How JP Mor­gan and Al­lia are help­ing Hack­ney

How Al­lia, with back­ing from JP Mor­gan Chase Foun­da­tion, wants to trans­form east London

The Wharf - - Front Page - Olivia Palam­oun­tain

Ial­ways use the wish list anal­ogy when de­scrib­ing what we do,” said Alex Pot­ter, ac­cel­er­a­tor pro­gramme man­ager at Al­lia. “We can’t give you money di­rectly, but if you had a wish list of sup­port, I ask, ‘What would it be?’ Then we’ll help you get it.”

An in­de­pen­dent not-for-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion, Al­lia has part­nered with the JP Mor­gan Chase Foun­da­tion to mimic the work the bank has done re­gen­er­at­ing Detroit – in east London.

“Our new HQ is in Hack­ney so we’re con­cen­trat­ing on that area first,” said Alex. “Then Tower Ham­lets, Waltham For­est, Ne­wham.

“It’s not quite Detroit as many of these places have been up and com­ing for a while – but hip­sters can ar­rive to the ex­clu­sion of every­one else.”

Job cre­ation for lo­cal peo­ple is a top pri­or­ity, with spe­cific tar­gets in­clud­ing mi­cro pop­u­la­tions, fe­male en­trepreneur­ship and lo­cal bricks and mor­tar re­tail busi­nesses.

“They say the best form of char­ity is to cre­ate a job,” Alex said. “In Detroit, they found that by cre­at­ing a few jobs in smaller busi­nesses it trans­formed the area com­pletely.

“Detroit was bank­rupt and these jobs turned it on its head. We’re start­ing from the bot­tom up, rather than em­ploy­ing the trickle down wealth ap­proach.”

The doors to Al­lia HQ in London Fields are al­ways open of­fer­ing workspace, men­tor­ship, work­shops, classes, sup­port and con­nec­tions.

Help also in­cludes guid­ance and ad­vice on any­thing from mar­ket­ing, pro­mo­tion and brand­ing, to how to hire some­one, get tax re­bates or loans or how to pay lower busi­ness rates.

“We will do our best to an­swer any ques­tions so peo­ple can deal with things be­fore they be­come a prob­lem,” said Alex. “We’re here for any­thing and ev­ery­thing they want, apart from fund­ing.”

Isle of Olive, a Greek deli off Broad­way Mar­ket, was one of the Hack­ney pro­gram’s first ap­pli­cants.

Staffing was a prob­lem since the deli could not af­ford to pay full-time salaries and the premises needed more traf­fic. Now they are im­ple­ment­ing Greek wine tast­ings in-store and look­ing into sell­ing their own brand of olive oil in other shops.

While most ac­cel­er­a­tors will take a por­tion of a com­pany or will charge fees in the hope one or two ideas will go huge and cre­ate a re­turn Al­lia is a char­ity and does ev­ery­thing for free.

Alex said: “If you look at what the for­mer ap­proaches do eco­nom­i­cally, they don’t re­ally work for the rest of the pop­u­la­tion.

“Ca­nary Wharf Group’s tech ac­cel­er­a­tor Level39 is fan­tas­tic in cre­at­ing lots of jobs, but are those jobs are for the lo­cal com­mu­nity? Prob­a­bly not,” said Alex.

“There are some parts of Tower Ham­lets that you would never be­lieve are in London be­cause they are so de­prived.

“When some peo­ple that live there look at Ca­nary Wharf there’s no way they can see them­selves there or recog­nise there’s any way that they can get in­volved.”

The JP Mor­gan Chase Foun­da­tion be­lieves it’s a ques­tion of how you bring op­por­tu­nity back to peo­ple like this.

Us­ing data tools built by the bank, Al­lia has been able to gather in­for­ma­tion about its tar­get ar­eas and fig­ure out how to help.

“This has al­lowed us to see what the area is and what it’s be­com­ing,” said Alex. “There’s a strong Bangladeshi com­mu­nity in Tower Ham­lets, for ex­am­ple and fewer young peo­ple.

“We’re also see­ing a ma­jor push from Ca­nary Wharf Group to make it more res­i­den­tial, a place where you al­most never need to leave.”

None of Al­lia’s clients would be able to af­ford rents in Ca­nary Wharf, but are still lo­cal to the area.

Alex said: “I live on the Isle Of Dogs and there are lots of lit­tle busi­nesses around. When you talk about Ca­nary Wharf, South Quay is not on any­one’s radar and these are ex­actly the peo­ple we want to help – from small dry clean­ers that could tar­get some of the Ca­nary Wharf work­ers, to cool cafes and cof­fee shops that no-one re­ally knows ex­ists.” De­spite in­creas­ing rents on the Isle Of Dogs and in Dock­lands gen­er­ally, Alex is hope­ful for the fu­ture.

“I’d love it to be a des­ti­na­tion in its own right, full of places that al­low the lo­cal com­mu­nity to be in­volved,” he said. “Our part­ner­ship with the JP Mor­gan Chase Foun­da­tion is all about job cre­ation and try­ing to bring op­por­tu­nity back to peo­ple who might be un­der-served.”

To find out more go to al­lia.org.uk or east­lon­don.fu­ture­busi­ness­cen­tre.co.uk

In Detroit they found cre­at­ing jobs in smaller busi­nesses trans­formed the area com­pletely Alex Pot­ter, Al­lia

HOLLY CANT

Alex says Al­lia’s aim is to sup­port re­gen­er­a­tion in Hack­ney be­fore mov­ing onto Tower Ham­lets, Waltham For­est and Ne­wham

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