opportunity to thank everyone involved in giving me the opportunity through the funding and to further my skills and future business prospects. I feel I have taken so much away from the course and believe it will now open the door for a number of opportunities in the near future.

    Darren Wallace, MD, Emergent Event Solutions
  • The most important aspect of the assignments was the practical way in which I was able to apply the learning to the building and formation of my company. Gaining knowledge on governance and who to consider as part of my Board was very helpful. The business modelling section enabled me to gain clarity about my “why” and gain a full understanding of the products/services I am seeking to deliver. The marketing assignment stimulated further creative thought which brought about a change to the business plan I had formulated prior to embarking upon the course. It also helped me to be innovative and create concepts to market my service in a way I would otherwise have been unable to do. When I participated in the finance for growth module, I was empowered to gain an understanding of funding streams and consider what pathway was best for my company. In formulating my Impact Plan, I was able to upgrade my mission statement and better articulate to my audience what I am seeking to achieve. Overall, the course gave me a deeper knowledge of the impact social enterprise is having in society; the potential it carries for ethical business and the opportunity it gives me to fulfil my dreams for the betterment of others in the future. Without the bursary I would never have been able to complete this course. I appreciate the opportunity this bursary has given me. I would hope the social impact of their investment in me will be realised

    David Montgomery, Director, Goanserve
  • The Governance module was extremely beneficial for me. The module content and the teaching were excellent. The lecture from the Community Foundation for example was very informative. I now feel equipped to deal with all aspects of governance of our organisation. The finance module was also very useful and has helped me in the practical day to day running of An Tobar’s finances. The programme helped me gain confidence and develop my leadership and management skills. Without the bursary it would just not have been possible for me complete the course and gain such a useful qualification Absolutely. It was a great experience for me personally to re-enter the world of academia, to meet new people and to challenge myself.

    Kathleen Agnew, An Tobar
  • It was motivating to listen to the experiences of the other participants, their ideas and vision. The diversity of social entrepreneurs who attended the programme, what inspires them and their personal journey was a valuable learning experience for me. The major benefits were the ability to participate in this programme and to bring the learning back to the organisation I work in, generating new ideas and learning from other participants. For example as the year progressed our ideas for Footprints Community Food Store and Support Services were bedded down and we decided to extend and we opened Footprints Family Store in May 2019. The Family Store is a combination of Food Bank, Baby Bank and Recycled School Uniforms and is a crisis response service for families in the Colin Neighbourhood. We are currently exploring the options to open a stand alone café in the grounds of the centre which will specialise in Syrian food and provide training and work opportunities for new comer families in the Colin Neighbourhood. I really appreciated the opportunity to gain a place on the programme which the Flax Trust Bursary made possible.

    Eileen Wilson, Sustainable Living Manager, Footprints Women’s Centre
  • The TRANSFORM programme has made a very significant difference to the way I approach projects within the community and the need to develop a more structured and professional way of doing things. I have tools and resources which I can use to help me identify ideas and translate these in to models which in turn shows me the feasibility of my plans. I especially appreciated the support and flexibility given to me and my family as we dealt with our daughter’s medical condition across the programme. It made the difference and was the reason for my achievements. I especially appreciated the support of Flax Trust and Urban Villages as I could not have done this without that. I was delighted my wife and my daughter was able to be at the Graduation

  • As I have progressed in my career I recognise the need for life long learning. I also recognised the need to gain professional qualifications in the area of social enterprise which would provide me with the credentials and the professionalism required to manage in the social economy environment. Getting support form Flax Trust and Urban Villages was a major factor in seeking a place on the course and I am deeply appreciative of this. Overall the TRANSFORM programme has enabled me to build knowledge and skills in all of the key business areas – finance, marketing governance and strategy. Through the final business planning exercise I was able to put all of these to good use. I was pleased to be able to create a full business plan backed up with data and evidence in each specific area. With these new skills I am confident we will be able to deliver the ambitions of the projects for the Colin area and create the transformation we so desperately desire.

    Martin Connolly,Director, Poleglass Community Association

Cohort Archive

Below is a library of previous Advanced Diploma in Social Enterprise participant brochures:

ADSE 2014 Participants Brochure

ADSE 2015 Participants Brochure

ADSE 2016 Participants Brochure

ADSE 2017 Participants Brochure

ADSE 2018 Cohort

ADSE 2020 Cohort

Advanced Diploma in Social Enterprise –  Participant Feedback Executive Summary

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