Progress Showreel | 2016 Going On ’17
The end of any year is often a time for reflection. To look back on the year just gone and the progress made, whilst a time to look forward to the coming year. Hopefully that’s done with renewed sense of vigour and of quiet optimism, on the opportunities and challenges that might lie ahead.
Just over a year ago now, I myself ‘escaped’ a role which I felt no longer supported my own health and wellbeing. A job no longer presenting me with anything to aspire to – and a career that had stalled somewhere along the way, even going backwards, with little sense of meaning or purpose left to cling onto.
I had spent the last few years battling periods of depression and what I believed to have been work-related stress, but letting go of a stable job and a sense of security with an assured income, was by no means easy. In many respects it was perhaps a little bold of me – and some might say a little foolish.
I had over those few years found solace in nature, doing things as simple as taking a lunchtime walk in a farmer’s field, next door to the factory where I worked – to feel that all important sense of ‘escape’. Something as simple as that, seemed somehow to get me through each day.
I eventually took courage and left the company in October 2015, registering Human-Nature Escapes as a new community interest company, only last December – just over a year ago now.
So what have we achieved over that ‘one year’ period – and what might the New Year of 2017 bring (and what new goals might we set)?
I perhaps ought to say from a personal perspective a big achievement has been that of maintaining my own health and wellbeing. Despite starting out a new business venture, and without a real safety net, this in itself might have presented a source of pressure and perhaps indeed some stress. But, strangely enough, embarking out on a career change as an aspiring ‘social entrepreneur’ seems to have had quite the opposite effect. First ‘nature’, and now this project itself ‘using nature’, seems to be nurturing my own ongoing wellbeing resilience. Perhaps a little ‘positive’ stress isn’t a bad thing?
Note, that I’m more often than not, now saying ‘we’ – rather than just ‘me’, in relation to this enterprise. To me personally, this has been the biggest success of all.
Yes, Human-Nature has, over the period of just one year, grown from a seedling idea from ‘me’ as an individual, into something which is already becoming much bigger than just ‘me’. Though the project is based loosely around my own real life recovery journey using the therapeutic power of nature – sparked by those lunchtime walks and the health benefits I sensed walking my new dog ‘Lola’, it’s quite rapidly grown beyond a business idea that’s so much more than just ‘one man and his dog’!
Below is a series of ‘showreels’ that capture what we’ve been up to over the last year, as we’ve launched our CIC and got it through start-up and into early trading. Here’s a month by month account of just how ‘we’ did it:
Dec 2015 – Registered with Companies House as a Community Interest Company (a ‘Profit for Purpose’ Social Enterprise)
Jan 2016 – Designed and launched our new website, to explain the business concept of link people to nature for wellbeing – using our unique spin on the ‘ways to wellbeing’.
Feb 2016 – Formed the artists’ collaboration thescapeartists, with artists and designers Jacqui Symons, Ruth Davey, Katrina Wilde meeting with me for the first time.
Mar 2016 – Started to regularly attend the Peer Mentoring Hub, hosted by the ‘Creative Communities Unit’ at Staffordshire University – now re-branded ‘Social Enterprise Matters’.
I have to admit that the year started somewhat apprehensively. Starting out on a new business concept, just sat at home in your own front room in front of computer screen, wondering where on earth to start – it can be a pretty lonely place. Thankfully, more by luck than judgement, I had come across a few ‘nature inspired’ artists – who seemed willing to listen to the idea, and seemed to see beyond my previous health condition – and thankfully willing to believe in me. Like me, they seemed to think the business concept made sense – and ‘had legs’. I also found an immediate benefit in joining the peer mentoring hub at Staffordshire University (Social Enterprise Matters), which provided an early supportive network of like-minded people, each embarking out on their own social enterprise journeys. That made me feel that I wasn’t entirely on my own.
Apr 2016 – The story behind Human-Nature Escapes was published as a free e-book. Titled ‘Everything, Without Everything Within‘. It featured my own words and photos, plus lyrics from British rock band ‘Magnum’ (with kind permission of the band’s songwriter and guitarist Tony Clarkin).
May 2016 – Spring saw focus on training, completing Outdoor First Aid, Mountain Bike Leadership and Nordic Walking Instructor courses. Representatives from Human-Nature took part in the Wollaton Park (Nottingham) British Nordic Walking Challenge, finishing a respectable 2nd and 3rd in the Men’s 5km Event.
June 2016 – Our artist’s collaboration was further strengthened by Jon French (pottery artist) – adding pottery making to our ‘arts for wellbeing’ capabilities.
July/Aug 2016 – We did our first showcase event at Staffordshire University ‘Social Enterprise Matters’, then our very own showcase ‘Escape’ Launch Event at Keele Sustainability Hub, featuring our artists in a host of creative activities and green exercise demonstrations – appointing my Dalmatian dog ‘Lola’ as the company’s wellbeing mascot. We also secured our first funding award, gaining a place on the prestigious Lloyd’s Bank School of Social Enterprise (Midlands) Programme.
