Some weeks back a dear friend of mine introduced me to a FANTASTIC Ted Talk by Simon Sinek, entitled “How great leaders inspire action“. The talk starts by asking the question why certain companies and individuals are successful – “There’s something else at play here” says Simon. He suggests that there is a pattern that all successful individuals and companies follow that he has called “The Golden Circle”. In short, these inspired leaders and organisations all communicate WHY they do what they do, WHY they exist, WHY they are different. This made an quite an impact on me especially as I always had an immense aversion to any form of sales.

This week, I attended a conference in Birmingham hosted by Social Enterprise West Midlands at the lovely Concept Conference Centre. The event was very well attended and with a jam packed programme I honestly didn’t think I would last the day. The subject matter? “Open Innovation”. Now what is more innovative and unique than an approach that is very fresh and new here in the UK, not familiar to many and unusual? Not to mention the business structure is a new type of structure, a Community Interest Company and a social enterprise. Pretty innovative huh? So I decided to tootle along and see what I could learn.

The day looked at several social enterprises that were being innovative and unique in their own special way – Start Again CIC (whose creator, Mark I had heard speak before) is an amazing social enterprise which came about as a result of one young man recognising a need for those struggling with their mental well-being that might be addressed in a more holistic way by working on their physical well-being, social skills and emotional resilience. The result was a project that works with young people through football and aims, amongst other things, to build confidence, inspire, promote healthy living and to provide positive opportunities.

Another exciting venture was Vocal Eyes, that their website describes as “A process of engagement and learning that turns IDEAS into ACTION and leads to empowerment and positive change”. Vocal Eyes provides a platform for finding, communicating with, learning and exploring new ideas and impact on their development. Whilst still quite new, the project holds great potential and I feel will be a great opportunity for people to reconnect with similar interests and in turn build communities. Something I feel this society is sorely lacking.

The day, together with Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk got me thinking about how people might perceive or view HumAnima CIC. Why do we exist? What is our purpose? Yes I mention it on the website and talk about the usual misson statement, what we do etc. But what about why?

My entire life I have felt, what I have considered to be, a stronger than usual connection to animals. This carried over into nature in general as I grew older but I have never been able to doubt the unmistakable connection between ourselves and our animal companions. Whether they be feathered, finned, furred or scaly I always knew that every human being at some point in their life had connected with an animal in some way and undoubtedly positively with nature. Whether that be playing in the dirt as a child, eating worms (no I’ve never done that…!), collecting flowers, pressing leaves or kicking them, throwing stones in a pond, stroking a dog or watching the clouds whilst lying in a field everyone at some point has experienced nature. Ultimately we are a part of nature even if we do have a tendency to disconnect ourselves from it or consider ourselves ‘higher’ beings, above nature.

Perhaps it was the disconnection I noticed first. I don’t know. But I always remember noticing how separate people are; how they go about their daily lives segmented and boxed in their own little bubble. Perhaps it was because I grew up in a town (now a City!) that this seemed more noticeable but when visiting the countryside or seaside or being in a wood or a field that disconnection seemed to disappear for me. It was like melting into the multitude of experiences that were happening all at once in the world – all at once you were aware, mindful if you like, of the wind blowing, of how it blew the grass, how that grass moved, how that grass was connected to the earth, how it was being sat on by me, walked on by cattle or sheep, munched by them, crawled on by insects and how it was absorbing the water that flowed over it or rained on it. This awareness made me feel good and I wanted more of it. Difficult in an urban area.

I have grown to realise that it is part of the human condition to need nature – by which I mean the natural world, time out from the urban world. Not only do we need air to breath, water to drink and food to eat, but all of those things are encompassed by nature that all together form our holistic well-being package. We are born with that love and that need and some need it more than others but everyone can benefit from it for the simple reason that it comes in so many different forms. Yes, the same glove does not fit everyone but it doesn’t have to in nature because there is so much variety!

I want to support people and empower them to reconnect with nature and ultimately rediscover themselves and their role within it and life. I suppose the image that keeps popping in my head is of gaia enveloping the earth much like this one. It may sound fluffy to some but there is an element of protection, as many will argue, both that we protect nature and that nature protects us by providing for us. Perhaps it sounds fluffy but I strongly believe that in a world where disharmony and unbalance abounds the path to rediscovering that balance can be found in nature.

One of the ways of doing that is by interacting with animals. This is something I’ve always sought and always observed in others. I find it fascinating, effective and powerful. I am simply a facilitator. By facilitating people to interact safely and effectively with animals and nature I hope to support a return to well-being and who knows, maybe  a new-found respect and appreciation for nature will accompany that.

I have often observed how people are lost in their own bubble, introverted, pained and alone. The research is there, the anecdotes are there, the experiences are there and the opportunities are there. All it takes is to listen to your “gut instinct”, add a pinch of trust, a smattering of willingness and a supportive paw and who knows what  riches you will find in the loving gaze of a fluffy eared spaniel, the tranquility of a tinkling brook or the gratitude of a newly sprouted shoot…