Evidencing the inner

Our work around ‘evidencing the inner’ is primarily aimed at funders, academics, and practitioners and organisations seeking to provide evidence of particular inner-led approaches.

Measuring such impact brings a wealth of creative tensions and opportunities. Sometimes the impact of inner approaches is most painfully evident by the absence of tools and capacities in contemporary Western society to navigate discomfort, unknowing and fear, which can give rise to polarisation, projection, blame, and oppression and/or burnout, conflict and unhealthy power and group dynamics.

Starter Culture’s approach to measuring and evaluating the emergent impacts of inner-led change covers two strands:  

-          What evidence already exists? Collating, summarising and signposting to existing evidence of the role of inner-led practices in the process of social and ecological change.

-          What does inner-focused measurement look and feel like? How could inner-led perspectives contribute to a deeper understanding of emergent impact and success of social and ecological change approaches?

Collating an evidence base

Having evidence of the efficacy of inner-approaches can enable learning, development and wider acceptance of such approaches. We have been collating an evidence base of the impacts of inner-led change, and gathering a range of measurement tools to document and evaluate how the inner is currently being ‘measured’ in different situations.

What does inner-led measurement look and feel like?

In the spirit of walking our talk, we are also inquiring into what ‘measurables’ look like from an inner-perspective, and the relative usefulness of developing inner-led measurement criteria. For example, how do we already use our inner experience to: 

  • measure our impact and success
  • navigate and creatively respond to difficulty
  • challenge and source transformative ways forward, without recognising, making visible and crediting this as an inner approach to measurement and emergent strategy? [link to inquiring the inner  page]

‘The what’: Collating, summarising and signposting existing evidence 

This evidence base brings together some of the academic and practitioner research and evidence around inner-led change. These approaches to inner-led change have evolved, changed, and been used in different contexts over at least the past four decades. At the end of this page are  examples of a range of inner-led change methods and approaches practised in the UK, together with existing evidence.  As it is a work in progress, we welcome suggestions for updating and expanding this resource

The evidence collated so far suggests that these approaches and practices contribute to and support  transformative social and ecological change, and that they would benefit from further research. There is an acknowledged need for rigorous and longer-term research, alongside broader types of research which are critical of the limitations inherent in the act and processes of knowledge production itself (Tom Henfrey, 2018), and incorporate different ways of knowing.

These approaches draw on a range of ‘lineages’, including Western psychology, Eastern philosophies and spiritual practices, and indigenous social practices and wisdom traditions (Hilary Prentice, 2012). They include grief work (Rosemary Randall, 2009; Francis Weller, 2015) psychoanalytic theories and group work (Dorothy Whitaker, 2001; Wilfred Bion, 1961), ecopsychology (Mary-Jayne Rust, 2008), trauma (Bob Doppelt, 2016; Judith Herman, 1992), faith based approaches such as Buddhism (Joanna Macy and Molly Brown, 2015), nature connection, deep ecology (John Seed et al., 1988) feminist theory and practice, systems theory, and indigenous practices (e.g. grief tending).

Collections of evidence and literature
MindfulnessOxford Mindfulness Centre has links to research on Mindfulness Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)(follow research tab. 
Contemplative Sustainable FuturesContemplative sustainable futures database of existing institutions, stakeholders, networks, projects and resources on the issue of inner dimensions and transformation in sustainability.
Dialogue SocietyRange of publications and research on dialogue and community
Waging Nonviolence "an independent, non-profit media platform dedicated to providing original reporting and expert analysis of social movements around the world. The Resistance Studies strand “is a collaborative effort between academics and activists, or “professors of the street,” that promotes the analysis of and support for nonviolent direct action and civil disobedience around the world.”
The Permaculture Association online research digestSummarises and links to a range of research and practice .
Table 1: A selection of methods and approaches to cultivating and sustaining Inner Resilience
Name, website, referenceBrief descriptionResearch summary
The Work That Reconnects (TWTR)
Macy and Brown 2015.

