Making Change with Government

Our experience of philanthropy working with government in Northern Ireland to transform public services.

Making Change with Government

About the Partnership

SCI is interested in delivering lasting social change – but making change is difficult and reforms are often hard won.

However, if you can change the way government works, that could have a profound and lasting impact. SCI is responsible for extracting the lessons learned from a significant partnership between philanthropy and government aiming to do just that.

The Atlantic Philanthropies invested in a joint initiative with the Northern Ireland government from 2014-2020.

The £62million initiative (£25million from Atlantic) aimed to improve public services in three areas and embed a more collaborative, effective and outcome-focused way of working.  See below for details on the impact and lessons from this work.  

Lessons Learned

The collaboration between Atlantic Philanthropies and the Northern Ireland government was ambitious and distinctive. It aimed to embed real change and new ways of working in public services, via a novel partnership between philanthropy and government.

What has been learned from this experience that might support future efforts to transform public services and improve outcomes? And what are the lessons for philanthropy about working in partnership with government?  

Related Research

The Atlantic / Delivering Social Change initiative can point to several concrete examples of improved services and more effective and collaborative working. Our research explores programme impacts and extracts learning about the process of realising lasting change.

SCI also partnered with Deloitte to produce the Shifting Gear report here. It drew on the Atlantic experience and international best practice, to identify the challenges and enablers of public service transformation.  While focused on Northern Ireland, the report has transferable lessons for policymakers and social change donors in other locations.


Our reports on Partnership Working Between Philanthropy & Government capture the the early stages of the joint working experience, and later reflections on the grant making process and how well the partnership met Atlantic’s ambitions for lasting change.  

Improving Outcomes for Children

The Early Intervention Transformation Programme (EITP) focused on transforming how children’s services are designed, planned and implemented, to improve outcomes, especially for the most disadvantaged.

It brought together resources from across Northern Ireland government departments, with support from Atlantic, to implement 18 projects seeking to improve outcomes for children for years to come.  Find out more about the programme here.  

Related Research

Atlantic’s Children and Young People’s funding programme had been supporting prevention and early intervention projects in Northern Ireland for 15 years. The partnership with government was an opportunity to apply this approach in publicly funded services with potential benefits for all children and families.

The Journey So Far. Early Intervention captures the development of early intervention in Northern Ireland and the establishment of EITP.

Related Materials

By working in a more collaborative, evidence informed way, EITP has led to transformed ante-natal services, stronger partnerships between health and education professionals, and parents better equipped to develop the home learning environment.


Improving Support & Services for People Living with Dementia

This work focused on improving the lives of people affected by dementia by embedding good practices in publicly supported dementia services.

Activities related to information and advice, workforce development, short breaks and carer support, e-health and data analytics.  Find out more about the programme here.

Related Research

Atlantic believed that working with the state had potential to realise the systemic and population-wide changes needed to better support people living with dementia.

Partnering with Government on Dementia, Early Lessons for Grant-Makers tells the story of the early stages of Atlantic’s partnership with government in the field of dementia, offering insights to other grant-makers.

Related Material

By the year 2050 it is predicted dementia will affect up to 60,000 people in Northern Ireland. The documentary 'Our Lives With Dementia' looks at the lives of four people diagnosed with dementia and charts their experiences.   It highlights the importance of getting the right support, also demonstrated in the Evaluation of the Dementia Signature Programme Short Break Pilots.


People with dementia are calling for more involvement in designing the policies and services that affect them.  In this animation, they give advice about how to do this well.  Find out more about this in our article on Human Rights & People Living with Dementia 


Growing Shared Education

This work aimed to scale up and embed models of shared education. The education system in Northern Ireland is deeply divided, with most pupils attending schools where the vast majority of their classmates are from the same community background.  

Shared education provides opportunities for children and young people from different community backgrounds to learn together. Our animation explains how it allows schools to collaborate across denominational lines, while retaining their own identity.  


Atlantic Philanthropies supported the first shared education pilots starting in 2007, before entering into partnership with the NI government to take those models to scale across the whole education system through the Shared Education Signature Programme (SESP).   

Read Shared Education: The First Ten Years to learn about the story of shared education from the funders, advocates and practitioners involved.

There is clear evidence that shared education has both reconciliation and education benefits. This article summarises the most up to date research on the impact shared education is having.