"Now more than ever, it is crucial for leaders to hear and respond to the diverse challenges faced by people across the globe." (WEF, 2016)

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Five Co-Developed Solutions to Design Out Mental Illness Stigma through the AddVentureMind Weekend ~ Birmingham, November 2017


In collaboration with Kaleidoscope Plus Group, the Future Leaders Club hosted the AddVentureMind Weekend event on 18-19 November 2017, to tackle mental illness stigma by fusing community collaboration with social innovation. The event was sponsored by Acivico Ltd.


The ‘Designing Out Stigma’, AddVentureMind Weekend theme, focused on the stigma attached to mental illness, as in many cases it is stigma, which makes symptoms worse and stops many seeking treatment. Thirty people, all passionate about doing something to end mental illness stigma, participated in the event. Representatives from local communities, West Midlands Police, mental health charities and networks, the NHS, Birmingham City Council, mental health care providers, service users and students came together over the two-days.


What was the purpose?

  • To bring people together around a shared vision and purpose
  • To develop a network of social innovators in mental health
  • To co-design transformative and sustainable solutions to end mental illness stigma
  • To publish a white paper based on contribution and recommendations from the event


How do we end widespread stigma held towards mental illness?

There are many campaigns raising awareness about mental health, but few are empowering people to take action to unstitch, detach and debunk society’s stigmas towards it.


Here at the Future Leaders Club, we believe the path to shaking stigma starts by merging emotional connection and mass collaboration, to build the foundations for social movements and social action that are serious about improving the lives of others. The key ingredients we use to enable successful co-creation and social innovation are:

  1. The collaboration of diverse, committed, like-minded people and organisations with a shared vision and purpose
  2. The use of human-centred design thinking


At the AddVentureMind Weekend we brought together; people with experience of mental illness, organisations, policy-makers and communities at large, to co-design solutions and paired this with our own original and creative human-centred design thinking process, to ensure the real work in shifting stigma will be achieved. Our 5D AddVenture Launchpad Human-Centred Design Thinking framework is outcomes-focused and starts and finishes with humans. It takes inspiration from people, keeps service users in our hearts and minds and searches for opportunities. 


This is an overview of our 5D AddVenture Launchpad Human-Centred Design Thinking framework:

  1. DEFINE: Understand the challenges and barriers; empathize; observe; immerse; listen; ask questions; establish root causes; establish priority needs; realize the unmet needs
  2. DISCOVER: Explore the possibilities; horizon scanning; ask questions; get a broader perspective; understand root causes; interpret; focus; define 'how might we' 
  3. DESIGN: Co-build prototype solutions; generate ideas; imagine; filter; choose; align with unmet need and challenges
  4. DEVELOP: Refine, test, source feedback from users, evaluate, and improve prototype solutions; align with unmet needs and challenges 
  5. DELIVER: Pitch prototype solutions, determine the way and start implementation


Through our three core principles for AddVenture Weekends, we realize the outcomes we set ourselves. The three principles are:

  1. Collaborate with diverse people and understand them on their own terms
  2. Put people first and foremost and involve them in every step of the way
  3. Aim for meaningful and valuable outcomes, resulting in social innovation which can be scaled-up


An expert line-up of guest speakers supported the AddVentureMind Weekend event: Detective Chief Inspector Sean Russell, Councillor Paulette Hamilton (Birmingham City Council), Emma Marks (Time To Change Charity), Kainat Raja (Student), Tod Sullivan (Lowestoft Mental Health Ambassador), Chloe Miller (Music Student and Blogger) and Lynda Sherlock (Student).


By using human-centred design thinking over the two days, five teams of ‘AddVenturers’ (participants) arrived at five social good, prototype solutions to reduce or even end mental illness stigma.


