A spotlight on… Hackney East

 In Community, News

Hackney is one of ELBA’s three core ‘focus’ boroughs, alongside Tower Hamlets and Newham. As a borough it has experienced extraordinary change and transformation over the last 10-15 years – the growth of Shoreditch in particular has brought more enterprise, capital and diversity into the area, boosting the economy and challenging old stereotypes about crime and poverty. But whilst on the surface the borough seems to be booming, long-standing residents aren’t necessarily reaping the benefits. In the 2019 Indices of Multiple Deprivation statistics, Hackney ranked as the 7th most deprived local authority in the whole country (up from 11th in the 2015 rankings). Additionally, although the South and Central parts of the borough have seen increased development and investment, other areas, such as the East, maintain higher levels of unemployment, crime and income deprivation than the rest of the borough, and have done for many years (IMD 2011-2019). It is from this that ELBA’s Hackney East project was born in 2018.

The Hackney East project is a 3-year social development project that aims to support the community in the East of the borough in two main ways: 1) to enhance the employability skills of local residents to enable them to progress into work; 2) to build the capacity of local community organisations to ensure they are able to provide the best service to local people. It is funded equally by Linklaters, UBS and the Societe Generale UK Foundation, and the skills and expertise of their corporate volunteers is at the heart of the project’s activities. The project grew out of Project Central Hackney which ran from 2010-2017 across the borough, with the same funders and aims. As Project Central Hackney came to an end, the stark difference in the statistics of the East of the borough led to our current focused work in that area. 2020 marks the final year of the project, and with the recent submission of the Year 2 Impact Report to funders, now serves as an opportune time to reflect on the successes so far, and the potential for the borough going forward.

The project in 2019 was hugely successful across both of its main aims, supporting 246 individual beneficiaries with employability skills and engaging 34 different community organisations – almost doubling the number of beneficiaries supported in 2018. The employability activities ran in partnership with the Homerton Employment Hub, an outpost for the Hackney Council employment team based in the East of the borough, who referred their clients to our activities. Beneficiaries had the unique opportunity to work with corporate volunteers to review their CVs, practise interview skills and get crucial feedback to help support them in the next steps of the job application process. Notably, the employability support has boosted the confidence and motivation of attendees, with a beneficiary stating it was ‘the best workshop they’ve been to’, and that the volunteers were ‘incredibly kind, supportive and generous’. Many successfully gained interviews or progressed to next stages in applications following our support.

The community capacity-building component of the project has developed enormously in 2019, engaging both corporate volunteers and community organisations in new and creative ways. ELBA ran multiple ‘problem-solving’ sessions in partnership with expert volunteers, with the aim to support organisations in tackling strategic challenges. Sessions focused on a variety of key operational areas, such as HR, communications & marketing, and business strategy. Organisations came away with new ideas and a fresh perspective on their challenges, and in some cases established a longer-term working relationship with corporate volunteers to support them going forward. Adding to this was the introduction of Leaders in Partnership, ELBA’s flagship community coaching programme. Senior volunteers were paired with senior leaders working for our Hackney community partners, to support their development over a 10-month period and enable them to have the greatest impact on their workplace and local area. This was another way in which we were able to vary our offer to both community partners and volunteers, and encourage them to connect with each other in a different way.

It is with the incredible support, commitment and creativity of our three funders that we have been able to deliver the Hackney East project with such success so far. In 2019 Linklaters, UBS and Societe Generale UK Foundation collectively engaged 412 volunteers in Hackney East activity, who committed almost 900 hours to the project – almost quadrupling the number of volunteers engaged in the project’s first year. Being able to focus on a geographical area has given real direction and inspiration to the project and funders, and we are excited to develop on this going into the final year of project activity.

In 2020 we are endeavouring to build upon the success of this partnership, by introducing new activities and workshops, focusing on employability skills for specific demographic groups, and developing the theme of leadership that has emerged from activity so far. Hackney East is a prime example of not only how the skills and expertise of corporate volunteers can be creatively shared to empower local communities and individuals, but also how corporate companies can work together in partnership in order to enable this level of change in focused areas. ELBA is keen to continue working in this focused capacity going forward in order to continue enacting change in East London in a hyperlocal way – do get in touch if you are interested in getting involved! Email sheetal.mistry@elba-1.org.uk.

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