By Andrew Cooper*
January 2018 saw the launch of The BID Foundation, which I believe is an important and fundamental step in addressing the needs of Business Improvement Districts in the UK. The first BID was established in Kingston in 2005, and as BIDs have matured and taken on new activities as well as growing to now operate in nearly 300 locations, there are new challenges emerging. The BID Foundation, an industry-led body being supported by the Institute of Place Management, has been formed to provide strategic direction and practical support to help the sector respond to these challenges and move forward. When BIDs started in this country they were focused primarily in town centres and addressed issues such as cleanliness and safety, place promotion and marketing as well as business support. The economic changes of the last decade, the decline in public sector funding that is available, the growth of online shopping, changes to how we seek entertainment, new security issues, and enhanced consumer expectations about the places they spend time in, are all impacting on the role of BIDs.
A significant group of BIDs felt that it was important to take more control of the agenda around BIDs and to look more closely at how we could work together. The group pledged funds to commission a consultation study that spoke to over 100 BIDs, so as to better understand the issues we had in common and the support we needed. Coming out of the consultation was a need for a clearer voice for BIDs, to engage better with critical stakeholders, the potential to accredit or provide quality assurance for BIDs and service providers, a need to move with the times and innovate new concepts and approaches, and to develop a transparent and accountable body for BIDs. Having put out a call for responses to the consultation report, we spoke with a number of potential providers or partners and chose to work with the Institute of Place Management. Over the last few months, BIDs themselves have been working with the Institute to develop a new industry-led body that will take the sector forward.
We have established a new structure overseen by a representative Council from the industry. It currently has 14 BID Executive Directors on it and I’m delighted to have been elected by them to chair the Council this year. We have now begun the search for a new dedicated Executive Director for The BID Foundation but in the meantime we are working alongside Professor Cathy Parker, Chair of the Institute of Place Management, Simon Quin, a director and visiting professor at the Institute, and with Dr Julie Grail as our Specialist Advisor.
The BID Foundation has agreed a five point Core Purpose:
1. Providing a trusted and authoritative voice for BIDs that will develop understanding of their role and significance
2. Engaging effectively and responsively with key stakeholders, particularly national government, local government, and the business community
3.Advancing innovation across the BID sector to ensure the most positive contribution to the places they serve and improve value to stakeholders of all kinds
4.Supporting and accrediting BIDs and BID consultants to elevate standards, and ensure accountability and transparency
5.Being an impartial and collegiate community for BIDs that will enable the development of both shared and individual expertise and effectiveness
You can read more about our work and the resources we are developing for BIDs of all types at thebidfoundation
As a body that is led by BID practitioners themselves, we would, of course, always welcome your views and questions. Over the next few months we will be holding a number of events which we would be delighted to see you at and you can find more information on these on our website. If you involved in a BID anywhere in the UK or Ireland, we would very much like to have you join us, to help us take the industry forward and to fashion The BID Foundation into an organisation that serves your needs.
*Andrew Cooper is Chair of The BID Foundation Council and Chief Executive of Leeds BID