20 year anniversary

"No service can be a one-size-fits-all service in Hackney – it doesn’t work because we have so many different communities."

Jake Ferguson, CEO of Hackney CVS, reflects on 20 years of working for a fairer Hackney


What’s the role of Hackney CVS?

Hackney CVS is the organisation people go to when they want to engage with local communities and particularly the local voluntary and community sector. Our role is to be a catalyst for change, focused on tackling the inequalities that Hackney still has. Hackney is a borough where the difference between rich and poor is increasing.

Our job is to support lots of community groups, charities and voluntary organisations to help residents. We do that in many different ways: we provide advice and training and we also act as a bridge between the public sector and local community groups – that allows them to influence how the public sector does its work.

Can you give me a short overview on the history of Hackney CVS?

Hackney CVS was formally created in May 1997 – so 2017 marks our 20th year of operation. We were set up as a result of a survey that the council did to ask local communities what sort of organisation they needed. I started in 2001 and there were just three members of staff at that point. Now our turnover is around £3.2m every year and most of that money goes through Hackney CVS to local charities and community groups. We employ over 30 staff and have about 50 volunteers every year, so we’ve grown very much since our humble beginnings.

What are your plans for the next two years?

We’ve got a number of projects that will still be running over the next two years, such as Connect Hackney, which is tackling social isolation among residents who are aged over 50. However, we also need to be looking for new funding opportunities as the amount of money that comes from the council and the NHS is shrinking. We need to get better at attracting resources for local community groups which, in some cases, are going to be struggling to survive.

We want to look at how we can work with local residents and businesses that are interested in giving back to the community. We are going to do a number of events where people can donate their time, expertise or money to local charities and community groups.

As CEO I’m really excited about plans to redevelop parts of Dalston because that includes the building we are based in. It would be great to redevelop it into a building that can offer modern facilities for local communities.

What difference does Hackney CVS make?

Through our young people’s projects we’ve helped around 170 young people into work. Through our Families First education programme we have supported 725 children and families from black and minority ethnic backgrounds to achieve better educational outcomes. We’ve been doing a lot of work to help really marginalised people navigate through the NHS better and get better health outcomes. This is really important in terms of supporting and enabling people with complex health and social care needs to access the correct support and the services they need.

Through our 20 years’ history, we’ve channelled millions of pounds – about £15m – into local community projects. If you asked people at Hackney Council, they would probably say we had made a big difference to their understanding of local communities.

I’d like to think that anyone can come through our doors with a problem and we will help them solve it or help them find somebody who can help. Because we champion equality and diversity we are able to help people influence the services provided to them and their peers.

No service can be a one-size-fits-all service in Hackney – it doesn’t work because we have so many different communities. How you support the Turkish community is different to how you support the Vietnamese community. I like the idea of Hackney CVS being everyone’s friend and advocate because so many people haven’t got anyone they can turn to for support.

Celebrating 20 years at the Ace Hotel

In October our annual community awards ceremony will take place at the Ace Hotel, Shoreditch. As well as celebrating our work over the past 20 years we will be celebrating the efforts of local people and community organisations today with our annual awards – the Adiaha Antigha Community Achievement Awards for individuals and organisations, and the Gary Francis awards for young people. We will have more information on this soon.


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