Closure of Grow Mindfulness and a look back at what we’ve achieved

We are sad to announce that Grow Mindfulness CIC will cease trading and move to closure in May 2017. After 3 years of working to grow mindfulness and supporting efforts to extend its reach to all corners of our society, we’ve reached the end of our journey. As many of you know, facilitating a peer network for Mindfulness Teachers was at the centre of our work but sadly did not reach financial sustainability and the network closed in 2016. We continued our work teaching mindfulness to social workers and helpers but despite the growth of our work in the public and third sector, we have not managed to secure the funding needed to provide the free and low cost courses which were at the centre of our mission. We are a small team and started Grow Mindfulness from scratch with no core funding. Myself & Tamsin, our Board, volunteers and associate teachers have worked incredibly hard to reach our goals, but we can not see a way forward given where we find ourselves now. We are proud to have made it through these 3 years and achieved so much on a shoestring, but our work as a CIC will now come to a close.

We thought we would use this opportunity to pause, take a breath, and reflect on what we’ve achieved together during this pivotal time for mindfulness. Here are some of the highlights that we’re very proud of. We’re sharing these reflections in a spirit of deep gratitude and in honour of our amazing team. None of this would have happened without them.

The Grow Mindfulness story …

2014

  • In March 2014 Susan Kelly founded Grow Mindfulness CIC – she was supported on the advisory board by Dr Trudi Edginton, Ann Pelling and Lana Jackson.
  • During the spring of that year, Susan led a Mindfulness for Managers course in East Sussex Children’s Services.
  • In the summer of 2014 we forged what became long lasting relationships with Sussex Mindfulness Centre, the Mental Health Foundation and the Mindfulness Initiative.
  • In the autumn of 2014 we opened our first office and Tamsin Bishton joined the team as a volunteer – focusing on social media and communications.
  • Our attention also turned to the establishment of a virtual and real world network of mindfulness teachers – based on the palpable need we found for peer support and knowledge sharing, especially for teachers who were teaching mindfulness in the community.
  • Susan had a chapter in a new book published - Mindfulness for Resilience in Social Work in Grant L and Kinman G (2014), Developing Resilience for Social Work Practice, Palgrave Macmillan: London.
  • We ‘soft launched’ the teachers’ network in December with a website and opened a membership application process in order to test the process.
  • We connected with the Mindfulness Network CIC at this time also and began advertising their courses and retreats to our members and through our newsletter.
  • At the end of year Susan began teaching another Mindfulness for Social Work Course in East Sussex

2015

  • 2015 got off to a busy start. Tamsin began her teacher training at Sussex Mindfulness Centre and Susan began teaching two 8 week courses at East Sussex Council - one specifically for social workers and one for wider Children’s Services staff.
  • January was also when we attended the Parliamentary launch of the Interim Report - Mindful Nation - APPG, in Westminster.
  • Shirley Dunkin-Read, a social worker at East Sussex, wrote a story for the Community Care website describing how mindfulness was helping her in her work.
  • At the same time we began planning and commissioning activity with another local authority for an 8 week course for frontline staff working in social care and community roles. Nicole Perkins was appointed as our first Associate Teacher to teach this course in March.
  • March saw the formal launch of the Grow Mindfulness Teacher Network which saw a wonderful group of people come together at University of Westminster for an afternoon to explore how mindfulness teachers might connect more regularly to support each other and share experiences and questions. The event was hosted by Susan, Dr Trudi Edginton from the University and Jo Carson from the Mental Health Foundation.
  • In April and May, members of our network offered their insight to the Mindfulness Initiative to support research into capacity in the teaching community. Thanks to the swift response of the network we were able to respond in a short timescale and our findings were considered as part of the work on the final version of the Mindful Nation UK report.
  • Our network of teachers also supported the Mental Health Foundation during Mental Health Awareness Week in early May. Our members ran lots of free events and taster sessions through the week and Susan, our Director, attended the launch at the Royal Society in London.
  • As part of the publicity around Mental Health Awareness Day, another course participant shared her story in an article in the Guardian in May. Abigail Bryning – also a social worker at East Sussex wrote: “Since the course I feel calmer and at work I’m not quite so quick to make decisions. If a problem doesn’t have an immediate solution, which in the past would have made me feel anxious, I can now stop and think about it. When I have frantic deadlines, sometimes I take a moment to look out the window in a mindful way which really helps. It’s hard to put it into words, I just feel different
  • In June we hosted a networking event in London for mindfulness teachers – again hosted by Dr Trudi Edginton. Among many topics covered, Dr Edginton led a about working together with our members to help build the evidence base on the impact of community courses. In particular she was interested in leading some work to see how the University could help teachers use standardised tools in a simple way and contribute data to a national repository.
  • As the membership of the network grew, we were able to share a number of interesting teaching opportunities with our members, for example we linked up two of our members with a medium sized business who were about to expand and wanted to support their staff with mindfulness during this change process, and we helped a health professional find her way through the 'maze of mindfulness' to find some personalised support for a vulnerable young person.
  • We took a pause as an organisation at this point to spend time reflecting and refocusing on what our purpose was. We defined this in the following simple sentence:
 
