Human-Nature – 2019 Review

Our 2019 Progress |  Evolving ‘Human & Nature’s Wellbeing’

Lottery Funding Success

During 2019 we made solid progress on securing further funding, which will help us to continue to deliver weekly community wellbeing activities like our ‘Natter in Nature’ walks and nature conservation volunteering, but also to set up and trial the effectiveness of our nature-based interventions – which we hope to become income generating longer term.

Photo – Some of our regular participants and project advocates with the cheque from National Lottery Community Fund

We successfully secured an initial Development Award from The National Lottery Community Fund  ‘Reaching Communities’ of £49.5k to help us develop and deliver a research pilot for our ‘NatureFix’ programme, targeted at local employees who may be seeking to return-to-work after a period of absence.  This programme includes outdoor wellbeing activities that our own group have found helpful in improving and maintaining their own wellbeing and positive mental health.  For the research we’ve linked up with a UK university and an academic who has particular research interests in the links between nature-connectedness and mental health.  The proposed programme has now been designed, including devising measurement systems to evaluate the impact of the intervention, and now gained full ethics approval with the university.  Initial places will be offered for free (under our funding), to enable the pilot research to progress.

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Photo – Leaflets for NatureFix and our Nature’s Ways to Wellbeing Community activities

By the close of 2019, we’d produced marketing materials to advertise places on the ‘NatureFix’ programme to local employees who might be off work with stress.  We have been in dialogue with a number of local employers, mainly public sector (education, health, emergency services, local authorities), to whom we hope to offer the service.


Inspiring Social (and Environmental) Enterprise – Shifting to Citizen-Led Action

Over the year we’ve also worked hard to improve our networking, joining local forums and networks which are employer, business, HR, and wellbeing focused.  We hope this opens up interest in our workplace wellbeing services and particularly the forthcoming NatureFix programme.

We’ve also been pro-active with other local social enterprises in sharing our social enterprise journey and learning – both locally and across the UK.  In January we helped host UnLtd’s ‘Learning Journeys’ Programme, with visiting social entrepreneurs from around the UK exchanging experiences with our local projects, including Human-Nature.  We organised a narrowboat trip along the canal to Middleport Pottery for our visiting guests to help explain more about our own project’s evolving journey.  In November we travelled to Brighton, gaining inspiration from projects in that locality.

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Photos – Sharing our social enterprise learning on UnLtd’s ‘Learning Journeys’ – Human-Nature helped  host a narrowboat trip to Middleport Pottery here in Stoke in January, and visited Brighton in November.


We’ve also continued to engage with local artists, drawing on their creative expertise.  This included offering support to a local young aspiring artist/designer to complete a ‘Grow Wild’ project.  Grow Wild is the national outreach initiative of Kew, Royal Botanic Gardens, encouraging young people to transform spaces and change lives through native UK plants, wildflowers and fungi.  The artist used the funding to run a series of creative workshops which drew inspiration from local wildflowers and natural materials which culminated in a open exhibition of her ‘nature inspired’ work in the Cultural Quarter in Hanley.

We won a bursary to attend the national CTRLshift Summit conference, which was hosted in our home-town of Stoke-on-Trent this year.  This saw around 50 social and environmentally focused organisations and change-makers come together in one place, to look at ways to ‘shift’ more power and control towards local communities and citizens.  As part of our attendance we hosted a ‘break-out’ session to explore ways to link the human health crisis to the environmental crisis, to find solutions to both crises simultaneously and in parallel (see later image further down this post).

We also ran an interactive display on our stand which encouraged delegates to map their organisations to the 17 global sustainable development goals and how local organisations might collaborate together pressing issues like Climate Change.  We designed and minted a commemorative clay coin for CTRLshift2019 coin (in collaboration with another project) as lasting momento gift for all delgates who attended the event.

Photo – CTRLshift stand – Exploring collaborations around the 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals including SDG3 Good Health & Wellbeing and SDG13 Climate Action (interactive display design and made by Human-Nature, sponsored by UnLtd).

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Photo – CTRLshift Conference ‘memento’ clay Counter Coin (designed and made by Human-Nature, sponsored by UnLtd), celebrating a moment in history when Stoke became the centre of change.


Developing Our Trading Income with Partners

We further explored ‘social prescribing’ as an opportunity, meeting with newly recruited link workers from VAST, who are setting up a social prescribing referrals service.  Social Prescribing still seems to be in its infancy, and currently doesn’t seem to offer funding resources to pay for wellbeing services, so for now this still doesn’t yet seem to offer our CIC an opportunity for income generation, but may pave the way to ‘green prescriptions’ in the future.

We did however successfully sell our services for an outdoor ‘Green Angels’ wellbeing/skills programme, that we designed, then co-delivered with a national green space charity.  This programme introduced new community participants to our ‘Nature’s Ways to Wellbeing’ approach.  We also delivered an ‘Outdoor Wellbeing’ themed stand and activities at an open day event at a nature reserve in Cheshire for that charity.

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Photos – ‘Green Angels’ Outdoor Wellbeing Programme – Exploring Autumn colours and leaf printing into pottery to creatively make some insect bug houses for participants to take away and hang in their garden.


Hopefully this is the start of more income generating work, that can boost our trading position, which is needed to avoid us becoming too funding dependent.

Photo: Brash hedge making – An example of activities encouraging public health and helping local wildlife.


We continued to deliver weekly activities for community wellbeing and ‘health creation’ (for free) including nature conservation volunteering in partnership with rangers at a local country park.  We also continued throughout the year helping to maintain our adopted stretch of canal as a community partner with Canal and River Trust, with regular litter pick walks and practical conservation tasks to maintain the towpaths for the safety and enjoyment of visitors, whilst helping local wildlife.

