Hackney Council is considering how to develop community training so residents can learn skills that empower them to better “demand their rights”.
In an interview with the Local Democracy Reporting Service, Cllr Mete Coban (Lab, Stoke Newington), chair of the skills, economy and growth scrutiny commission, talked of using the council’s existing business forums to provide advice on budgeting or business planning.
The idea of ‘capacity building’ does not stop at business, however, with Cllr Coban floating the idea of rolling out training in critical thinking in schools, as well as a broader push for more democratic engagement across the community.
Cllr Coban said: “I remember the days when you couldn’t even confidently say that you were from Hackney because people looked at you differently, whereas now it’s the place to be.
“How do you make sure that someone like me who has grown up here, whose surroundings have changed so much in the last 15 to 20 years, don’t feel left out?
“I say to people, don’t be afraid to demand your rights. This is your community, you should have you say in how you shape it. They should be asking you. If they’re not asking you, you should be standing up for yourself.
“Otherwise 10 to 15 years later, you’ll look around you and say, I don’t actually recognise anything, I’ve got nowhere to go to, and things have changed.”
The Stoke Newington councillor, who is also chief executive of My Life My Say, a neutral charity whose mission is to secure greater democratic engagement amongst young people, went on to speak of the importance of giving space to “voices that we don’t often hear”.
Hackney Council was criticised back in September at a business engagement event for a lack of communication with the BAME community about business opportunities in the borough.
Cllr Coban added: “Losing your sense of community is a London-wide problem, not just a Hackney problem. An area can go through so much change that ten years later you look around you and go, ‘Damn, I don’t even recognise my local coffee shop.’ The difficulty is how you balance growth with that.
“We need to define what we mean by success. You can look at it as economic growth, but also look at it through the sustainability and environmental aspect, you can look at it through people’s wellbeing.
“That’s why an inclusive economy is really important, because part of it is about defining where our ultimate vision is, where we want to end up getting to, both for the individual and society.
“It’s about what type of place we want Hackney to be, and how we want individuals to prosper from that.”
More information on Hackney’s business network forums can be found here.