 
  • Meanwhile, some of our members were hard at work over the summer helping the team at Liverpool University revise some questions on the national mapping survey which they were running on behalf of the Mindfulness Initiative. Their input made the final survey was more inclusive for a wider range of teachers as a result, including those teaching in the community and the workplace.
  • The autumn saw the landmark launch of the The Mindful Nation UK report. We were honoured and inspired to attend the Parliamentary Launch and to see the culmination of so much energy and warm-hearted effort from so many people in so many organisations.
  • The autumn was also when we ran our social media training course for mindfulness teachers. The course was attended by teachers from across the UK and the materials we produced to inform the session were also used to produce a ‘how-to’ handbook which was made available for free to members of the network.
  • At this time one of our Mindfulness Programmes was independently evaluated with very positive outcomes for participants
  • Nicole began teaching the second 8 week course commissioned using public health funding in a local authority.
  • We also continued to work in close partnership with East Sussex Children’s Services and hosted three further 8 week mindfulness programmes during 2015.
  • At the end of 2016 our friends at the Mindfulness Initiative (the people who led the work on the Mindful Nation UK report) launched their newsletter: Presently. We were honoured to be a partner author of the newsletter alongside Oxford University, Bangor University, and the Mental Health Foundation.

2016

  • At the start of 2016 we began to notice some big challenges for us as an organisation – and for mindfulness teachers more widely. We were struggling to be able to cover even basic costs of hosting networking and training events – and the message we kept hearing from the community was ‘we can’t afford to pay’ even for heavily subsidised places. This meant we had to cancel a number of events – even though we knew there was a need for them.
  • At the same time, the numbers of teachers joining the network had also begun to tail off sharply. We had to start looking realistically at the sustainability of Grow Mindfulness CIC. And as spring began, we started the challenging work of looking at the reality of our small non-profit business and our capacity as human beings. We undertook a consultation with our members about how we could increase the value and usefulness of the network. What we learned in that process was that without core funding to invest more time and resource in nurturing and developing the network, it was impossible to continue to support the network on the income from the network and training courses alone.
  • We taught a further two courses with staff from East Sussex in the early part of 2016.
  • In Spring 2016, Susan had an article published in Nota News in collaboration with East Sussex Children's Services. Lucy Kork, an experienced social worker in a specialist team supporting children and young people affected by sexual abuse, wrote about how she used learning from the course: "I use my mindfulness techniques to give myself permission to feel, to take notice of my feelings and to take time to steady myself. I model this to the children and young people by saying things like ‘I just need a moment to think about what you have said’. Sexual abuse is so confusing for children, I need to be alert enough to identify misconceptions in order to give them the information they need to make sense of their experiences".
  • After much hard work, we won a contract for a 2 year programme of mindfulness course with a local authority.
  • In February we hosted a course for Mindfulness Teachers who were just starting out including a session with Nick Diggins – a successful community teacher in Brighton and Lewes . We explored how to go about running courses in communities.
  • In March we made the decision to begin closure of the teachers’ network. The realities of the hard situation that so many of us in the teaching community find ourselves were starting to manifest themselves in a concrete way.
  • In April we hosted a networking event for our members to provide space to reflect on how the community could continue to stay in touch and support each other beyond the closure of the network. The conversations and inspiration now continue in a Face Book group hosted by “Bob Grow” – Bob Chase.
