Flourish in Nature

To support organisations who work in or work with




To support organisations who work in or work with

people in recovery services to create pathways for volunteering and leading sport and physical activity.

To support organisations who work in or work with

CONTENTS

About Flourish in Nature What We Achieved How the Project Worked Our Learning – Summary Our Learning – In Detail Voice of Experience Partner Experience What’s Next? Conclusion and Recommendations 2 3 5 6 9 10 15 17 20 21

CONTENTS

ABOUT FLOURISH IN NATURE

The Devon based project, funded by Sport England from March 2019 to March 2022, was designed around the ‘Five Ways of Wellbeing’ and the evidence base that shows being outside and active in nature improves a person’s well-being, with a particular focus on those with drug and alcohol addictions. The project had two interlocking pathways dependent on the persons stability and time in sustainable recovery: The primary element involved supporting those in active addiction. Initially, local activity providers would deliver sessions with all activities being chosen by participants (both hopeful activity leads and service users) who showed an initial interest. Activities included sea swimming, climbing, tai chi, surfing, cycling, yoga, kayaking, canoeing, high ropes, horse therapy and nature walks. If such activities were enjoyed, service users were able to continue attending. Individuals that had fully recovered were offered an opportunity to become an activity lead - a key element to the project that enabled sustainability and growth, whilst also ensuring that lived experience ran through the entirety of the project. The second element focused on people who were stable in recovery. If their treatment goals had been met and they were no longer using any illicit substances, they were offered the opportunity to become a Volunteer Activity Leader. This involved training with Devon Wildlife Trust and learning key outdoor skills such as bushcraft and nature identification techniques, whilst also developing soft skills along the way such as time management and organisational abilities. Accredited certificates were then awarded upon completion of the five week course. Once training had been completed, an Activity Leader was then provided with the opportunity to complete a qualification of their choice to ultimately become a leader in their own field within the project. In turn, this pathway enabled self-development by building resilience, a sense of purpose and leadership skills, and enhancing self-efficacy to support long-term recovery. The aim then further progressed towards the concept of Activity Leaders becoming the main providers of the activity sessions for the community, providing a peer-led connection alongside the activity. As such, Activity Leads were responsible for risk assessing their session as well as setting the time and dates. In support of the project, the roles of Flourish in Nature Administrator and Coordinator were recruited within Together and Local Teams to ensure people engaged with Together could book on and attend. 3

ABOUT FLOURISH IN NATURE

ABOUT FLOURISH IN NATURE

The Project Aims: To improve mental wellbeing, by enabling physical activity in the natural environment which has been shown to reduce stress, fatigue, anxiety and depression, particularly for marginalised groups. To develop individuals by building resilience, a sense of purpose and leadership skills, and enhancing self-efficacy to support long-term recovery. Social and community development, by increasing social contact and inclusion, people’s sense of belonging and personal achievement. New volunteering opportunities and community capacity, to enable future peerled activity in the natural environment, develop community networks, wider connection and community cohesion. 4

ABOUT FLOURISH IN NATURE

WHAT WE ACHIEVED

“This helped me from depression and suicide.” 91% 10 147 ACTIVITY LEADERS GAINED EMPLOYMENT OF ACTIVITY LEADS REMAINED IN SUSTAINABLE RECOVERY 76% “This has already changed my whole life.” 145 ACTIVITY LEAD RETENTION 33 167 ACTIVITY LEADERS TRAINED COMMUNITY ATTENDEES QUALIFICATIONS ACHIEVED (33+114 DWT AQA) 100% ACTIVITY SESSIONS PROVIDED “This was the best day of my life.” 3 OUT OF 4 ACTIVITY LEADERS REDUCED OFF THEIR OPIATES SUBSTITUTE THERAPY “I forgot there was a whole world out there.” ACTIVITY LEADERS REPORTED IMPROVED MENTAL HEALTH 5