On day two, the five teams had the opportunity to pitch to a Dragon’s Den style panel:

  • Detective Chief Inspector Sean Russell, West Midlands Police and West Midlands Combined Authority
  • Dominic Cushnan, Digital Transformation Lead, NHS Horizons
  • Monica Shafaq, Chief Executive, Kaleidoscope Plus Group
  • Emma Marks, West Midlands Equalities Coordinator, Time To Change Charity
  • Kainat Raja, Student  


The team pitches consisted of a variety of different styles and techniques, including drama, video, hand drawn visuals and audience involvement, followed by questions from the Dragon’s Den Panel.


Each teams solutions are summarized below:

Team Hope:

Aim: To demonstrate through real life stories that mental illnesses can be overcome and have not stopped people from achieving their dreams, but only made them stronger. Stigmas can limit people in reaching their potential, once labelled with a mental illness so the objective is to decrease the stigma attached to mental illness by showing that everyone has equal value in society.

Solution: Tell a powerful series of informative, interactive, personal mental illness stories, through the caption ‘I was I am’ (hashtag #IwasIam) through digital display screens in transitory spaces such as bus stops, rest rooms and waiting areas. For instance, one interactive video would direct you to a person saying "I was 10 years old and self-harming." "I am now 30 years old and a qualified medical doctor." This video is then followed by a standard message, "End mental illness stigma," with a QR code leading to further captions, in-depth stories and short emotive videos relating to other #IwasIam statements and mental illness service links.


Team Let’s Beat Stigma:

Aim: To normalise the conversation about well-being and emotions from an early age. Stigmas are less likely to form later on in life if open and honest conversations about emotions are had in early life.

Solution: Promote the expression of feelings from primary school age, through mood boards as part of the classroom registration in the morning. There would be a variety of mood boards to suit different situations or feelings recognised by the teacher. After discussions and sketches of how to achieve this, they produced a functioning prototype which was effectively used during their pitch by the audience to gauge the mood in the room. This was a mixture of happy, excited, relaxed and anxious due to their final pitches approaching.


Team Tryangle:

Aim: The team deliberated many great ideas to tackle what they felt were the biggest problems around stigma; social isolation, multiple and complex needs and that the referral criteria is too high for most patients. Their aim was to try and tackle all of these in one by promoting easy access to mental illness services and in doing so overcoming challenges arising as a victim of stigma.

Solution: Provide a website acting as a service hub, to help users with their own wellbeing and even self-stigma, by providing personalised recommendations to hyperlocal services, resources, psychoeducational materials, support and interest groups. The features built into this website were thoroughly explored by the team and presented in a draft website and promotional video they had put together.


Team Men Speak:

Aim: The team identified that men are a "hard-to-reach" group when discussing mental health challenges and illness. Their aim was to encourage conversation around men's mental health through collaboration with a diverse audience, to generate more confidence in men to open up and in parallel, readdress the modern view of ‘what it means to be a man?’

Solution: Open up social media platforms to allow discussion around mental health challenges, using the hashtag #MenSpeak. Using the live Twitter handle @MenSpk they had founded over the weekend, the team would host a weekly Twitter Chat for one hour, putting forward a new question to the public each week for discussion. They placed an importance on bringing various groups and individuals on board to alleviate stigma. The team identified several organisations currently engaging small communities of men about their mental health and their long-term goal is to collaborate with these organisations. They asked the thirty audience members to write a topic they’d like to see discussed and this would go towards forming the first questions. Phase two of the venture would be to include other social media platforms, e.g. Facebook.


Team Connecting the Dots:

Aim:  To improve the understanding about the impact stigma in mental illness has on people and the impact a single person can have in changing a life by dropping stigma and giving their own personal support.

Solution: Improvised drama production, touring local community based theatres, based on real-life mental illness stories, encouraging audience interaction and participation in the performance itself. Using inclusive audience decision-making about how to take action in different scenarios, in a non-judgemental environment, is an effective way to educate outside of the classroom. Audience participation, converts seeing action into taking action. If a similar scenario arises in that person's future, as they would be better equipped to know how to help, they would be more likely to. In this pitch, we saw and engaged in this teams live, audience participatory performance.


The winners!

