Lisa McElherron, Inspire’s Group Director of Insight, Engagement and Innovation, reflects on how the new Cost of Living 24 campaign to fruition.

Over the course of a few weeks at the beginning of the year, a group of people from across the community and voluntary sector met in the Inspire offices on Lombard Street, Belfast.

There was no set idea of what we wanted to achieve apart, aside from a willingness to address the growing frustration at the increasingly grim financial pressures faced by many living in the communities in which we work.

We had become exhausted by having to flog the same message to policy makers, a message about how they needed to work with us, use the resources we possess and help us deliver services to more of those who require them: better coordination not more funding. None of the individuals with whom we were communicating seemed to believe us and the old “We have no budget for this” chestnut shut down every conversation about doing things differently.

Having tasted the power of real cross-sectoral cooperation during the darkest days of the Covid-19 pandemic, we knew what was possible. And this made the current situation all the more exasperating.

So, during those early months of 2024, I made cups of tea, bought cakes in Tesco and hosted numerous an online meeting. What emerged were some of the most open, generous and solution-focused conversations I’ve ever had the privilege to witness.

At one point or another, we all said that we were waiting for “them” to do something. And then we realised that, as far as the people we support are concerned, we are “them”.

That’s why we did it ourselves. Sixteen of us, without funding or external support, pooled what we have, shared expertise and skills, worked hand in glove and got it done.

Since this week’s launch, it looks like 16 sectoral partners will soon become 18. Inspire is proud to be one of “them”.

To find out more about Cost of Living 24, click here.