Active Hope: How to face the mess we’re in without going crazy’
(Macy and Johnstone 2012)
Groupwork processes developed in 1980s by Joanna Macy and colleagues. 
Draws on system theory, Buddhist philosophy and deep ecology, with focus on holistic connection to life. 
Active Hope: drawing on the cycle of TWTR, a book which can be read and practiced individually or in groups. Resources for running the groups are available online via the book website.  
- Johnstone (2002) and Hathaway (2017) conducted a follow up survey to TWTR workshop participants, and Prentice (2003) and Hollis-Walker (2012) reflected on workshops. 
- Majority of participants found experience ‘personally healing’ (Johnstone, 2002), a minority of participants experienced negative impacts alongside this (Johnstone, 2002). 
- Participants deepened connections to self, others and the more than human world.
- Hollis-Walker (2012), Johnstone (2002) and Hathaway (2017) noted the renewed commitment to action.
Inner Transition (I.T.)

I.T. is a core component of the Transition Network, the international network of the Transition movement. It covers a variety of practices offered as stand-alone workshops, or incorporated as part of group culture.- I.T. practices contributed to development of successful projects; encouraged emotional awareness in all activities (Banks, 2012), and developed literacy around ‘parallel processes’ within Transition groups (Prentice, 2012, p. 186). 
- The degree of integration or polarisation between I.T.  and more practical aspects of Transition Initiatives were noted by Ruchetto and Poland in Canada (2015), Power in Australia (2016), and Banks (2012). 
- By applying an approach based on ‘salutogenisis’ (the creation and generation of health and well being), Maschowski et al. (2017) provide insights into the ways in which taking action can be generative of wellbeing.
Carbon Conversations

Conducted through groups of 6-12 people, who meet for facilitated meetings, and work from the Carbon Conversations handbook ‘In Time For Tomorrow?’ (Randall and Brown, 2015). 
The approach ‘addresses the practicalities of carbon reduction while taking account of the complex emotions and social pressures that make this difficult
- Carbon Conversation groups provided structure to support the emotional responses to climate change (Randall, 2009).
Key conclusions following surveys and interviews with participants (Büchs, Hinton and Smith, 2015) were: 
- Sharing experiences helped participants become aware of and reflect on their feelings and inner conflicts. 
- Group dynamics affected participants’ capacity to do this
- Supported participants to take carbon reduction action. 
- Works best for those on cusp of change.
Approaches to Trauma in community

Healing Trauma Research June 2019

The Trauma Resource Institute developed individual Trauma Resilience Model and community resilience models 

One Small Thing is launching the first UK evaluation research into the Healing Trauma Intervention in women’s prisons in England as part of the wider Becoming Trauma Informed Initiative that the charity has been delivering in prisons since 2015.
“The results... suggest that somatic experiencing (SE) /Trauma Resilience Model (TRM) was effective in attenuating the observed emergence of PTSD symptoms and promoted resiliency. Although both groups showed an increase in psychological distress at follow-up, the SE/TRM treatment group reported significantly less severe psychological distress and increased resiliency, relative to the comparison group (whose resiliency scores had reversed at follow-up)." 

In keeping with the findings of evaluations of Healing Trauma in the USA the women in this evaluation reported:
-significant reductions in symptoms of depression, anxiety, psychological distress, PTSD, and trauma-related problems after completing the intervention; that they experienced improved feelings of social connectedness;
- that Healing Trauma had taught them
to cope with a range of stressors.
Mindfulness based Interventions (MBIs)
Different MBIs will combine a variety of approaches to bring together mindfulness and social change contexts – see the Mindfulness and Social Change Network  
Mindfulness training is typically by a trained facilitator and mindfulness practitioner, to groups over the course of 6-8 weeks. 

