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Empowering Communities enters its second year

As Empowering Communities celebrates its one-year anniversary, it is a timely opportunity to reflect on a challenging, but enormously successful, 12 months for the social legacy programme.

The adverse impact of the pandemic on many areas of public life – such as education and employment – has meant social mobility initiatives have become more important than ever.

While the pandemic has also forced us to adapt our strategy, this has revealed a more impactful, hybrid approach to creating a social legacy. The ambition and flexible thinking of Empowering Communities partners – Arup, Costain, HS2, Mace, Dragados, Network Rail, Skanska and STRABAG – means one year on we have some incredible achievements under our belt.

Our school outreach initiatives are one example. Our initial aim would have been to visit schools to conduct talks, presentations, and career planning activities – but this physical format would have only allowed two or three schools to gather at one time. Being forced into virtual workshops made theme – rather than school – the centre of attention, with as many students from different schools welcome to attend at the same time.

Nonetheless, there is a big divide in central London when it comes to young people’s digital enablement. To tackle this, we worked with businesses and charities to provide IT equipment to support those cut off from the virtual world, assisting the education sector through its own transition into unexpected territory. Not only did this reconnect students to their curriculum, it also meant they were able to attend our virtual workshops. We delivered 46 school engagement activities and reached 1,721 young people aged between four and 18 over the course of the year.

Homelessness and unemployment have also worsened within the seven boroughs along the route. Through a series of events, we raised £3,855 to help those affected by homelessness, and supported five homeless people into jobs on the project. We also shifted our focus to provide skills training to unemployed people – rather than just job experience – to make them better suited to roles on our project. As a result, 142 previously unemployed people have filled 52 different positions across varying levels and disciplines over the past year.

While the social issues intensified by Covid-19 are not disappearing, the 10-year Empowering Communities programme is also here to stay. Our experiences of the past year will lead to a more actively agile strategy over the next 12 months, as we seek to adapt to the wishes of local communities. The ability of our partners to think outside the box, reach people in different ways and mitigate the impacts of Covid-19 is incredibly promising for Empowering Communities’ continuation into its second year and beyond.