As regular readers will know I am proud to champion the needs and achievements of Shoreditch businesses. I am continually pressing for better broadband coverage and speeds, championing immigration and calling for skills and training for the techtrepreneurs of the future.
But as well as representing the tech hub of the UK, an area that some commentators describe as achingly cool, I represent an achingly poor part of London.
Beyond Tech City
More people rent social housing in Hackney than own or rent privately combined. One local housing association recently told me that they have more working tenants on benefits than tenants who are not working, so even those in work are not well-off.
In Hackney, 47 per cent of children live in poverty. Across the borough primary schools have set up free breakfast clubs because so many children were turning up hungry in the morning. Head teachers in many secondary schools have put together supplies of clothing because too many children cannot afford to replace school uniforms.
In one case a teenage boy was missing school. He received detentions and, when he was still repeatedly absent, was excluded. Eventually the school arranged for a home visit by the education welfare team.
They discovered that Mum was an alcoholic and that the young man and his brother had a single pair of school trousers to share between them. Concerned about what would happen if they revealed this, they had instead agreed to share the trousers and attend school on alternate days.
That young man still made it to university – showing incredible resilience and initiative.
And this is just one example of how, while there is poverty in Hackney, it is matched by a wealth of culture, experience, language and ethnicity which tech businesses would be wise to buy into.
Be a part of social justice
The businesses of Shoreditch have a strong sense of social justice woven into their DNA. I am frequently approached by those who are keen to give something back. Many are now helping with code clubs in primary schools – teaching 7 year olds about coding. Others are involved in the Hackney 100, which involves offering a Hackney teenager four hours a week work experience for a year.
And in our schools there are pupils who speak the languages of the world and have origins in huge emerging markets. As well as being the right thing to do it makes business sense to engage with these young people, whose youth and backgrounds reflect the future opportunities for emerging businesses.
And for those businesses large enough to employ non tech staff, Hackney’s Ways into Work programme can match you to a local resident keen to work. Both businesses and local residents can benefit – with greater reliability for businesses and lower cost and shorter travel to work for residents.
So in 2015, reach back into Hackney and beyond Old Street roundabout. A job or work experience for someone local will have a ripple effect both for your business and for the life opportunities of local residents. Make 2015 the year that you build that bridge into the parts of Hackney that will really benefit the most.