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Mornington Community Project

Tackling an Unemployment Rate of 65% in Belfast through Entrepreneurism


The Mornington Community Project was founded in an inner-city ghetto area of Belfast, Northern Ireland, in early 1989. This area suffered greatly from ‘sectarian’ violence during the Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ period. During this time unemployment levels rose to 65% amongst 16 to 25 year olds with very few children completing secondary level education. The Mornington Project was established to respond to the huge community development needs. Mornington ran many community projects, including encouraging local people to consider starting their own small business. A successful example is ‘The Spar Shop’, a family run grocery, founded by two brothers.

Daily violence on the streets of the Mornington community

The Aim:

The aim of Mornington was to tackle the effects of community deprivation and inner-city isolation by building ‘first steps’ programs to help people out of long term unemployment and hopelessness. The project wanted to address the many aspects of social disadvantage and the unemployment issue of the area and to reduce inequalities by encouraging the younger generation to become employable or even to become entrepreneurs.

Our Work:

Mornington pre-dates the establishment of Angello, however one of the Angello founders was catalytic in the growth of Mornington Community Project over the course of 10+ years. The passion for the young people of the community, along with business and strategic skills, helped to build the capacity of Mornington to deliver on various programs including the Business Awareness Program, enabling young entrepreneurs to fulfil their dreams. Overall, around 500 individuals were involved in the Mornington Community Project, which provided a wider benefit to around 5,000 people.

The White House played its part in peace-making in N. Ireland and Hilary Clinton visited the Mornington community In 1995

Measuring Success:

Before the project, it was unknown in the inner-city ghetto for young people to consider starting business. Most were resigned to an incredibly difficult future in para-military gangs or unemployment. However, the Mornington Project helped reduce the level of unemployment from 65% to 17% over 20 years.

An example of the effectiveness of the project was the ‘Spar’, Hugh and Joe Gibsons’ small, community grocery retail outlet which opened in 1994 within the trauma of the ‘Troubles’. The Gibsons’ initiative benefitted from the close mentoring from Mornington’s Project Manager and it’s ‘Business Awareness Programme’. A local established business gave vital support, as did local government staff. The Gibsons’ business tenacity was immensely courageous given the local deprivation, yet with the Mornington Project Manager supporting them at each step, they have gone on to build a thriving business, been a role model for many and providing employment for around 500 local people, over the years.

The ‘Spar’ business opened in 1994 - from left Ken Humphrey (Mornington Manager and mentor), Hugh Gibson, visiting Minister from Rwanda, Joe Gibson.


“People in the ‘Angello’ role (capacity builders, encouragers, mentors) provided a platform for empowerment and nurture of the impossible.” (Mornington Community Project)


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