Evolving ‘Human & Nature’s Wellbeing’ – Climate Action & Sustainable Development 

Towards the end of the year we made an initial ‘ideas’ application to National Lottery Climate Change Fund, which centred around our ambition to become a canals-based project, and the potential of citizen-led climate actions also improving public health and wellbeing outcomes, particularly in and around the canal corridor.

2019 saw us stretch our wings further afield, being invited to attend events for ‘Co-creating a Better Birmingham’.  These bring together social entrepreneurs and environmental activists to explore ways that the West Midlands can make progress on pressing issues like climate change.

In December our ‘Friends with Human-Nature’ group featured in a promotional video for UnLtd’s ‘Resilient Communities’, which included footage and interviews taken with our group on a narrowboat trip and on the towpaths of the local canals.  This featured our group doing mindful photography and creative activities and litter picking on the canal-side, pointing towards our longer term ambitions of becoming a canals-based project.

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Photo – Mindful Photography during while shooting a promotional video for UnLtd’s Resilient Communities


At the close of the year we also got good news that we’d successfully secured a place on the School of Social Entrepreneurs ‘Environmental Entrepreneurs’ programme – a brand new programme for 2020.  SSE programmes are quite prestigious, and we feel proud to be one of only 5 organisations representing the Midlands, who will join together with 5 from the North West, and 5 from the North East.  This should be high quality learning, mentoring and networking, which will help take our project in more of an environmental direction, so that we become more than just human wellbeing focused and explore how we link human wellbeing to nature’s wellbeing.

Image – Slide from our CTRLshift break-out session presentation – explaining how we can link human health to climate change action (Image Copyright of Human-Nature Escapes CIC)


We also developed policy documents to align our own business operations to the 17 Global Sustainable Development Goals to consider what we’re doing now, what we intend to do in the future to make our own operations more environmentally sustainable, but also how we might influence others to positively impact nature’s wellbeing.


Consulting & Collaborating with Our Community 

Throughout 2019 we continued to collaborate with other social enterprises, the VCSE sector and have started to broaden this to the wider business circles for networking purposes.  We’ve attended the following events to broaden our ways of communicating and consulting with others on what we offer for business, community and the environment, and to align our offering to their needs:

  • Social Prescribing Networks (inc emerging Link Worker Networks)
  • Staffordshire Place of Social Enterprise Launch Event
  • Social Enterprise Matters (SEM) Peer Mentoring Hub (with potential to form a SE Collective/Collaboration)
  • Resilient Communities & Learning Journeys (UnLtd)
  • Co-creating a Better Birmingham (Ashoka/BioRegional/HSBC)
  • CTRLshift Summit Conference
  • Cultural Forum
  • Positive HR Forum (local employer forum for HR and wellbeing professionals)
  • HealthWorks (local network for workplace wellbeing)
  • Social Value Forum (Staffs Chambers of Commerce)
  • ACAS (local employer network).

Photo – Social Enterprise Matters – Stoke & Staffordshire was officially recognised as a ‘Place of Social Enterprise’ during 2019.


During the year we were pro-active in pressing Newcastle-under-Lyme to pass a motion to declare ‘Climate Change Emergency’, which they did in March, which in turn encouraged other local authorities to follow suit.  It’s encouraging to note that our group is starting to have a voice – and being listened to!

We continue to consult face to face with our regular weekly participants, who continue to help shape our direction and give feedback on the value of our services.  We find that everyone associated with the project has a skill, interest, experience, or viewpoint that is valuable in taking the project forwards.


Engaging ‘Friends with Human-Nature‘

We have retained many of the original participants, who have continued to attend weekly for their health and wellbeing benefit for over 3 years now.  Towards the end of the year we started to make use of a shared community space facility, which gives good access to our adopted canal and access to surrounding countryside – we’ve openly invited members of the local community using that space to join us for wellbeing walks and activities.

Photo – ‘Friends with Human-Nature’ getting some extra green exercise on equipment at Bathpool Park, during a litter picking walk from Red Bull Wharf.


A second director joined the board team during 2019, who was one of our earliest participants and been a regular long-standing volunteer in our link up with Silverdale Country Park.  He is willing to fulfil a role as a wellbeing support person for the NatureFix programme, and has a relevant skill set for this sessional role.

Photo – Taking a break at an idyllic spot on a ‘Natter in Nature’ walk from Hawksmoor Nature Reserve through Staffordshire’s Churnet Valley.


We continue to retain our original ‘Nature’s Ways to Wellbeing’ Advocate Team in an advisory capacity, regularly consulting with them to contribute and share ideas, as well as tapping into their knowledge and skills.

A representative group of regular participants took a narrowboat trip to explore further the group’s vision for becoming a canals-based project.

Training of our staff included attendance on Mental Health First Aid Training and Outdoor First Aid (refresher training), as well as some specific canals-based training.

We continued to grow our presence on social media with regular posts about our wellbeing activity exploits and places visited on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram (with well over 2000 followers) – as well as our own website, which allows us to connect to wider audiences throughout the UK and beyond.


2020’s – A New Decade – A New Challenge & Opportunity to Act Now!

The arrival of 2020 and the new decade brings fresh new challenges, including finding new ways of making our project both more financially sustainable and more environmentally sustainable.

Who knows the health challenges faced by our local community and the pressing challenges we all face as members of our global community in countering climate change present not only a challenge, but a new opportunity – to work on both fronts simultaneously and in parallel.

After all, humans need nature, and nature needs humans – and the evidence is clear, we all need to #ActNow!


(The above text in this post represents our progress over the past year, and represents the essence of the content we intend to include in our annual CIC34 report, which we are now sharing in advance with our participants, partners and followers).