Earlier this week I visited the School for Social Entrepreneurs hoping to be able to access funding and support to “scale up” our business. Preparing for the interview and short presentation offered an opportunity to reflect upon what Now Unlimited a mindful social enterprise is trying to achieve and why we are worth investing in. What initially appeared to be a simple exercise proved to be more complex!
Now Unlimited was set up with the aim of helping the most disadvantaged by providing them, and the individuals and organisations who work with them, access to mindfulness-based services. We have been fully operational for 18 months and in that time have introduced around 600 people to mindfulness and mindfulness practices. But why do we do it?
In Buddhism there is a principle of “right livelihood” which encourages people to make a living in a way that does not cause harm to others and that is ethically positive. Obviously running a business has an economic aspect and this needs to be taken into account but we also recognise the importance of ensuring that our work has a positive impact on the hearts and minds of our staff and volunteers. So another aim is ensuring that people are able to have work that is both meaningful and that supports their mindfulness practice.
Whilst we are grateful for the support of our donors it is important that this funding does not impact upon the values and the priorities of the business. Our aim is that all aspects of the way we work are under-pinned by what Ed Halliwell calls the ten Cs of mindfulness. We are committed to the business, the people who work with us and the organisations and individuals who access our services. We are compassionate towards other people – and ourselves, we are curious – learning from both academic research and our direct experience. We have courage, we went through a difficult first year but we did not give in. We make an effort to remain centred, in touch with our bodies. This helps us to take care of ourselves so that we can help others. We aim to work co-operatively and look for opportunities to connect with like-minded organisations and we are confident about the future of the business which gives us every reason to be cheerful.
So yes we provide support to people who are disadvantaged, and this means ensuring our services are free to those on means tested benefits. But we also provide opportunities for people to do work that is meaningful and work that helps them to sustain their mindfulness practice and we feel that this is equally important.