Thankfully, not everyone judges people on their past health problems, and surrounding myself with positive people, encouraging me, helped me re-build my somewhat previously shattered self-esteem. So, the CIC’s achievements on the ‘people’ front, taking the concept from ‘me’ to ‘we’, initially sparked by the artists willing to put their name to the collaboration thescapeartists, have been the biggest gain over the year. With that improved sense of self-worth and self-confidence, I’ve had the courage to approach more people who have come on board as ‘advocates’ for the CIC, to lend their name and support to the project, and our unique concept of linking the ‘ways to wellbeing’ to nature and landscape for wellbeing.
Sept 2016 – Moved into office space at Keele University’s Nova Centre, becoming the first ever Social Enterprise to be awarded a place at Keele’s Science and Business Park.
Oct 2016 – A regular group of volunteers ‘Friends with Human-Nature‘ were now meeting every Friday, piloting and feeding back on our therapeutic activities in different landscapes – here seen doing therapeutic photography. Nick, Linda and Steph became Advocates for the CIC, along with Katrina, Peter, Matt and Ian – creating a team of 7 Advocates, each championing a ‘Way to Wellbeing’.
Nov 2016 – Aspiring film-maker Baily Hill from Staffs Uni helped us shoot our promo video (realeased soon). The CIC successfully secured a ‘Do It’ Funding Award from UnLtd. We also started delivering Nordic walking courses for community wellbeing.
Dec 2016 – We showcased our services at Staffordshire Fire and Rescue Women’s and Men’s Health Days. We demonstrated services which can support employers and employees in terms of social, emotion and physical wellness, mental health recovery/resilience, and corporate team building. We also entered into dialogue with a potential ‘patron’ for our CIC (hopefully more to come on that in 2017).
Lastly, I’d like to take the opportunity of thanking the people who have believed in me and this project over the last 12 months. Firstly my family for allowing me the time and space this year, to get this project started, without bringing an income home. Also the people who have helped bring this project to where it is now, particularly our funders LoydsSSE and UnLtd, but especially the ‘people’ behind the project: Jacqui, Ruth, Jon, Katrina, Nick, Matt, Peter, Linda, Steph and Ian – (and not forgetting Lola for her part too!). I’m also truly honoured that some of the artists and advocates, have themselves been open and honest enough to admit that they too, at times, have had their own emotional wellbeing challenges – and that’s why they particularly want to take an interest in this project. Hopefully that gives this project some good credibility and authenticity.
Many thanks to everyone else too, for their tremendous support for our project throughout 2016 (you know who you are!).
What a difference a year can make!
In the words of Robbie Williams:
“Find the others, with hearts like yours, run far, run free”
(from the track ‘Love My Life’ 2016)
Not to rest on our laurels, here’s some initial thoughts on looking forward to our second year:
2017 | Goals
- Develop H-NE as a leading community ‘Health Creation’ provider – leading community to finding their own ‘ways to wellbeing’.
- Establish H-NE as North Staffordshire’s leading community provider for ‘green exercise’ and ‘arts for wellbeing’ – with specific focus in 2017 on
- Nordic walking
- Greenway cycling
- Therapeutic photography
- Therapeutic pottery making
- Establish H-NE as the primary regional provider for ‘work-related stress recovery and resilience’ providing a daily service for people aiming to return to work, then helping them stay well. Pursue ‘carers needing respite support’ as a second group of primary beneficiaries.
- Win further funding support and income for our project through ‘social prescribing’ and business ‘corporate social responsibility’.
- Focus on growing trading incomes throughout 2017, whilst developing our own fundraising initiatives and events.
- Grow our social media presence and continue to market ourselves professionally.
- Build on our early partnering and collaborative relationships with local business organisations, health care providers and green space operators.
- Secure a longer term base and secure the use of the highest quality therapeutic landscapes in which to deliver our services.
- Build on the strength of the skills, enthusiasm, knowledge and above all the ‘lived experience’ held within our team of artists and advocates and our ‘Friends with Human-Nature‘, to become leaders in our field.
If you, or someone you know, might like to be part of the next chapter in our story during 2017 – possibly as a volunteer, an artist, or participant of our wellbeing services, then do Contact Us.
By all means mention us to anyone who might like to try our ‘green exercise’ or ‘art experiences’ – wellbeing gifts which ‘give back’. Or perhaps mention us to a friend, relative, colleague or carer that needs some help with their emotional wellbeing support, or might find some respite support by connecting to nature – then get in touch. We’re also eager to talk to any employers, about how our services could support their staff wellbeing programmes, employee engagement, or team building events, which might be a nice way to show some good CSR by doing some good – by ‘buying local’ and ‘buying social’.