WHAT WE ACHIEVED

HOW THE PROJECT WORKED

As part of the local evaluation conducted by Plymouth University (Dr Tom Thompson), the ways in which Flourish in Nature (FiN) supported people’s wellbeing and how it strengthened recovery journeys was explored. Through ethnographic work including field notes, observation, conversations and interviews with participants and staff, insight was gained into what made the project effective. It was clear that the design of the project innately had the public health message of “The Five Ways to Wellbeing” built into its design, satisfying all five of the messages seamlessly. People Connected, would Learn, were Active, took Notice, and would Give all without necessarily realising it. Performing these things have all been shown to improve mental wellbeing, promoting a sense of self-worth and self-esteem which is so important in reinforcing people’s positive recovery journeys. Connect Connection came in different forms and observed and reported repeatedly. People were connecting with others, sharing new experiences and uncertainties, whilst developing meaningful friendships which continue beyond the project. These connections reinforce and encourage people’s commitment to their recovery, acting as positive reinforcers and building people’s sense of social capital. Connecting with nature was also a fundamental aspect of how the project promoted a sense of wellbeing. For many these were new experiences, feeling part of the natural world and connected to new environments away from familiar locations. It was described by some as connecting with a new identity – doing things and challenging themselves in ways they never have before. 6

HOW THE PROJECT WORKED

HOW THE PROJECT WORKED

Learn People experienced learning in many different ways. New skills were learned around conservation, woodland skills, map reading, foraging and nature identification, as well as softer skills such as leadership, planning, organisation and communication skills to name but a few. With time, people went on to gain formal qualifications, including IT skills, teaching yoga, leading climbing and cycling sessions, as well as completing various AQA units working with the Devon Wildlife Trust. People also reported learning things about themselves as a result of taking on new experiences and learning the value of being active in natural environments for their sense of wellbeing and supporting their recovery. Active Many participants spoke of the importance of being physically active as a way to support their recovery. All activities within the project were active ones, from walking, yoga, tai chi and cycling through to cold water swimming and kayaking. It was repeatedly described how being active, particularly in natural environments, created a sense of calm wellbeing – calming thoughts and ruminations by giving a different focus. The physical and psychological benefits of being active were described as ‘feeling good about yourself’, a decrease in feelings of stress and tension, and state of feeling more physically relaxed. 7

HOW THE PROJECT WORKED

HOW THE PROJECT WORKED

Notice The experience of noticing things also took many different forms. For some, the experience of noticing the natural world around them was stimulating and empowering, creating a sense of being part of something bigger and helping people to look out rather than in. People noticed the impact of the natural environments on their senses, with vivid sights, sounds and smells. Taking notice of how being mindful of such things helped create a sense of calm and enjoyment. Through mindful activities such as nature bathing, yoga, and tai chi people took notice of the impact it has on their emotions, and how these can be useful in times of high stress or pressure and promote positive emotional regulation (an important tool for people’s recovery journey). Give The overall design of the project was one of reciprocity – giving back to others on their recovery journey by acting as volunteers and leading people through similar positive experiences. People also gave their time to support conservation work and support the organisation and leadership of different activities. On a more personal level, during activities people were giving each other support by listening to each other, encouraging and motivating one another, and giving people a sense of belonging and safety in a nonjudgemental and accepting environment. Giving unconditional and mutual respect was naturally ingrained in the structure of the activities from all parties, and fundamental to the strong camaraderie observed throughout the project. 8

HOW THE PROJECT WORKED

OUR LEARNING – SUMMARY

COVID-19 Pandemic: Small groups create a community. Rather than focusing on getting high numbers of people to each event we found the peer support and the benefit of the activity was greater with smaller groups. Keeping activities going throughout lockdown was vital for people’s wellbeing. Technology: The key to successful engagement is by using the most popular methods of communication, such as WhatsApp and Facebook. Whilst ensuring training is provided to those who are less familiar with IT. GDPR and compliance can inhibit the use of ideal communication strategies. Time Capacity: It’s incredibly important to consider how much time it takes to engage and train volunteers, especially those who are new to recovery and the professional environment. The key to success is relationships, regular contact and building trust - all of which are time consuming but create the best outcomes. Transport: It’s important to budget and allow time for transport coordination. Whilst many adults can do this independently it’s important to remember, when working with a vulnerable community there are many more barriers to be expected. This includes finances, anxiety, poor public transport links, rural locations, and lack/loss of licenses. Personalised Budget: Providing Activity Leaders with equipment, clothing and their own qualifications was key to positive outcomes. This enabled professional development opportunities, added value to the role, showed trust and allowed people to engage even if they were unable to purchase their own coats and boots. Trust in People: Utilising a value based approach and having faith in people creates the environment of an equal and trusted community. Utilising Risk Tolerance and allowing space for people to develop and succeed is the culture of Flourish in Nature. 9

OUR LEARNING – SUMMARY



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