Masawa Minute 41
How are we doing? | The key to better leadership | + More!
This is the Masawa Minute — mental wellness, social impact, and impact investing snippets from what we’ve read the last two weeks + where you can get active.
How are you doing? This week’s newsletter is about non-linear journeys, be it towards a specific goal or generally progressing in life. Nothing ever goes smoothly and according to plan, and that’s just how it needs to be. Eventually, we’ll get there, and you will too.
Our thoughts this week? Read the first article highlighted below!
Understanding Workplace Ecosystems for Mental Health Culture Change
Mental health in the workplace is a topic that has been receiving increasingly more attention. Yet many people trying to implement mental health solutions in the workplace miss a very important point: employee mental health largely depends on company culture. If you want to learn how to create a culture where individuals can thrive through behavior and mindset change, this webinar is for you!
The event taking place tomorrow (July 22) at 13:00–14:15 CEST will be hosted by Emily Pearson, founder and managing director of Our Mind’s Work. She is a Workplace Mental Health Programme expert with 20 years of experience who holds qualifications that allow her to work as a professional in the mental health, substance misuse and social care fields. This is a great opportunity to learn new ways of thinking about organizational culture and discover new tools that can help you drive transformational change. Make sure you don’t miss it!
What we’re reading…
🐝 Masawa Special: How are we doing?
How’s it going with Masawa? In this newsletter, as well as our other channels, we often share snippets of our journey and regularly update you on where our focus lies at the given moment. But how are we actually doing? Masawa’s Founder and Managing Partner, Joshua Haynes, reflects on the last 1.5 years of Masawa and the different answers he has given to this question over this time.
Masawa’s journey to where we are today has been anything but linear. There have been plenty of ups and downs, opportunities to exclaim “It’s going great! We’re killing it.” or to come out with “Life is rough. This is hard.”. Joshua, however, has mostly chosen to focus on the positive side (because, as a startup founder, he doesn’t lack optimism) and inspire the rest of the team to do the same because we believe that the work we do here is essential and we know if we continue to forge our path forward step by step, eventually we’ll get where we dream of being today.
Surely, we’ve had great successes, especially the strong community we’ve built. Our team and advisors are a group of exceptional human beings and top-notch professionals who are crafting the next generation of innovative investment mechanisms. Many people have joined us along the way and continue to donate their time and skills to help Masawa move forward. We have investors — mission-driven partners who value not only investing in mental wellness for social outcomes, but also nurturing the invested capital to maximize social impact, founder wellbeing, and organizational health. We’ve identified a huge gap (read: opportunity) around human capital risks that, once addressed, will lead to much stronger financial and social outcomes. We’ve also bounced back from numerous setbacks. It’s never just the good or the bad at once. So after some consideration, our answer to how we are doing is that Masawa is right where we need to be, and that will always be so.
🌿 Transformation must start with restoration
Are you interested in learning more about regenerative leadership? If so, this interview with author and entrepreneur Laura Storm is for you. After spending years working in the climate change policy and sustainability field, her life changed completely — Laura suffered a minor brain injury in 2015 that led her to reconnect with the love of nature, “detox” from constantly reaching for the next big goal and delve into studying nature connection and regeneration. Learning that our ability to build sustainable, regenerative societies is determined by how well we use our internal resources, Laura realized that what we need isn’t just a shift in sustainability, but rather a transformation of all fields and a more holistic, regenerative approach to our societies. That’s the goal she’s currently working towards.
In 2019, Laura and co-author Giles Hutchinson published “Regenerative Leadership,” a resource for leaders who seek to build more “life-affirming” organizations. Instead of focusing on material progress and technological innovations, they suggest that leaders must transform their organizations and institutions from the core. This means moving away from the idea that an organization is a machine that needs to be measured and controlled and viewing organizations as parts of an interconnected network of relationships, materials, and resources instead. Another point they emphasize is the importance of recognizing that the planet is cyclical, and so is the human body and life. By extension, our organizational life needs to be cyclical as well. To be able to go through the intensity of spring and summer with innovations and project launches, we need to create space for the energy of autumn and winter — becoming comfortable with stillness, solitude and silence and ingraining that into our organizational culture.
Eventually, our own blind spots and shadows are among the main obstacles standing between us and a transition into a thriving, sustainable, regenerative world. We need to learn new ways of interacting with everything around us. The role of the leaders has to be ensuring vitality in the system rather than trying to control everything. Leaders of the new era have to sit with the uncertainty and learn that it’s not up to them to have all the answers, and instead hold space for the emergence and be able to bring the right people together for the emergence to happen. But even with the perfect team, transformation must start with the inner transition. Human messiness and lingering pain stop us from making our way forward and preventing great collaborations from flourishing. Only by cultivating a rich inner connection and restoring our inner ecosystems first, can we play a role in the transformation to a better world.
“Leaders Of The New Era Are Being Asked To Hold Space In A Completely Different Way.”
🎈 The joy we’ve been missing
In his latest piece for the New York Times, an organizational psychologist and bestselling author Adam Grant explores what has gone missing from the way we experience joy. It all starts with the idea that many people (particularly in the Western world) share: emotions and joy exist mostly or fully in their heads. People believe happiness to be a state of mind; sadness is treated as a sign of mental distress. However, this isn’t known to be the case. The truth is, our emotions are fundamentally social, and they’re closely connected to our interactions.