  • We continued to teach mindfulness in social care settings and our work received further validation in a number of publications: Kinman G, Grant L and Kelly S (2016) ‘Can mindfulness build resilience in social workers?.’ Proceedings of The British Psychological Society Occupational Psychology Conference (Nottingham 2016); and a Case Study in: Research in Practice (2016) Strategic Briefing: Building emotional resilience in the children and families workforce – an evidence-informed approach.
  • In May, a first hand account from a social worker who completed one of our Mindfulness Courses was published in Community Care: Mindful social work: ‘I was really empathising, not just planning my well-versed response
  • As we refocused our energy on work to connect with our local community in Brighton and Hove and explore ways to reach into all corners of our community – we began to develop a project with a local school, Goldstone Primary.
  • At the same time we began to organise a national conference around mindfulness and social work, building on the experience of teaching mindfulness in social care settings over the previous three years.
  • In the autumn we taught more courses with our local authority partners and hosted taster sessions with two new partners
  • We hosted the Mindfulness and Social Work conference in December 2016 – whilst we did not meet our funding goals for the conference, it was well attended and offered a valuable and nourishing day, bringing people from across the UK together to make connections and explore what is next for Mindfulness in Social Work.

2017

  • In March we delivered 4 Mindfulness courses for staff in three councils and for a local charity. All were positively evaluated.

The coming months

Following the Board decision to close Grow Mindfulness, we are now working on meeting our existing commitments and contracts, selling assets and working through the close down process as a Community Interest Company. We are an asset locked organisation and any assets remaining at the point of closure, will transfer to the Mental Health Foundation under the terms of our CIC. We are currently completing our final courses and are proud to have met all of our committments and be working towards a sad but smooth closure process with the support of our commissioners and friends in the mindfulness community.

Thank you

We’d like to thank everyone who walked this road with us – the support, the participation in the network and real world events, the wise words, the good humour and the kind and generous spirit of community that have helped us to keep walking the road. There are too many people to mention by name. But you know who you are. And we continue to wish you well in these interesting times that we’re all living through. And on we walk.

Can you help us build mindful communities in and around Goldstone Primary School?

We are all fired up about an exciting new project we are working on – and we need your help to make it happen.

What are we doing?

We have entered a partnership with the wonderful people at Goldstone Primary School and are working hard to develop a project to increase access to mindfulness. Our friend and collaborator, Carly Rhodes, is the mindfulness teacher at the school and already runs an amazing programme with the kids. She says:

“I feel really passionately about the potential of teaching mindfulness to young children in order to encourage emotional resilience and compassion. It gives them tools for the future to cope with life’s difficulties and challenges.”
— Carly Rhodes, Goldstone Primary School

 

We agree. And we want to work with Carly to pilot a new approach where we build on this children's programme and begin supporting the local community around the school by offering mindfulness to teachers, parents and carers - especially family members who may be isolated and could benefit most from trying out mindfulness in a non-stigmatising and familiar environment. 

We think building mindful communities around the school like this, will help more people feel a sense of belonging, reduce loneliness and build new relationships of support across this diverse catchment area. Our ambition is for children and families to live in safer, more cohesive and happier communities - can you help us?

We need your help

We are looking for good people to help us by joining our governance team and supporting us to apply for funding, or helping us develop other sources of income to make the project happen.

