In October 2022, The Mindfulness Initiative and Hart Knowe Trust announced BAM! as the winner of the 2022 Innovations in Mindfulness Awards. The runner-up is Mindfulness Based Inclusion Training from the Urban Mindfulness Foundation, and the two outstanding nominees are Radical Self-care from Rainbow Mind and Take Back Your Life from the Globe Community Project.

In recognition of their success in the awards, all four finalists were featured in short videos, which can be viewed here, and are well worth a watch. 

Heartfelt thanks go to the judging panel for the time and care they gave to the applications. If you would like to read more about the awards themselves, and the Fieldbook for Mindfulness Innovators which inspired their inception, you can do so here

We hope you enjoy learning about these truly exciting innovations.

BAM! Boxing and Mindfulness

Picture of training sessions

BAM! (boxing and mindfulness) is a London-based innovation that fuses boxing and mindfulness to help young carers and young at-risk individuals get mentally and physically fit. The idea for BAM! was born when its founder, Luke Doherty, was teaching mindfulness in a school, and a student asked, 'How is this really going to help me when I've got the pressure of a gang telling me they want me to stab someone?'. Luke believed in the power of mindfulness but realised that it needed to be delivered in a way more relevant to young people who don't think mindfulness is 'for them' and who face risks that traditional teaching isn't sensitive to. Offering mindfulness in boxing clubs and combining it with physical-strength training seemed the perfect answer.

One in three young carers has a mental health problem, and many are inactive and experience loneliness because of their caring role. Similarly, many young people in the communities that BAM! serves experience high rates of violence, gang involvement, and knife crime as well as school suspensions and exclusions. Cuts to youth centres and sports provision disproportionately impact these groups.

BAM!'s high-energy sessions are conducted in a safe environment and help students release and channel any pent-up energy and emotion they're carrying in their bodies through boxing training and explore the sensations in their bodies through somatic meditation. The programme's mindfulness component is adapted from an MBSR model. And as well as meditation practice and non-contact boxing training, a typical course session involves a discussion of the challenges the participants face and how they may be able to take a mindful approach to overcoming them. BAM! engages students by using language from the world of sports and explaining that top athletes also practise mindfulness.

The judges picked out BAM! as an inspiring example of a user-led innovation designed with the needs of its target audience clearly in mind. And they were impressed by the care and thought that have gone into developing the project. They appreciated the physical dimension of the approach—based on energetic movement and not just body scans and calming exercises—which is unconventional and represents a departure from traditional mindfulness training. The judges considered the business model of working with organisations and athletes to help fund the community work (offered free of charge) a sound strategy for sustainability and growth. They would be interested to see more research on BAM!'s unique methods, which could be shared and help inform others undertaking similar projects.

Mindfulness Based Inclusion Training from the Urban Mindfulness Foundation

Picture of Aesha and Dean Francis

The Urban Mindfulness Foundation provides structured educational mindfulness training that aims to bring about a more just, equal, diverse, and inclusive society. Influenced by a unique combination of mindfulness, compassion, and insight traditions and wisdom from Africa, the Caribbean, Indigenous thought, the Global South, and the West, the Foundation's training and drop-in sessions focus on social and environmental justice and are sensitive to the identity-based harm experienced by many of their students. The Mindfulness Based Inclusion Training (MBIT) innovation seeks to address the need for culturally relevant mindfulness training that makes mindfulness more accessible and engaging for socially marginalised groups and equips teachers to understand the particular challenges marginalised communities face. MBIT's programmes are African-centred and designed for Black people and other people of colour, mindfulness teachers and practitioners, and health and education workers.

The Foundation was established by partners Aesha and Dean Francis, whose culturally diverse, mixed-heritage backgrounds taught them the importance of embracing difference and connecting through perceived divides. Long-time practitioners and trained teachers and facilitators of mindfulness, Aesha and Dean grew up surrounded by relative poverty and social deprivation compounded by the experience of everyday racism and understand how essential it is for mindfulness training to be culturally relevant and socially aware. They have recently completed a master's in Mindfulness Studies at the University of Aberdeen and work as EDI consultants.

