At Here we find that mindfulness practices helps us feel more connected to ourselves, to each other and to those we serve (you can read the reflections of those who took part in our series of workshops earlier this year). Our experimentation with mindfulness practices has also helped us to define our organisation’s purpose: Care Unbound. The story of how this developed is one of synchronicity inspired by local heroes of innovation, our friends at Meaning here in Brighton. We are pleased to be offering back to the Meaning community at this year’s conference, in the form of a workshop telling the story and offering the practices that continue to surprise and enrich our organisational life. Ahead of the event I have found myself reflecting on my experience of this journey.
Being present (in the right place, at the right time)
In 2013 our Wellness Group, formed of representatives from each of our teams, came together to share and consider ideas about how to promote health and wellbeing at work. The group offered two eight-week courses of mindfulness and this drew in thirty people. I brought myself along too and for me, it was a kick-start back into a practice that I had begun in my thirties and wanted to explore more.
The next winter, a colleague and friend of Here (then BICS) introduced me to Joel and Michelle Levey, who are world renowned mindfulness practitioners and teachers. This was right before the 2014 Meaning Conference and I reflect now on this friend’s continual ability (his name is John) to somehow know exactly the most meaningful moment to introduce people to each other. Joel and Michelle specialise in bringing mindfulness to the workplace and attending their workshop at Meaning rekindled a sense of possibility of using mindfulness as a means to listen deeply to ourselves and each other. After Meaning we held a debriefing session with team we had taken to the conference, to ensure our learning was conscious and our shared commitments were developed. I remember being struck by how many people around the circle were “coming out” about their mindfulness practices or who were taken by the simplicity and accessibility of the practices they had experienced at Meaning. We committed to exploring how we might develop our practice and really bring it to the workplace.
Shared questions and collective purpose
At the same time, we were asking ourselves some questions about our organisation’s purpose:
What needs could our organisation serve?
What do we see that needs addressing in our communities and where we could add value?
What is the strength and focus of our shared ambition?
In other words what is our intention for the contribution we want to bring to the people we serve.
This has been a key enquiry that since our early beginnings in 2008 and this time we would do something different to realise our intention. This time we were going to embark on this journey with people from the whole organisation, and beyond.
Having read Frederic Laloux’s research on the new emerging organisations in ‘Reinventing Organisations’ that Christmas, I was beginning to understand what is important to become a more flexible, responsive and purposeful place of work. I remembered that there is a need for us all to develop our capacities to listen to what matters to us and our communities, to understand what action is required and then have the collective courage to act. We describe this as seeing clearly and acting wisely – a key part of mindfulness – paying attention with an attitude of curiosity and non-judgement and acting with intention. If we are to fully embrace leaving behind the tradition of hierarchies, with the tops making the decisions on behalf of all, then developing our capacities to listen and understand our purpose is critical.
I became excited about the possibility of combining the work of redefining our organisational purpose using mindfulness as our lens. In 2015 we teamed up with NEO (a local brand and communications agency) and the Levey’s and co designed with staff InBalance, a programme of events that used mindfulness to discover our organisational purpose. This reflective enquiry led us to this year share our new purpose “Care Unbound, to create more possibilities for care in every moment”. It is the product of 300 people’s aspirations and ambition. It describes what we believe we can do together in our communities and services. It defines what we feel is important for every interaction between ourselves, with each other at work, in our business relationships and in every aspect of our work.
Sharing what we’re learning
We are excited to share this story, and the practices we used and still use in our day to day work with colleagues and friends at Meaning 2016. We know that we are not pioneers of this approach, there are many who use mindfulness in their daily lives and organisational life. We can all feel supported by the We can all feel supported by the Mindful Nation UK report and Building the Case for Mindfulness in the Workplace, that recommend we develop this approach in health, education and all parts of civic life. At Here our work is still in progress and we hope those that we serve experience the benefits. They will be the ultimate judge of our success.
For more information on our approach please join us at our workshop ‘The Here Story: A mindful case study’ at Meaning in Brighton on 17th November 2016. Or if you’re not coming to Meaning, get in touch and we’d love to talk to you about it
Zoe Nicholson was a co-founder of Here.
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