How young people are shaping social value in Hackney Wick

Two teenage girls in light blue tops with Young Hackney logos look at he camera with a brick building in the background
Mylan Long and Iqra Parviz are shaping social value in Hackney

Young people are shaping social value in Hackney by co-designing regeneration projects and joining youth boards. We visited Young Hackney Eastway and Hackney Bridge to find out more. 

Young Hackney Eastway and Hackney Bridge are best practice examples of involving young people in regeneration to shape social value.

These live projects demonstrate how meaningful engagement with young people can support both personal and community development. For example, engagement programmes that provide young people with formal training help them to enter the job market.

Like all social value interventions, social value for young people must build on what already exists in an area. The following case-studies show how public sector actors can work with community groups young people already trust. Connecting community organisations with partner and funding organisations an effective method of amplifying their reach.

After identifying the specific needs of an area, a successful engagement project will support young people to comment on regeneration plans as informed experts.

Read on to find out more.

This event built on previous learnings from FoL’s Social Value and Young People programme. This short-series is sponsored by Countryside Partnerships and explores creating social benefit for young people.

Listening project identifies specific role for Eastway

Field trip group gathers on a bright blue ball court to hear from Young Hackney and Hackney Quest about the Eastway project
Field trip to Young Hackney Eastway

We began our day at Eastway sports facility in Hackney Wick, which is great example of how young people are shaping social value. The site reopened in 2022 after a listening project by not-for-profit Hackney Quest sparked the council to renovate the facility.

The project was kick-started in 2017 when Hackney Quest carried out a research project to understand how young people in the area felt about developments across Hackney Wick. Their research uncovered that many locals felt strongly about the Eastway site.

Luke Billingham of Hackney Quest grew up locally and led the research project. He explained:

“Young people interviewed spoke about many broad issues, such as experiencing racism and feeling that they weren’t consulted on the regeneration of the area.”

“One specific comment that kept coming up was about this site. It was close to usable but had been mismanaged so frustratingly wasn’t safe for use. Young people couldn’t access a decent ball court locally.”

They made a successful case to the council after publishing their findings in the report ‘Hackney Wick Through Young Eyes’.

Section 106 and Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) funding enabled LB Hackney to renovate the site in consultation with young people. Even its current name, ‘Eastway’, was proposed by a young person.

Good engagement means a technical conversation

Young Hackney, LB Hackney’s youth support service, helped to engage young people in the design process. Youth worker Simeon Marriott-Dixon explained how they built trust by engaging honestly and professionally with the young people:

“When working with young people it’s important to treat them as experts in their local area. We don’t patronise them with dreams.”

“We’re transparent about the constraints the council faces and we equip them to come up with technical and feasible plans.”

Other takeaways included:

  • Young Hackney helped young people visualise plans by mapping designs out using string in the classroom on site.
  • Engagement is ongoing process. New upgrades for the site are paired with personal development opportunities for the young people. For example, Young Hackney members recently asked for more bike storage. A workshop on bike maintenance will be provided alongside new bike racks.
  • Sports is a good way to get young people involved; other activities can follow.

The Eastway site has given Young Hackney a permanent base for the first time where it engages with over 200 young people aged 6-25. Running skills-based programmes from the site has enabled the boroughs’ youth service to better embed itself in the community.

Formalised design training helps young people move forward

Our next stop was Hackney Bridge where we heard from two youth programmes that operate in meanwhile spaces at the events hub.

The Good Growth Hub and Elevate Youth Board programmes are both funded by the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC), the public body that oversees regeneration in the Olympic Park. The LLDC’s 18 year regeneration plan includes improving resident engagement as one of its key goals.

A youth perspective on the LLDC’s strategy is provided by the Elevate Youth Board, a group of fifteen 18-24 year olds. Young people Lola Martinez-Rufete, Bhav Ghedia, and Celine Nithila-George shared how being involved at a board level has built their skills over the long-term.

Now 22, Lola has been a youth representative since age 14. She reflected:

“The board has impacted the social infrastructure in this area, and it’s also impacted us. We can walk around the Olympic Park developments and know that we’ve shaped them.”

“Advising the LLDC has given us transferable skills that will feed back into the sector. Many past members of the youth board have gone on to work in the built environment.”

Looking forward, the youth board want to formalise they capacity building they’re getting and create a model that can be adopted by other organisations.

“We’ve got a real voice that is taken seriously in the sector,” said Celine. “For example, we were involved in important events for London Festival for Architecture and The Future of Britain Conference 2023.

“Formalising the skills development we’re getting along the way will help us carry on as civic innovators, as we’re starting out our careers.”

Young people need to know what the skills gaps are

Alongside Elevate, the Good Growth Hub helps a diverse cohort of young people access training and employment opportunities. Vivian Murinde, Head of Inclusive Growth and Skills, explained how co-designing services with young people and employers enabled the LLDC to hone its careers support offer:

“Many young people asked for a central service to help them understand the array of opportunities available at Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and compare them.

“They wanted to know what the skills gaps were, and what types of training would help them secure a job in the current climate.”

Public actors can amplify the voices of embedded organisations

Badu Café is a space Nana Badu, Badu Community, created for the local community he knows well and feared wouldn’t feel the benefits of regeneration.

Badu Community supports young people through mentoring and workforce development, with a focus on placemaking as a community.

The Badu Community is an organisation that a diverse group of young people already know and trust. To amplify its reach, the LLDC uses its network to put Badu Community in touch with partner organisations.

Founder Nana Badu shares how they engage meaningfully with young people:

“Our work is not about what we do to and for young people, it’s about what we do with them. They don’t need a saviour. I’ll ask the young person what their challenges are and make sure that we support their mental and physical literacy to address them. After that – it’s their race to run.”

Other key takeaways:

  • Badu Community always works in consultation with a young person’s parents.
  • They help funders and partners address their biases before interacting with young people in the diverse Badu Community. Remaining sustainable as a black-led organisation requires resilience, as they face discriminatory biases about what they’re capable of doing.

Badu Community’s long-term, organic approach has enabled it to create bespoke social value projects shaped by young people.

For example, young person Wesley Reis da Silva shared that when he started looking for jobs, he discovered it was difficult to find a positive environment in which he could thrive. Starting from a chance encounter at Westgate shopping mall, Badu Community supported him to set up a talent programme that provides career support for graduates from global majority backgrounds.

Conclusions: how young people are shaping social value

  • Like all social value interventions, social value for young people needs to be informed by a clear understanding of what already exists. Successful interventions will support local organisations that have already built trust with young people and will be sensitive to the specific needs of young people in an area.
  • Public actors can amplify the voices of these community organisations by using their networks to facilitate partnerships and funding.
  • Good consultation methods will empower young people to engage in informed ways and as experts in lived experience.
  • Giving young people a voice in regeneration equips them with transferable skills that can help them enter the job market and even work in the built environment. Formalising this training can help them secure their next steps.

Thanks to Countryside Partnerships for sponsoring this event. You can find out more about our Unlocking Social Value programme, including future events, here.


Thanks to Mathieu Rogers (LB Hackney), Luke Billingham (Hackney Quest), Simeon Mariott-Dixon (Young Hackney), Iqra Parvez, Mylan Long, Layla Conway (LLDC), Lola Martinez-Rufete (Elevate Youth Board), Bhav Ghedia (Elevate Youth Board), Celine Nithila-George (Elevate Youth Board), Vivian Murinde (LDDC), Nana Badu (Badu Sports), Orlene Badu (Badu Sports) and Wesley Reis da Silva for speaking at this event. Special thanks to Jasel Nandha (JN consulting ltd.) for organising this event.

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