All participants voted for their favourite idea, then the panel made their overall decision, taking into account participant votes. The vote decided which team’s idea would be chosen for implementation and taken forward as a venture in 2018 with direct support from Kaleidoscope Plus Group and in collaboration with the Future Leaders Club, West Midlands Combined Authority and the Time To Change charity.


Both the Dragon’s Den panel and the majority votes from ‘AddVenturers’ came to the same decision on the solutions they wanted to see implemented. On this occasion there were two winning teams, which we would like to thoroughly congratulate:

  • Connecting the Dots: Drama production to engage the audience with real-life stories
  • Men Speak: A Twitter campaign to openly discuss men’s mental health


What a weekend! Two days of hard work was well worth it. We now have five great prototype solutions to end mental illness stigma, two of which will be implemented in 2018. Look out for further updates from us.


"A big thank you to all involved. This event would not have been possible without the partnership, teamwork and integration of many people and organisations, who worked tirelessly both in front and behind the scenes." ~ Jazz Singh (CEO, Future Leaders Club)



What our participants said:  

"I have attended two AddVenture Weekends by the Future Leaders Club and the opportunity to meet so many different people at these events is so amazing. The meet and greet at AddVentureMind was so much fun. I loved the personal touch this event had. The personal stories added a whole new level of heart to the event.” ~ Sarah Lynch (Birmingham)


"Excellent. What a weekend!” ~ Tod Sullivan (Lowestoft)


“The variety of experiences bound by a common interest to end stigma, the diversity of the judging panel and a responsive volunteer team working hard behind the scenes to ensure a powerful experience, made this event a sheer pleasure to be a part of.” ~ Reene Chauhan (Birmingham)


“I really enjoyed the interaction between everyone and sharing ideas. The teams who made the day were amazing, super welcoming and the speakers were very inspiring. Since the weekend I've done nothing but talk about how amazing the two-day event was so a big thank you." ~ Gemma Giles (South Staffordshire)


"The enthusiasm of everyone there was energising. I also liked the venue which gave us plenty of room and felt very conducive to being creative and open. The inspirational personal stories also worked very well to help me focus on the necessity of what we were all doing. All the staff/volunteers were also very positive and helped everyone in my group to stay on track. All in all, it seemed very well organised and kept to time very well whilst also being flexible." ~ Robin Price (Birmingham)


“Congratulations to Jazz and all the Future Leaders Club team for arranging a wonderful weekend. It was a fun and enjoyable event. I learned a lot over the weekend. The AddVenture Launchpad is a such a novel and refreshing way to tackle community issues and concerns. I would love to be involved with the Future Leaders Club and future events. Please keep up the great work you're doing.” ~ Anonymous


"Having the chance to perform in front of an audience, for me, was a very exciting experience which, coupled with the team I was in being a joint winner, left me leaving on Sunday night feeling exhilarated. I would like to thank everybody involved in organising this weekend for their dedication and passion and I look forward to working with them all again, if possible." Robin Price (Birmingham)


“I would certainly like to be invited again and hope to know in advance when the next event will be, as I tend to do a lot of work and I certainly would not like to have booked onto something else. Thank you.” ~ Manzoor Hussain (Birmingham)


Highlights from the AddVentureMind Weekend:

  • Thirty great participants, all passionate about making a difference to people’s lives
  • Feelings of empathy, compassion and love towards all brave enough to share their own mental health experiences (the ambience was congruent to the overall weekend, set by our speakers both from a personal and a professional perspective) throughout the weekend
  • Seeing participants and teams go from being passionate about change to aligning thoughts, generating ideas, realising a solution to solving issues and working together to make something of it
  • ‘Word on the Street’ where teams asked members of the public for feedback on their prototypes, with some encouraging advice and thoughts
  • All five prototype solutions are feasible, realistic and achievable
  • Fantastic feedback from the Dragons Den panel and all participants
  • A number of key guest speakers with a wealth of expertise in mental health
  • The collaboration of the Future Leaders Club and Kaleidoscope Plus Group, hosting the AddVentureMind Weekend in partnership
  • The support from a number of organisations, helping to make the event possible:
    • Acivico Ltd. (Headline sponsors)
    • Birmingham City Council
    • West Midlands Police
    • West Midlands Combined Authority
    • Barnardo’s Children’s Charity
    • NHS
    • Time To Change Charity
    • Fitnniss Ltd.