If you are interested in helping us in the governance team or have ideas on how we can fund raise to get this project going, please do get in touch

Here are some of our ideas so far:

1.    We are running a Mindfulness in Social Work Conference on 5 December in London - all profits will go towards funding the Goldstone School project.  We have some amazing speakers for the day including a parent who uses mindfulness practice to help her manage the stress of care proceedings and some social workers and managers from two local authorities talking on how mindfulness has influenced their work with vulnerable children and adults. More details on the conference and speakers here.

2.    We need to apply to some grant making bodies for the project - this is an uphill struggle in today's funding climate. If you have experience in making grant applications and can offer some volunteer time to help us identify the right kind of grants and submit some well crafted applications, please contact us. We'd love some help.

So if you’d like to help us with this work or you have other ideas that have worked for you in fundraising for projects like this, please get in touch. We'd love to hear from you.  (And if you would like to make a donation of any size, no matter how small, please visit our donation page. All donations really are gratefully received and make a huge difference.)

 

 

 

Research note: Comparing meditation to holidays

Based on our results, the benefit we experience from meditation isn’t strictly psychological; there is a clear and quantifiable change in how our bodies function,” said Rudolph Tanzi, PhD, the Joseph P. and Rose F. Kennedy Professor of Neurology at Harvard University, and Director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. “Meditation is one of the ways to engage in restorative activities that may provide relief for our immune systems, easing the day-to-day stress of a body constantly trying to protect itself. The prediction is that this would then lead to healthier aging”

A very special Sussex afternoon - Introduction to Nature Connection Exercises

Our friends at the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership and the wonderful Grow project are hosting an amazing afternoon for people who work with vulnerable adults in outdoor growing projects. It's FREE for staff working in outdoor growing projects, at the beautiful Saddlescombe farm and there's even a lift to get you there! 

The event is on Wednesday 6th July from 1.15pm-5.30pm and you'll find more details on the link below.

We love the fabulous people at Grow and couldn't be more pleased to see them expanding their work. Places will go quickly and there's only 2 per project . Book your place now

 

 

Sad news - closure of the Grow Mindfulness Teacher Network

It is with great sadness that Tamsin and I are announcing the closure of the Grow Mindfulness Teacher Network effective from June 30th 2016. We have always been, and will continue to be, an open organisation seeking to collaborate and share learning. We want to share our reasons for the closure of the network with you in some detail in the hope it may be of help to others striving to start up as non-profits in our community. 

We hope you, our supporters and friends, know that this has been a difficult decision and not one we have taken lightly. We are keen proponents of having a mindful business plan as a ‘soft scaffold’ to our work -  one which we can use to lean on and hold us accountable in troubled waters. Myself, Tamsin and the Advisory Group have been monitoring membership growth and resourcing closely this last year. The hard facts are that due to some unanticipated factors, some mistakes and the new funding and political context we find ourselves in as a third sector organisation, it is no longer possible for us to deliver on our ambitions for a peer network.

I hope the following gives some understanding of the scope and reasons for this change.

Why is this happening?   

We are taking this decision after consulting with our Advisory Group and University partner based on heartfelt reflection and turning towards the reality of the challenges that we’re facing as a small, unfunded, start-up organisation. Growth in network membership has been slower than we anticipated and falls significantly below targets set for quarterly and annual projections in our business plan. We are at less than 40% of our target for the end of this financial year. Sadly it is not financially viable for us to continue supporting the peer membership network.

Our intention has always been to do work that will help to grow mindfulness in the UK. There have been three strands to that work:

·      Supporting teachers through the network

·      Helping the helpers through our work teaching mindfulness courses in the public and third sector.

·      Planned innovation projects to directly increase access for people who are currently excluded from accessing course due to financial or other barriers.

The charts below are based on a snapshot of company turnover during 2015/16 as at 29 March 2016 and staff time tracking. Our team is made up of 1 Director paid at Living Wage (£8.25 per hour) for 4 days per week and 1 (unpaid) Volunteer Director at 1 day per week plus an Associate Teacher who is involved in contracted teaching only. Current working hours far exceed employed hours. Unfortunately, the data shows very clearly that the network is both losing money and inhibiting the opportunities for us to grow and become a financially stable organisation due to the disproportionate pull on staff time, which is already stretched to breaking point.

