Choosing a Movement-based Approach

There are many ways in which one can work towards the goal of enabling preventive and promotive socio-emotional wellbeing for all :

  • Designing an app that offers customised learning solutions and resources
  • Setting up open programs to help people build skills
  • Equipping people in crucial roles like teachers, organisational leaders, etc. to learn to support wellbeing
  • Meeting a personal coach

Some of these approaches can reach scale quickly and others can create a deep impact faster. However, we chose the path of movements, a more complex and effort-intensive process, in initiating the Wellbeing Movement.

Our Reasons

A minor reason was not to reinvent the wheel. Many solutions based on the other approaches already exist and need not be recreated.

While people understand socio-emotional wellbeing as necessary, taking preventive and promotive steps is not straightforward due to numerous personal and societal factors. Research on mental health in India suggests that support for even those in distress is limited due to many systemic challenges (see reference 1 and the infographic below).

Mind matters: A perspective on the mental health landscape in India (Courtesy: Deloitte)

Through our work, we want to work on shifting the narrative on socio-emotional wellbeing. We want our participants to feel that it is okay to:

  • Not feel mentally or emotionally well without being labelled
  • Prioritise your wellbeing without feeling guilt
  • Ask for help without becoming a burden
  • Seek a community of belonging and support
  • Not being able to cope with their own wellbeing needs — organisational cultures and social, political and economic institutions play a significant role.

Shifting the narrative is often the intention of movements, and this was the primary reason for choosing a movement-based approach. A movement commits to changing norms, attitudes and policies. It builds a societal muscle in people to participate in this change process (See reference 2).

The Implication of the Choice

Shifting the narrative implies engaging with thousands of participants from diverse groups, like seekers, practitioners, mental health professionals, educators, parents, funders, human resource professionals, organisational leaders, etc. It requires bringing together a diverse collective of people and nurturing a safe and brave space to initiate conversations for change in our consciousness and systems. It necessitates building a community with shared intentions, values and trust.

A community with shared intentions, values and trust is an essential starting point

To enable our work in the ecosystem, we also have to do the inner work as co-initiators to credibly and authentically weave the community’s efforts.

  • We have to heal ourselves and embody wellbeing.
  • We constantly have to find ways to foster individual agency and shared leadership, moving from offering answers to asking better questions, from providing solutions to enabling the connection, support, incentive and alignment for change.
  • We have to learn to let go of the need for clear plans, definitive goals and management-based control so that the initiative can bloom and power shared with others.

Despite the uphill task, I have found the start of the journey to be enriching. The inner work has pushed me to embrace a different and more potent approach to leadership. It has allowed me to discover and meet incredible people and build trusting relationships with them. Most importantly, the thriving community has further nurtured my wellbeing.

The future will tell whether we will be able to transition our community into a movement that shifts the narrative. However, there is no movement without a strong community. We are keen to deepen the relationships within the core of our community before worrying about expanding our systemic impact. We recognise that sometimes, slow is fast!

Inner Change -> Outer Change (Courtesy: Quotefancy)

Sources and Further Context:

1. Mind matters: A perspective on the mental health landscape in India:

Among many relevant data points in this report, here are some: 1) There is a widespread stigma associated with care-seeking in the face of mental illness; 2) There are 0.07 psychologists and 0.75 psychiatrists for every 100,000 people in our country, which is grossly inadequate; 3) Government funding for mental health is just 0.1% of our healthcare budget.

2. Understanding Movements (This is a research-based brief I published with support from Rohini Nilekani Philanthropies)

When you want to shift the narrative in the minds of many, movement-based approaches are helpful. For example, the global conversation on climate change shifted from the early 2000s to now, thanks to global movements like Fridays For Future, Extinction Rebellion, etc. and hundreds of local ones. Similarly, prevention and redressal of harassment at the workplace gained impetus post the #MeToo Movement.

A movement commits to changing norms, attitudes and policies. It builds a societal muscle in people to participate in this change process. In simple terms, movement-based approaches have: 1) A diverse collective of people and organisations coming together as participants; 2) The shared intention to create wide-scale, transformational change focused on a social, economic, environmental, or political problem that guides the collective direction; 3) Distributed, shared and bottom-up action by multiple participants, including those at the grassroots.




Weaving for Wellbeing and Transformation of Education | Learner | Community Builder and Facilitator

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Kapil Dawda

Kapil Dawda

Weaving for Wellbeing and Transformation of Education | Learner | Community Builder and Facilitator

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