Mindfulness combined with social change is being offered by a range of mindfulness practitioners, e.g.  Mindfulness and Behaviour Change programmes delivered in UK to behaviour change practitioners (Lilley et al, 2106, Whitehead et al., 2017), and courses offered by members of the Mindfulness and Social Change Network.
A growing field focused on Mindfulness based interventions (MBIs) in social and environmental action and wider society (e.g. Whitehead et al., 2017, Lilley et al., 2016; Barrett et al., 2016; Wamsler, 2018; Bristow, 2019; Mindfulness All-Party Parliamentary Group, 2015). The research suggests that MBIs have the potential to support shifts in behaviour and adaptation in different contexts and scales, encourage a shift in creative and holistic policy making (Bristow, 2019).
Evaluations from Mindfulness and Behaviour Change programmes noted how participants increasingly understood the role of emotions, values and norms in their decision making, and concluded that these approaches “open up interesting opportunities for conceiving more empowering and ethically sensitive approaches to behavioural government” (Whitehead et al., 2017, p. 133; Lilley et al., 2016).
Organisational change
(climate focused) 

Carbon Literacy Project (CLP)

To reach people at scale, inner and outer change needs to happen in all sectors, such as workplaces. 

Initiated in Manchester but used in over 40 organisations across Europe, the Carbon Literacy Project (CLP) offers everyone a day’s worth of Carbon Literacy learning, covering – climate change, carbon footprints, how you can do your bit, and why it’s relevant to you and your audience.’

As of March 2020, CLP had certified over 13,000 ‘Carbon Literate’ individuals in nine nations as a result of participating in their training.
Research evidences how organisational cultures can undermine change-makers and sustainability professionals) (Andrews, 2017), thus need for examples and models of institutional and organisational change which is transformational of both individuals AND organisation.

Internal and external research has been conducted on the CLP (http://www.carbonliteracy.com/research/). 
Reports attested to increased motivation and agency to take action (Richards, 2017) and the range of political engagement (Moore, 2017).  
PhD research (Hamilton, forthcoming) reveals the need for ongoing opportunities to integrate the learnings into their personal and professional lives.
Nature Connection 

E.g. Natural Change Project 

Social Permaculture MacNamara, L. (2012)
e.g. Earth Activist Trainings (EAT)

Cultural Emergence:  
Range of approaches to give experience of connection to nature, as standalone events or courses, incorporated into workshops and events.
Draws on body of work on positive benefits of nature connection for wellbeing, and for resourcing engagement, alongside indigenous wisdom traditions.
E.g. Natural Change Project, offers ‘transformative experiences of nature that help people find their path to live with passion, authenticity and confidence’ for individuals and organisations.
Cultural Emergence and Earth Activist trainings offered online and in person in Herefordshire. Focus on ‘The toolkit is designed to support us to be proactive and facilitate visionary responses to our global crises, starting with our own personal lives’
Many nature connection approaches draw from indigenous wisdom traditions and academic evidence of beneficial aspects of nature connection for wellbeing (Van den Berg, 2017), ecopsychology and deep ecology approaches (Naess, 1973, Andrews, 2017). For example, the ‘Natural Change Project’ drawing on nature connection experiences which contributed to an expansion of worldviews from anthropocentric to an ecological self (Key and Kerr, 2012; Kerr and Key, 2012; WWF, 2011), which in turn provided a deeper motivation for pro-socio-ecological work.

Puig de la Bellacasa (2010) reflected on positive practical and affective outcomes: ‘the affect cultivated in Earth Activist Trainings is not despondency in front of the impossible, but joy in the hope of possibility’ (2010, p. 162). 
The Permaculture Association has an online research digest, which summarises and links to research, both academic and practitioner.
Green Prescribing directoryGreen prescribing includes a range of non-medical interventions aimed at improving physical and mental health through exposure to and interaction with natural environments. These include walks and activities in nature, conservation and horticulture.Some evidence of the positive benefits of green prescribing (Van den Berg, 2017, Bragg and Atkins 2016, NERC, 2014)   but more needed, and overview reports argue for more standardised evaluation tools to build evidence base
Grief tending and Ecological Grief Processes

Grief tending processes draw on a range of indigenous wisdom traditions and offer workshops and processes which incorporates many types of grief (e.g. Weller, 2015) including ecological grief. Some grief processes also incorporated into spiritual approaches. 
The potentially transformative work of grief and mourning with regard to climate change engagement has been discussed with reference to the UK Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory (Cunsolo Willox, 2012), and public grief about lost species, environments and people through memorials who discusses (Windle, 1992). Akin to these practices Skrimshire (2018) reflects on the potentially transformative spiritual acts of confessing and witness through rituals which foster a public awareness, and Miles and Corr (2015) share learnings regarding the value of providing facilitated and held informal spaces to reflect on and develop different relationships to death and dying through the Death café movement.
Creative Climate Engagement approaches   
Cape Farewell,
Tipping Point ,
Community Arts and Climate Change approaches (e.g. Awel Aman Tawe).