We feel that if we are to continue to stay true to our core intention – to grow mindfulness in the UK – then the time has come to make the hard choice. Our intention is to use the closure of the network as an opportunity to refocus our finite time and energy on the other aspects of our work – teaching and innovation projects – that can make us more financially sustainable in the long term. We feel this is our best chance to really make an impact and realise our intentions. 

Additional reflections on ‘why?’

  •  Timing - It seems that the timing is not right for this kind of membership model. Mindfulness Teachers within the NHS and in employed roles where mindfulness is not ‘the day job’ do not have a need for our services at this time. Mindfulness Teachers in the community have many financial obligations drawing on their limited funds including those required if they are to become ‘listed, such as supervision, retreats and approved CPD. In this context, payment for an ‘optional service’ is probably a very low priority and some of our members have helped us understand the challenges they are facing. We too face these challenges. Our member consultation has confirmed that we have offered a good service and we believe we have offered good value for money for our members thus far, but we can not continue to do this even with the best of intentions. If we had reached our target of 100 members, the plan was to employ a membership officer who could carry the main part of the work whilst further growth took place. We are not able to do this given the circumstances we find ourselves in and there is not enough capacity in the team to continue as we are. We have no recourse to any income other than that we generate ourselves. 
  • Uncertainty around ‘The List’ - The flux and change in the national policy arena and moves towards the List has led to a significant increase in applications from Mindfulness Teachers who have not, for a variety of reasons, followed the suggested training pathway and are often unaware of the Good Practice Guidelines, having spent substantial time and money on other training routes. Managing the stream of applications, and sometimes extremely unhappy applicants, has taken up a significant amount of operational time for the past 3 months and this is increasing. Whilst we could open the network to ‘UK Listed Teachers only’ (which was originally anticipated), this does not sit well with the context we face now and our increased understanding about the reasons so many credible and experienced teachers have not been able to follow the ‘List route’. Whilst nationally these equalities issues are beginning to be looked at, it will not be in time for our own need to become financially sustainable.
  •  Low income of community based mindfulness teachers - No hard data on numbers of mindfulness teachers or their demographics was available at the time of initial business planning. A ‘best guess’ of 10% was calculated for the need for concessionary rates for members on low incomes. In reality the concessionary membership places are more than double that and currently running at 22%. With such a small membership, the impact of this is high. This percentage is concerning for the growth of mindfulness overall in the UK, though we may have an over-representation due to our emphasis on equalities and social justice.
  • Our place as a ‘little one’ trying to start up - whilst recent consultation with current members suggest that the network is highly valued and useful, the growth in new members has not reflected that. We do not have capacity to undertake significant marketing activity and with the exception of the Mindfulness Initiative Breathworks, MISP and SMC, we have not been able to access as much direct support from the leading organisations in the mindfulness community as we’d hoped for. All organisations in our community are running on limited resources it seems and we were misguided in anticipating that more direct support would be available in helping us publicise our network and give some 'stamp of authenticity' to our work as a new non-profit. In addition, some of our work in helping to publicise CPD workshops in a ‘one stop shop’ has not been as straightforward as we had hoped and has turned out to be a very resource heavy task.  The partnership with Presently is so valued but has not had significant impact on our eligible membership applications thus far, and while it is very early days, we are unable to wait given the situation we find ourselves in. Our current membership numbers are not large enough to be able to present a business case for organisational membership to the key training organisations.This would have contributed to financial viability. Our efforts to identify grant funding to support an infrastructure organisation like ours in the current political context have not been successful. It seems thus far that the political support for mindfulness is not yet accompanied by the necessary funding for capacity building which might be expected. In light of this, the membership scheme has to be self-sustaining. We know now that it will not be so within a viable timescale.

