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Social Enterprise Start-Up Competition 2023 finalist: Meet and Mend

Empowering Communities Through Creativity and Collaboration

In the heart of West Yorkshire, social entrepreneur Joanne Cook embarked on a mission to bring positive change to her local community. Meet and Mend, who are in the process of setting up as a Community Interest Company (CIC), aspires to weave the threads of creativity, wellbeing, and social empowerment into the fabric of the region. The story of Meet and Mend showcases the power of community engagement, sustainable practices, and the transformative impact of creative initiatives.

Setting the Foundation

Joanne’s journey began in 2022 when she established Meet and Mend with the aim of providing creative, inclusive and accessible opportunities that promote and contribute towards the positive wellbeing of individuals and communities within the West Yorkshire area.

Joanne said: “I have over 17 years of working in Adult Social Care and 11 years of working as a Nursery Nurse. I feel that the experience and knowledge that I have gained working in both of these fields will enable me to set up a social enterprise that can focus on and identify initiatives that are strength based, but also sustainable within the local area.”

Meet and Mend’s projects are all designed to address both emotional and practical needs. One of the ways they achieve this is by offering projects that support and encourage individuals to come together to share and learn skills, either through mending or hand sewing techniques. They also run a monthly mending group at Dewsbury Library, where people can bring in their preloved clothes for repair.

The initiative thrived on collaboration, as Joanne worked closely with local councils, MPs, councillors, and various professionals in the voluntary and public sectors to ensure that the initiatives aligned with the community’s needs.

Creating Impact

The impact of Meet and Mend’s initiatives is felt deeply within the community. Joanne’s commitment to addressing social isolation, climate change, and inequality has led to the creation of projects that transform lives. Meet and Mend have offered projects to individuals and communities within the West Yorkshire district, and most recently run projects within the North Kirklees area including: 

The Cost of Living Quilt Project: created 10 patchwork quilts, 5 knitted blankets and 20 draft excluders that were donated to individuals in need of extra warmth as a result of the current cost of living crisis.

The Reusable Sanitary Pad Project: created 217 reusable sanitary pads that were donated to local food banks and charities that were able to give to local people that needed the support of this product.

The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Project: working with Dewsbury Community Outreach on the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Project, participants used slow-stitching (hand sewing) techniques with repurposed materials to create bunting which was then displayed at the centre’s Platinum Jubilee’s street party.

Woven Festival 2023: Meet and Mend also worked with Woven in Kirklees on their Mission to Mend Project and Growing Colour Together Project, during the Woven Festival 2023.

These initiatives reduced social isolation by creating safe spaces for individuals to connect, share stories, and learn valuable skills. Moreover, the projects contributed to environmental sustainability by repurposing materials and advocating for recycling. By providing an avenue for skill sharing, Meet and Mend will empower vulnerable and minority groups to contribute actively to their communities, fostering a sense of belonging.

Aspiring for More

Joanne envisions a future where the enterprise continues to enrich the lives of individuals and communities through artistic and cultural projects, employment opportunities, and environmental initiatives.

The projects/initiatives will aim to provide:

  • Support for people’s health and wellbeing – focus on artistic and cultural projects that can boost emotional wellbeing, creativity and self expression.
  • Employment and volunteer opportunities – working with other charities and services to support people to reach their volunteer or employment goals. Making a positive impact on their local community, by participating in activities that are improving the lives of others through the engagement in Meet and Mend projects that help improve the lives of others.
  • Support vulnerable and minority groups – Providing an arena to share ideas and share individual’s unique cultural heritages. Develop more sustainable projects, events and initiatives that encourage skill sharing. Individuals and groups who come together and develop a more active role, will be more inclined to lead within their local community and groups if they are able to share their talents and strengths.
  • Tackle environmental impact – focus on environmental causes that can support individuals and groups to become a more sustainable community. Encouraging individuals to focus on developing projects and climate change initiatives that will empower individuals to take actions that are meaningful to their local community and area. Gaining more knowledge and awareness on sustainability, recycling and repurposing within their own lives and communities. 
  • Social inclusion – Create spaces, programs and other activities that will bring people together that cater to different interests and different demographics within the local communities. Stronger social cohesion – projects/initiatives that encourage people from different backgrounds to interact and collaborate lead to stronger bonds and a sense of shared identity. 
  • Collaborative work with other organisations and services – will help amplify the impact of social initiatives for individuals and the local community. Shared expertise and knowledge from different organisations/services can also bring a positive impact to individuals and the local community during the development and running of the projects/initiatives. 

Income Generation

Meet and Mend plans to fund its activities through a mixture of paid events such as clothes exchange, social craft groups and workshops as well as grants.

The Award’s Significance

Winning the Kirklees Social Enterprise Start-Up Competition would be a game-changer for Meet and Mend, helping them to continue to develop more community-led projects with individuals and local communities within the local area. 

The award would provide the resources and recognition needed to expand the enterprise’s reach and impact. 

From the feedback that Meet and Mend have received from both local individuals and organisations in North Kirklees, it is evident that more projects that promote community welfare and sustainable practices are needed.

Inspiration from Others

Joanne draws inspiration from other socially conscious enterprises and charities, such as:

Dewsbury Community Outreach – a Christian charity based in Dewsbury helping the vulnerable and less fortunate by providing practical, emotional and spiritual support.

Sew Positive – helping people mend, repair, upcycle and repurpose clothes, supporting mental health and wellbeing and the planet.

Quilts for Care Leavers Project – a project providing handmade quilts for young people who are living independently after their time in care.

Hatch – establish and host events for communities to create, make and debate, with a collective interest in how art can make a real difference to people’s lives.

Having interacted and worked with these organisations, Joanne has been inspired by what they achieve within their communities, and the way they interact and support their aims with the individuals who they support. Joanne has received lots of help and support from various organisations and individuals that have been crucial to helping Meet and Mend get to where it is now.

Meet and Mend stands as a testament to the power of creativity, collaboration and community spirit. Joanne’s passion for empowering others and her dedication to positive change exemplify the potential of social enterprises to create lasting impact in communities.

To find out more about how you could make your ideas for a social enterprise a reality visit the TSL Kirklees website.

By Agency For Good

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