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Hackney Wick’s decade of growth through the Big Local programme

With the publication of the Wick Award Measuring Change report, we explore some of the key achievements and future plans of this Big Local area in Hackney, east London – and how we can learn from what it’s accomplished. 

In 2010, Hackney Wick was identified as having high levels of deprivation, very few active community groups and low levels of investment.  

That year, it was chosen as one of the first 50 Big Local areas. Thirteen years on, Wick Award Big Local is thriving and the picture is considerably different. A staff member from Hackney Quest, a non-profit which organises activities for young people, said:

There’s more support for people …  there’s more provision in terms of food, community, safe places, and good role models.”

This new report from Wick Award, in partnership with social enterprise Renaisi, explores the key areas of change in the community and who has enabled it. It also looks at development areas for the community to focus on in the future.  

Here we explore learnings from Wick Award’s achievements in the context of what it identifies as its three key pillars of success: 

  1. Championing the community voice 
  2. Building connections and trust 
  3. Long-term investment 

Championing the community voice 

The Wick Award Community Chest was founded as a way of bringing people in the local area together to chat through any concerns they have about the community. This initiative has also enabled local residents to access small pots of money to fund new and ongoing community projects.  

From the LGBT Elders art club and local history projects, to community gardening and yoga, individuals and groups have set up projects bringing about real change and making a difference to people’s lives.  

In line with the priorities identified through an initial consultation with the community at the start of the partnership, Wick Award also commissioned research projects and supported residents to take part in consultations examining different issues.  

These included the Hackney Wick Through Young Eyes report which shares the voices and recommendations of over 400 young people aged eight to 20. Wick Award also supported people to get involved in the council’s Ageing Better strategy by holding focus groups before or after community lunches so they could speak in a safe space. A Volunteer Centre Hackney staff member said:

The impact is on people who are struggling with living costs, or people that live alone, or people who can’t cook for themselves anymore.”

Building connections and trust 

A lot of Wick Award’s work has focused on building relationships with local organisations that bring positive change to the community. This has included Hackney Quest and The Wickers, which helps to make the most of sports cages and multi-use games areas on the local estates.

According to a survey sent out to Wick Award’s connections, collaborative working has resulted in 94% of respondents (16 out of 17 people) saying they had made local connections they wouldn’t have otherwise.  Respondents also said working with Wick Award has helped them build relationships and understand community needs better. A Wickers staff member said: 

Wick Award break down barriers through intergenerational work and have been able to bridge that gap and break down stigma.”

Developing skills and capacity

Through long-term commitment to the area, deep knowledge and connecting with local organisations, Wick Award set up a number of skills-based initiatives.  

Hackney Wick FC began thanks to £1,000 from the Community Chest grant as well as a £10,000 donation. Wick Award also helped the Gascoyne Over 50s Club Hackney to build a programme of activities at Gascoyne 2 Hall which brought people together, including a craft club, exercise classes and practical support during the COVID-19 pandemic. A Wick Award Community Development worker said:

Different people have different roles and skills. They’re all willing to do anything to help – bringing these groups together is what’s special.”

Growing opportunities in the local area

Wick Award Big Local has also delivered positive change for residents by putting local people in the lead.  This includes its Hackney Social Radio project which, through funding from Wick Award, saw the radio station work with older residents to share their stories during the COVID-19 lockdown.  

The Big Local has also run projects focusing on the health and wellbeing of local people, for example the Hackney Wick Forest Explorers, which aims to spark a love of nature by taking families out into Wick Woods come whether it’s raining or beautiful sunshine.

Long term investment 

By creating a better and more effective infrastructure for both young and older people through its commissioning, grants and partnerships, Wick Award has improved the wellbeing of Hackney Wick residents and brought cohesion to a diverse community.  

The Measuring Change report concludes that the purposeful approach the Big Local has taken to creating long-term, sustainable change has been successful in many ways. A quote from a staff member at the Volunteer Centre Hackney sums this up well:

People in this community sector don’t normally stay for long … but Wick Award has longevity.”

Wick Award Big Local has identified two main areas for development diversity of the partnership and a formal process of learning and evaluation.

Currently, the Big Local area feels like it hasn’t consistently engaged a proportionally representative group of members reflecting the Hackney Wick community and it would like to change this.  It also hopes to install systems for embedding and capturing learnings from individual projects in order to continue growing in the future.  

Speaking after the launch of the report and an accompanying roundtable chair Nicholas Sharman said Wick Award’s inclusive approach “unites residents, amplifying their voices to create lasting change”, adding that “Renaisi’s review validates our tangible progress in transforming local public services”.

Mr Sharman added: “Many voluntary sector, local authority and health authority colleagues are thinking on the same lines and are looking to strengthen community involvement in the local services they deliver.”

The Wick Award Measuring Change report was produced by Renaisi. It was commissioned by Wick Award in May 2021 through Local Trust’s Measuring Change programme.