What next?

The two winning teams will start implementation of their idea in January 2018, project managed by Kaleidoscope Plus Group and in collaboration with the Future Leaders Club, West Midlands Combined Authority and the Time To Change charity. Look out for further updates from us.


If you would like to support the winning ideas or would like to be the first to receive our white paper publication, please contact us.


If you have a suggestion for next year's AddVenture Weekend challenge, then get in touch via the contact details below. We will be rolling out a poll on twitter to help decide the next theme.


The Future Leaders Club is a Birmingham based social enterprise helping people and organisations develop their leadership capacity and skills. Since 2013, we have been providing a range of unique events and courses to unleash the leader within. Through our courses and events, we are developing leaders the world needs today and tomorrow.


The AddVenture Launchpad is the Future Leaders Club’s social movement platform, powering social innovation within communities via our AddVenture Weekend events.


The vision for the AddVenture Launchpad is to provide an energising social enterprise ecosystem which enables social change to thrive, resulting in widespread and transformative social outcomes. Through AddVenture Weekend events, our mission is to provide a platform for local people to convert their passion and ideas for social good into real social impact at scale through collaboration, across the UK, using Design Thinking.


Please get in contact with us for more information about the AddVentureMind Weekend and about future events:


In addition to the 30 AddVenturers, committed and hardworking event participants, the AddVentureMind Weekend involved the integration, partnership and teamwork of many others, both in front and behind the camera:

  • Michael Gregson, Chief Executive, Acivico Ltd.
  • Rav Billan, Business Development Manager, Acivico Ltd.
  • Trevor Haynes, Leadership Coach
  • Monica Shafaq, Chief Executive, Kaleidoscope Plus Group
  • Inspector Noeleen Murrin, West Midlands Police
  • DCI Sean Russell, West Midlands Police
  • Councillor Paulette Hamilton, Birmingham City Council
  • Dominic Cushnan, Chief UX Designer (FLC) and Digital Transformation Lead (NHS Horizons)
  • Jazz Singh, CEO, Future Leaders Club
  • Callie Starkey, Head of Ventures, Future Leaders Club
  • Hardeep Dhillon, Communications Lead, Future Leaders Club
  • Mina Karshala, Marketing Lead, Future Leaders Club
  • Malachi Cummings-Hall, Digital Media Lead, Future Leaders Club
  • Joanna Axinte, Futurize Events Lead, Future Leaders Club
  • Tschaka Roussel-Milner, Copywriter and Blogger, Future Leaders Club
  • Sheena King, Marketing, Strategy and Brand Guardian, Future Leaders Club
  • Elijah Thompson, Photographer, Future Leaders Club
  • Sarah Lynch, Team Navigator, Future Leaders Club,
  • Dave Pickard, Team Navigator, Kaleidoscope Plus Group
  • Reene Chauhan, Team Associate, Future Leaders Club
  • Michaela Jandova, Team Associate, Future Leaders Club
  • Constanze Kolbe, Team Associate, Future Leaders Club
  • Tara Sweeney, Team Associate, Future Leaders Club
  • Chanelle Jones, Photographer, Future Leaders Club
  • Kainat Raja, Guest Speaker
  • Chloe Miller, Guest Speaker, Blogger and Author of the White Paper 
  • Tod Sullivan, Guest Speaker and member of Team Let's Beat Stigma
  • Lynda Sherlock, Guest Speaker and member of Team Let's Beat Stigma
  • Paul Powell, Barnardos Children's Charity
  • Matt Inniss, CEO, Fitnniss Ltd.
  • Emma Marks, West Midlands Equalities Coordinator, Time To Change Charity
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