Hackney Connected: the young social entrepreneurs transforming their borough

Last week we celebrated our Hackney Connect Awards programme. Teaming up with UBS, we gave social entrepreneurs local to Hackney cash and support to tackle issues important to them - to create social ventures that made their communities more resilient. With a big part of Hackney's make-up being its youth - more than 45% of the population under 30 - we decided to focus our support to people between 18-30. We wanted to develop the young leaders who could make Hackney an event better place to live.

Tackling unemployment with coffee

For Eve Wagg that issue was unemployment. She wanted to help local people find work, in particular, work that wasn't just a job but a career.

She set up Well Grounded, a social venture matching speciality coffee shops with budding Baristas. They're all trained by the organisation, giving people the skills to find long-term employment.

'Social equality is what it's all about,' explains Eve, 'If you can provide someone with good employment there's a tangible change in people's lives and motivation. The benefits that come out of that can be really profound.'

Thomas is one of the people that Well Grounded has helped. 'It's given me a drive,' he says, 'I have quite a bad background, but now I have a career, something I can look forward to. It's a real thing, I've learnt how to roast, about different coffee growers. Without Eve I don't think I'd be in the spot I am now; I have something to be proud of.'

The power of spoken word

Reuben Braithwaite wanted to tackle the lack of confidence he saw in parts of his community. He set up LiveLoveTalent to nurture the creativity of young people. They use spoken word and music as a natural form of introspective therapy.

'Spoken word is a really good medium to address social issues,' explains founder Reuben Braithwaite, 'If I call myself a musician or rapper I have to design all the other elements to accompany a song. With spoken word I can just get on stage and talk about what I want to talk about. I can inspire someone else in the audience with what I'm saying. It's a powerful tool for activism.' Sophie Thompson at Hackney Connect event

Making arts more accessible

Sophie Thompson found that whenever she went to an arts event there would always be the same people there, so she set up Hackney Arts. She wanted to use her experience of working in the arts to broaden the reach of creative culture across the borough.

'A lot of inspiration came from Hackney as a borough,' she explains, 'It's a place filled with talented people. I wanted to make sure that the thriving arts community reached everyone. The benefits should be shared by every community, no-one should be left behind.' 

Hackney Arts uses income from workshops and expert-led excursions to organise free community arts workshops helping disadvanted people across the borough.

Ashwaad Uddin at Hackney Connect Event

Making fitness affordable

Ashwaad Uddin wanted to make sure that everyone in the borough could afford to keep fit.

He had fallen in love with Muay Thai when he was 11 and, after getting requests to help others learn it at his local gym, decided to turn his passion into a venture.

'I thought, why don't I just try start something? I came across UnLtd and thought I could take it forwards,' says Ashwaad.

He set up Legends Muay Thai, which offers affordable health and fitness for young people in Hackney. Where normal clubs would charge £10 a session, Ashwaad offers a varied pricing structure, from £2 to £7.

Deciding to focus his venture on creating social impact has helped him to feel more connected to Hackney - allowing him to think about his venture's role in the community.

'It's made me think about how else we can grow to deliver the needs of the community,' Ashwaad explains, Our eyes have opened more to the gaps where we could do more. We've realised there aren't many youth activities, we could see more young people coming because they have nowhere else to go. We really need a proper, fully-fledged youth centre locally.

The story doesn't end here

These are just a handful of stories from the Hackney Connect programme. You can read more stories of the people UnLtd backed, and find out more about the impact of the programme, on our brand new Hackney Connect site.

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