What does this mean for the wider mindfulness community?

We have developed strong links with many individuals and organisations in our mindful community – in particular with the Mindfulness Initiative , Sussex Mindfulness Centre, the Mental Health Foundation, Breathworks and the Mindfulness in Schools Project (MISP). We are hugely grateful for the support and encouragement that the open-hearted people have offered to us and the Grow Mindfulness network. We hope to do all we can to continue to spread the word about the great things that are happening in mindfulness in the UK and continue to signpost people wherever we can. 

We will continue to write and distribute our regular newsletter – and, depending on the wishes of our members, may continue to manage a separate email distribution list just for mindfulness teachers. We hope to create a Resources for Mindfulness Teachers page on the Grow Mindfulness ‘open access’ website. We will finalise these and other plans when we have completed consultation with our members in this transition period. 

We will use the transition period of 3 months to complete on a number of stalled pieces of work to develop resources and distribute these to our existing members:

1. Results of the member consultation work on concessions and equalities 

2. Insurance factsheet

3. Printing course manuals factsheet

What does this mean for Grow Mindfulness?

Our intention remains to increase access to and grow mindfulness in the UK. In order to realise this intention we plan to: 

  • Grow our work teaching mindfulness to the helpers – so that they in turn can positively influence the lives of the excluded and vulnerable people that they work with.
  • Grow our project work to explore new models of access to mindfulness for the people who most need it and are often least able to access it. If you are interested in helping us with this, we'd love to hear from you
  •  Continue our work supporting mindfulness teachers in the community through online and 'real world' events and networking where there is demand and where they can be run as financially viable stand-alone events

In short, we aren’t going anywhere. We’re still here. Still present. Still full of hope and a deep sense of the huge potential that mindfulness holds for everyone in our community. Thank you once again for your support this last year and we are looking forward to continuing the walk down this road with our mindful friends.  

 

 

 

What do you wish you'd known when you first started learning mindfulness?

For many people, learning mindfulness can be the beginning of a fascinating journey into what it means to be truly ourselves and really present in our own lives. As I've started teaching a course over the last couple of weeks, I've been reflecting on this and wondering about how it is for the course participants as they get started in the class.

What do teachers wish they'd known?

Alongside this, as I help with preparations for our event Getting started: A practical workshop on setting out as a mindfulness teacher (happening in Brighton on 19 February) we've been talking to more experienced mindfulness teachers about the things they wished they'd known as they began teaching. The responses have been really varied - ranging from the practical and pragmatic ("I wish I'd known how expensive venues are - especially in London") to the more philosophical ("I wish I'd known to trust my own intuition").

I'm a new teacher myself, so I am appreciating the chance to learn from the wisdom of these teachers who have 'been there'.

Things I'd tell myself

As I meet participants on my course and watch people as they begin their journey with mindfulness I'm often reminded of my own beginning with mindfulness. It's a fun exercise to imagine being able to get in a time machine to visit myself then and have a conversation about mindfulness.

Here are five things I'd talk to myself about:

  1. The times when you are telling yourself you don't need to / don't have time to do this - those are the times you need mindfulness most. So let go, begin and just do it.
  2. If you get distracted and you have to start again, don't judge yourself to harshly. It's ok.
  3. The changes that mindfulness bring to your life aren't instant. Be patient. They come gradually, slowly, almost invisibly. It's like growing something lovely in your garden. You start with dirt and water and a seed. Day by day by day it grows - but you never notice the changes. One day there's a huge tree covered in blossom.
  4. You're unleashing an amazing power that you hold deep inside yourself: kindness and acceptance. You don't have to strive for things to be different - they just will be. 
  5. Don't be surprised if the force of this unleashing leads to some 'hairy moments'. Trust in the process and you'll be amazed by the journey that you're about to start on.

What do you think?

What would you tell yourself about mindfulness if you had the chance to go back in time? And if you're a teacher, what do you wish you'd known as you began teaching? I'd love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Image: Denise Krebs / Flickr via a CC Licence