‘Be disruptive in a positive way’: Founders of social enterprises in Hackney form network to share advice and expertise

Connecting All Communities founder Shukri Adan. Photograph: Julia Gregory

“We do it because we are born to do it,” explained Shukri Adan, who set up Connecting All Communities to bring people together to share their common goals and embrace their differences.

She said: “We have all the world in Hackney. Name a city or a country and we have it in Hackney.”

Adan is one of the founders of social enterprises in the borough who are getting together to share expertise and ideas in areas such as how to navigate grant applications.

Caroline Diehl of the newly formed Social Founders Network said: “I felt there was a gap for founders of charities and social enterprises and we needed a network to talk to one another.”

Caroline Diehl said there was a ‘gap’ for a network through which founders could pool their knowledge. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Social entrepreneurs who founded their projects over 20 years ago are joining people who set theirs up in response to the pandemic.

Ceri Dingle founded World Write 24 years ago to give young people experience in film and journalism.

She said: “If you have a passion, that goes a very long way.”

SWIM founder Peter Merrifield. Photograph: Julia Gregory

Peter Merrifield created Support When It Matters (SWIM) when he decided to gather evidence about how the pandemic was affecting global majority residents in Hackney, and it grew from there.

SWIM supports people affected by substance misuse and the criminal justice system and helps people with housing and mental health.

“I was going to be bold and create something from nothing,” he said.

It has grown over 18 months to an organisation with 16 staff.

“I am not afraid to knock on every door,” said Merrifield. “Hold onto your entrepreneurial spirit – you are going to have to be bold, go out there and do something.”

Abdi Hassan of Coffee Afrique advised people to “have your own tribe and self-care people” when developing a social enterprise.

He set up the first female-led Somali food co-operative, which has since grown into other projects including a health clinic, homelessness outreach work, events for older people feeling isolated, and research into issues affecting Somalis across London.

He said: “My advice is to be disruptive in a positive way.”