Mend was established in 2010 at a time when UK Government economic and planning policy had shifted dramatically with the incoming coalition  government. This was against a backdrop of global financial turmoil and the subsequent calls for austerity and public sector spending cut-backs.

Radical changes to the planning system have since being introduced via the Localism Act 2011 and NPPF, leading to greater powers for local people to decide on local development and a greater emphasis on community consultation. The Social Value Act 2012, came into force in January 2013 and now makes it a statutory duty for public bodies to consider the potential social, economic and environmental wellbeing impacts of the services they commission.

We now find ourselves in a policy environment that is much more geared towards elevating the roles and responsibilities of communities, demonstrating the positive social impact of development and delivering “more for less”.  All of this has had a profound effect on the commissioning environment for development, regeneration and publicly funded projects.

There are ever increasing demands on businesses, organisations and projects to demonstrate their social impact and social value. We need to demonstrate our Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Ethical Trading, Social Value and “Good” business practice credentials in responding to public and private sector procurement programmes.

The Social Value Act was designed to enable new opportunities for social enterprises, community organisations and the third sector to partner with larger organisations and deliver more locally-led solutions.The government now expects new services to be delivered in partnership with the community, social enterprises and third sector. However this is a complex and diverse sector that is largely untapped and undiscovered by the private sector despite it being expected to grow by £2bn per year by 2015. New relationships need to be forged and there are opportunities to partner with new organisations with fresh outlooks and resources.

Neighbourhood planning and the NPPF place communities at a level of decision-making that they have not had before. They can behave more like client. Communities are coming together to draft their own neighbourhood plans, setting priorities for future development in their area.

If we really want to engage people in the changes that are happening in their cities and local area and if they are to take on the responsibility of the new decision-making powers that they have, then we need to be a lot more sophisticated around how we talk to people about their local area and what they want to see happening in it. The way engagement is commissioned, seen and delivered needs to change. 

We believe development and regeneration works best when people have a genuine, relevant and meaningful attachment to their places. Place attachment is built on the everyday values, relationships, identity and shared experiences that make a place work. Appreciating that every place is different because of the people that live there and use it transforms development from simply being a physical process to a more complex psychological one.

We welcome new policies that enable communities to do things for themselves. But policy is one thing…..practice is another.

We have strong feelings about genuine community involvement and the right to the city being at the heart of our work and approach. We specialise in social impact of development and growing active citizenship around place, planning, design and development. We are not about helping organisations tick boxes. We are interested in helping you think differently about how communities and places work to get the best social outcomes.

We also believe places are social first and physical second, so we help others to see the importance of creating places and spaces that grow community instead of just containing community.

Mend is a social enterprise that has grown out of this policy flux. We think the future of our cities is social!