According to research, we laugh five times as often when we’re in the company of other people than when we’re alone. We find our peak happiness in collective activity or collective effervescence — a term coined in the early 20th century by Émile Durkheim to describe the energy and harmony people experience when they gather together for a shared purpose. It’s the feeling of closeness and synchrony we share when singing along in a concert, running in a race, or being a part of a religious service. Before Covid, more than three-quarters of people experienced it at least once a week, while nearly one-third experienced it at least once a day. But then the opportunities for collective effervescence swiftly decreased, and we found ourselves isolated and surrounded by fear — an emotion transferred from person to person just as intensely as joy was before.
As our cities reopen, collective effervescence finds its way back into our lives. We once again find joy working with our colleagues in person, taking a real vacation, being a part of a crowd in a concert. But just because we can freely move again, it doesn’t guarantee that we’ll pursue happiness in the best way. People who pursue happiness individually may become even lonelier in the end, while people who pursue happiness socially are the ones that experience elevated wellbeing. That’s why at this point in time, we need to rethink how we approach mental health and wellbeing — we must think of flourishing less as a personal experience and more as collective effervescence. We can feel anxious and depressed alone, but the best emotions — like love and happiness — are most present when shared with others.
There’s a Specific Kind of Joy We’ve Been Missing
🌊 Why do systems resist change?
Progress is often accompanied by setbacks. For instance, when in 2015 the Supreme Court announced the ruling allowing marriage equality, The Washington Post published an editorial “Why there won’t be a gay marriage backlash,” arguing that opposition to same-sex marriage is actively diminishing. However, not long after that, we learned this prediction might be far from the truth — since 2015, there have been numerous new laws targeting LGBTQI+ rights in the workplace, health care, housing, schools, and other public spaces. So why does that happen? The answer is that the changes aren’t only about the people, it’s also about the system and the conditions that prevent or support social change: policies, practices, resource flows, relationships and connections, power dynamics and mental models. While marriage equality successfully shaped each of these conditions for its benefit, the system surrounding it, just like any system, has been subject to something Canadian complexity theorist Brenda Zimmerman referred to as a “snap back.”
When attempting to shift patterns and behaviors in a system, it’s necessary to understand that systems naturally resist change. To prevent that from happening, we need to focus on strengthening the resilience of the system’s new equilibrium while simultaneously weakening the old one. Luckily, there are some strategies that can help us achieve it. One is solidifying new mental models that we have established. In the case of marriage equality, that meant shifting the popular thinking from “same-sex couples should have equal rights” to “two people in love should have the right to get married”, or, in short, “love is love”, focusing on empathy rather than cultural values. Another strategy is establishing relationships between people in the system who don’t have contact with each other. That helps reduce the “othering” of various groups of people due to them being seen as different or inferior. The last strategy is supporting marginalized people in attaining positions of authority and power. That way, they can influence decision-making and public narrative, reducing the probability of resistance.
Even knowing this, truly understanding how systems snap back and learning how to best prevent it remains a work in progress. Every situation is different and has its own dynamics — for example, many LGBTQI+ community members expressed that in their opinion, the strategy to advocate for marriage equality was not comprehensive enough and did not take the needs of the larger LGBTQI+ community into account to a large enough extent to prevent a snap back. They felt like the “love is love” strategy did nothing to address the many underlying biases against the queer communities — particularly gender-nonconforming people, trans people, and queer people of color — and, therefore, the systemic resistance was inevitable. Either way, going forward, we should be more mindful of the snap back and identify the parts in our strategies that can prevent it from happening. If you, like us, hope to see your work challenging the status quo and changing the system, be sure to apply those takeaways to your strategic decisions!
🍏 Making a case for blended finance
Blended finance — a combination of grants and loans that can be distributed to social enterprises and charities that would otherwise struggle to obtain investment — has been long-overlooked in the impact investing market focused on returns, but now it’s proving its worth for the social sector. It’s becoming a critical tool, yet it doesn’t come without challenges. Securing a flow of subsidy funding remains the biggest one of them, and it’s not about to be solved anytime soon. Let’s look into the case of Access — The Foundation for Social Investment, an organization providing blended finance in the UK, and why they must continue to fight for what they do.
Access has shown everyone that blended finance can be a path to organizational resilience. It’s clear that it works for small and medium-sized organizations as well as charities and has completely transformed the way the social sector can access finance. Access’s most recent review has emphasized that grant funding in addition to loans was needed to balance the “market failure” that would otherwise prevent small social enterprises from growing — in a purely market-driven approach, very few financial institutions would regularly invest in the small end of the sector. However, the model still faces the great challenge of finding subsidies for the grant component. The social investment sector lacks allies in government, and even with the proof of major positive impact that Access achieved in areas of high deprivation proving that blended capital is a helpful tool to tackle inequalities, it’s tough to rely on the government for funding.
But while the lack of champions in the government remains a challenge, good things are happening. One example is BSC and the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government announcing their plans to fund more than 200 homes for more rough sleepers. The government contributes with a £15m grant and BSC the equivalent in loan investment. This kind of issue-specific action might be able to convince politicians better than the idea of supporting the social sector as a whole. There are multiple other options for blended finance — with more data about its effectiveness, more actors want to play different roles in this process. Yet, the government remains in the best position to absorb the risk and give out the subsidies — the public policy justification being among the arguments for that. However, regardless of the government’s view of the social sector, presenting the case for blended capital may well be Access’s most important role in its remaining years. But one thing is certain — Access can’t do it alone. It’s about creating a broader narrative, which could be relevant on a scale well beyond England’s borders.
Why battle for blended finance is top of Access Foundation’s to-do list
Gabija works as a Marketing & Communications Coordinator at Masawa. She lets her vision of a more just, sustainable, equitable world guide Masawa’s story and inform the work towards transforming global mental wellness to make it accessible and accepted.