Until I met Alison White a couple of weeks ago at an Olympic Legacy reception at the House of Commons, I associated ‘Elba’ with the Italian island famous for Napoleon’s first exile and the somewhat hackneyed palindrome attributed to him from that time - “Able was I ere I saw Elba…”
Not That ELBA
ELBA, however, is a completely different thing – the East London Business Alliance – which is dedicated to creating possibilities in East London. I suppose they could be described as an island of opportunities where plans are hatched and put into action, so they do have that in common with Napoleon and his time in Elba, and certainly their ventures are bold and far reaching, but they are certainly not isolated or remote from the realities of life in East London.
I Love the DLR
I popped over to see Alison to explore how we might be able to collaborate on projects for local people. Their offices are in the docklands area, so I got to travel on the DLR (Docklands Light Railway) which always pleases me, I love it, it reminds me of a kind of cute ‘toytown’ rail service! Of course I wasn’t using it in rush hour so regulars who travel at peak times might have a different perspective when it’s crowded.
Alliance of Major Organisations
ELBA has around 123 member organisations including some big household names, (e.g. Barclays, AXA, BT, Thomson Reuters) who support both financially and in kind on a wide range of initiatives to improve local life in this very diverse area. ELBA have volunteering, employment and legacy programmes, and can and do guide investment so that it is delivered where it is needed most and to a high standard.
They’ve been around for over 20 years, so they have much experience and local knowledge. I had a very refreshing time talking with Alison and some of her team about initiatives for helping those who are hard to reach and difficult to place in work, and the links they have forged that bring local people together with volunteers. We hope to be able to bring you more information about their work in the near future.
I also enjoyed strolling around the docklands area – it always inspires me with the stretches of water with birds, boats and floating restaurants, the cafes, the people and the varied architecture. In what many might think of as cold, unfriendly London, someone stopped to make sure I was okay when I was pausing on the pavement to check my map on the way there.
The stark juxtaposition of Canary Wharf with its amazing buildings and symbols of financial wealth with some of the poorest parts of East London remains an extraordinary experience.
Hats off to those who are working to redress the balance.
Although there is of necessity a lot of activity and talk about the Olympics and their legacy, it’s good to know that the team at ELBA are there as a longstanding and enduring resource for making a positive difference in the community.
Watch out for more news soon!