“Nature doesn’t rush, yet everything is still accomplished. It rests when it needs to and re-emerges only once it is renewed and ready. When change is required, nature lets go and readapts.” – Blurt Zine Issue 71, The Blurt Foundation
Social entrepreneurs are busy changing the world. Sometimes it’s hard to step away, take the breaks you need, and look after your wellbeing. Nonetheless, it’s vital! Connecting with nature can help us slow down and notice the world around us.
Here are some social enterprises helping people to do just that.
Finding a niche
Through millennia, species adapt and thrive in their own specific habitats. We know that social entrepreneurs are no different. They see a gap in the market or a problem to be solved, and they find their niche. They adapt to what happens around them.
Mya-Rose Craig set up Black2Nature when she was just 14 years old, because she realised that the Visibly Minority Ethnic (VME) demographic was hugely under-represented when it came to accessing nature and the countryside.
Black2Nature runs nature camps; organises race equality in nature conferences; and campaigns to make the nature conservation and environmental sectors ethnically diverse.
All Year Round Flower Patch CIC is another social enterprise that has found their niche. The team works collaboratively with Rooted in Nature to provide therapeutic horticultural practice and activities.
Nature as medicine
The UK is now sixth in the world for green social prescribing according to Alive. In July 2020, Environment Secretary George Eustice announced a £4 million investment for a cross-government project aimed at preventing and tackling ill mental health through green social prescribing.
There is no doubt that social enterprises have had a huge impact on this shift change and will continue to pave the way for innovations in health and social equity.
Get out more CIC, in Keighley, West Yorkshire, runs weekly green social prescribing sessions working with local health services to direct people towards group activities as an alternative to medication.
Not far away, Good Footing runs regular events to “help change people’s lives through the magic of walking wellbeing”.
Further North, Foxwood Project also runs activities “designed to help people gain access to all the health and wellbeing benefits gained by spending time outdoors working with plants, animals and each other.”
Dose of Nature encourages everyone to connect with nature to improve their mental wellbeing. Their ten-week programmes include a combination of education, first-hand experience, and practical and motivational support. Their website also lists dozens of studies that have demonstrated some of the benefits of being exposed to nature.
Diversity is key
Social entrepreneurs know that to survive they need to be adaptable – just look at how they responded to the covid pandemic! They also need variety. In a wild meadow or forest, you will find a variety of species, intimately interwoven and interlinked. By offering a range of programmes and approaches, social enterprises diversify their income streams and improve their social impact.
Through one small woodland, The Woodland Presents CIC creates a “resilient little ecosystem of businesses that can dedicate themselves to using local timber”. The team also connects people with woodland, improving wellbeing and protecting the woodland for future generations.
The Woodland Presents has also developed a side-project, Tree Radicals, which exists to “to discuss, examine, teach, and pioneer the way into the future of forestry and timber.”
In Scotland, Beechbrae runs a 12-week outdoor programme called Branching Out, which was developed by Scottish Forestry to support mental health and includes conservation, fire cooking, self-inquiry, balm making, foraging, mindful walks, folklore and more.
Many social entrepreneurs have found ways to foster their creative skills and share them with others, inspired by nature. Human-nature Escapes CIC provide ‘escapes to nature’ both physically and virtually, encouraging people to get outdoors explore their own local landscapes in creative ways. Using mindful nature and landscape photography, together with creative writing and poetry, they co-create digital wellbeing e-books with their local participants and UK-wide contributors as ‘virtual nature escapes’. The e-books are published as free-to-read therapeutic wellbeing resources and can be found here.
The Foxwood project also runs a variety of activities such as willow weaving, sculpture, painting, scrapbooking, and seasonal and traditional crafts to help people connect with nature and their inner creativity.
If you’re a social enterprise working on nature connection and wellbeing, tell us how on Twitter!
By Holly Vandyke, SSE’s marketing associate