The judges were impressed by MBIT's skilful combination of a rigorous understanding of mindfulness with the cultural knowledge and creative wisdom needed to adapt mindfulness training for the communities the Foundation seeks to reach. They recognised how well Aesha and Dean have done to establish themselves as a credible voice in the mindfulness space. They also acknowledged the Foundation's classification as a community interest company (CIC) and commended the pair for wanting to ensure their business works for the benefit of their community. The judges noted the ambitious nature of the Foundation and are excited to see where Aesha and Dean set their sights next.

Radical Self-care (RadSec) from Rainbow Mind

Pictures of hands opened out and then joined togetherPicture credit: Inge Clemente

Working in London and Salford, Rainbow Mind is a mental health service for, led by, and staffed by LGBTQ+ people. It focuses on LGBTQ+ mental health because this demographic is much more likely to experience mental health issues than the rest of the population. By only employing LGBTQ+ staff and therapists, Rainbow Mind understands the challenges LGBTQ+ people often face and is perfectly placed to support them in caring for their mental health. It provides online one-to-one therapy as well as support groups and courses.

The Radical Self-care (RadSec) innovation was born of a desire to bring an intersectional approach to mindfulness and self-compassion that valued and centred a diverse range of cultures and experiences. Seeking to build mindfulness, self-care, and resilience skills to address mental health needs, it aims to develop principles that can ultimately help local and national health and care systems become more aware, compassionate, and socially just. The eight-week programme was initially contextualised and trialled with LGBTQ+ people to address internalised stigma and shame-based self-criticism among the community. And research findings showed significant improvements in participants' psychological health and well-being, so it was expanded to meet the needs of other marginalised groups, especially those from BAPOC communities. People from these communities are underserved by mental health services and underrepresented in the mindfulness space, both as practitioners and teachers. It was found that the RadSec programme resonated with people from minoritised backgrounds, as the courses took an intersectional, culturally appropriate approach. Many from these backgrounds have since trained as teachers.

The judges were excited by RadSec's much-needed step towards making mindfulness more intersectional and trauma-sensitive. And they were impressed by the rigorous testing and data collection that helped develop the programme, which will hopefully benefit others in the field. The judges also considered RadSec's collaboration with the mental health charity Mind an asset and saw significant potential for long-term growth. There was encouragement for RadSec to continue innovating and thinking about moving beyond the eight-week model.

Take Back Your Life (TBYL) from the Globe Community Project

Take Back Your Life (TBYL) is a mindfulness-based innovation that aims to support people who experience chronic pain, illness, and inactivity and social isolation. Chronic pain and ill health can be debilitating, and research shows that mindfulness meditation can be as effective a treatment as pharmacological interventions as well as reduce anxiety, depression, insomnia, and other issues that often arise as a byproduct of chronic pain and illness.

TBYL works with one of the largest housing estates in Bethnal Green in Tower Hamlets, London's most deprived borough. It focuses on helping hard-to-reach groups, especially those for whom English isn't a first language, live more independent, healthy, and fulfilling lives. TBYL is adapted from the multi-award-winning Breathworks 'Mindfulness for Health' eight-week course and uses teaching techniques more appropriate for English learners, such as images and visual aids, interactive exercises, role-playing, information eliciting, puppets, and simplified English. The course is also offered free of charge, and its approach seeks to reduce barriers to engagement by introducing mindfulness in community settings where participants feel comfortable and safe. It encourages graduates of the programme to share what they've learned with friends, family, and their communities. TBYL received funding from Tower Hamlets council after several successful pilots in 2019, and the project is now looking to expand beyond London.

The judges noted the determination, passion, and creativity of TBYL, and they recognised that the programme is serving a significant need in overcoming the language and cultural barriers that can prevent people from accessing mindfulness and enjoying its benefits. They were also impressed by the years of rigorous testing and research that have gone into developing the innovation and hope that these learnings can ultimately be shared more widely with others in the field. The judges felt that the project is now in a strong position for the strategic growth of its brand, team, and services.

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