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 …
- 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 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.