Rushanara Ali: Develop the next generation to help tackle extremism

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Speaking at an event the MP for Bethnal Green and Bow and founder of UpRising said investment in young people could bring about social change

Organisations must reach out to young people to tackle deep political divides across the country, according to MP for Bethnal Green and Bow Rushanara Ali.

Speaking at an event organised by The Leaders Club, Ali described her early government experience working in east London shortly after riots in 2011. “Unfortunately we’ve seen firsthand that if you don’t invest in good leadership you will get people who are damaging business, damaging the economy, and damaging the climate,” she said.

“I’ve seen the far right try to tear apart Tower Hamlets, and how groups like the EDL tried to take in young people in Barking and Dagenham, along with Islamic terror groups attempting to radicalise young Muslims.

"While I was door knocking people would often talk to me about their children, whose careers had been affected by the financial crash: ‘they have a degree, explain to me why they still can’t find a job’.”

Ali said that this experience was part of her motivation for launching UpRising, a charity that designs programmes and provides mentors for young adults aged 16 to 25. Its alumni have gone on to careers in business, the third sector, politics and journalism.

Developing the next generation’s talents and skills can help tackle extremism in society, she said.

“We’ve seen the real threat of the far right in our politics, with Nigel Farage using the same tactics as the likes of Trump and Bannon in the US. I never thought I’d see these sorts of people influencing the politics of the Conservative party, and if we don’t take action it could spin out of control,” she said.

“We’ve seen rising fascism in France and Italy, and Britain is not immune. We’ve got to be more resilient, and young people have got to be at the forefront of that. You are here to make a difference, but not just in your business: in your society and in your communities.”

Ali pointed out that much of the job market is hidden, and referred to commonly-cited statistics suggesting that at least 70% of jobs are found through networking.

“When I first started UpRising I called it ‘the finishing school for unemployed graduates’. Some of this is about learning about class. How can you adjust to an environment where everyone is completely different to you?” she asked.

“People can be very close to each other, but come from entirely different worlds. So how can we break this down? We hear time and time again that Britain is incredibly class-ridden, and to some extent that’s true, but it can also be an incredibly generous place. We’ve just got to learn how to navigate it.

“This can really transform people’s lives. If you’re a young adult and you connect with someone who is really inspiring and in the career you want you’ve hit the jackpot. But this isn’t just about being moral; we know that it’s profitable for businesses too."

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