The rich range of arts and creative practices can enable development of inner resilience through processes which can enable an exploration of emotions associated with social and ecological issues. Ranges from interventions bringing artists and scientists together, commissioning artistic responses to issues like climate change,  running workshops to enable creative and experiential exploration of social and ecological issues, and calls for poetry and art
Cape Farewell curates a collection of testimonies and research reports offering a range of reflections about art and engagement with climate change, and the reflection it can stimulate (Roosen et al., 2018). Creating and listening to stories in communities can enable greater engagement in complex issues such as energy and climate change (Smith et al., 2017), and Burke, Ockwell, and Whitmarsh (2018) suggest further research into the value of combining participatory creative practices into climate change engagement. This does not negate the potential power of creative interventions such as films, theatre and plays, but acknowledges that these can sometimes be limiting and short lived (Howell, 2011)
Faith and spiritual approachesMost organisations offering group work processes and resources / guidebooks for exploring faith-based response – and associated practices, within local groups, and retreats and gatherings to explore together.Many faith-based and spiritual approaches are embedded within spiritual traditions and movements (e.g. Rothberg and Coder, 2013) which stretch back for millennia. They combine their faith with contemplative practices, rituals, and engaged social action, and an acknowledgement of inter-dependence.
Social Prescribing, e.g. the Social Prescribing Network at the University of WestminsterSocial Prescribing: enabling people with social, emotional or practical needs to find solutions which will improve their health and wellbeing, often using services provided by the voluntary and community sector.

Overview of research resources, stress need for more monitoring and evaluation
‘There is emerging evidence that social prescribing can lead to a range of positive health and well-being outcomes. Studies have pointed to improvements in areas such as quality of life and emotional wellbeing, mental and general wellbeing, and levels of depression and anxiety…However, robust and systematic evidence on the effectiveness of social prescribing is very limited. Many studies are small scale, do not have a control group, focus on progress rather than outcomes, or relate to individual interventions rather than the social prescribing model. (Source: Kings Fund)

Andrews, N., 2017. Psychosocial factors influencing the experience of sustainability professionals, Sustainability Accounting, Management and Policy Journal, Vol. 8 Issue: 4, p.445-469, https://doi.org/10.1108/SAMPJ-09-2015-0080

Banks, S. (2012). Inner Transition survey results. Transition Network. http://www.transitionnetwork.org/resources/inner-transition-survey-results. Accessed 12 June 2016.

Barrett, B., Grabow, M., Middlecamp, C., Mooney, M.,  Checovich, M., Converse, A., Gillespie, B., Yates. J. (2016). Mindful Climate Action: Health and Environmental Co-Benefits from Mindfulness-Based Behavioral Training. Sustainability 8, 1040, doi:10.3390/su8101040 

Bion, W.R., 1961. Experiences in Groups and Other Papers. London: Tavistock.

Bragg, R., and Atkins, G., 2016. A review of nature-based interventions for mental health care. Natural England Commissioned Reports, Number204. 

Bristow, J., 2019. Mindfulness in politics and public policy. Current Opinion in Psychology, 8, pp. 87–91. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.11.003.

Büchs M., Hinton E., Smith G. (2015). ‘It helped me sort of face the end of the world’: The role of emotions for third sector climate change engagement initiatives. Environmental Values 24 (5), 621-640.

Burke, M., Ockwell, D., and Whitmarsh, L., 2018. Participatory arts and affective engagement with climate change: The missing link in achieving climate compatible behaviour change? Global Environmental Change, 49, pp. 95–105.

Cunsolo, A., and Ellis, N. R., (2018). Ecological grief as a mental health response to climate change-related loss. Nature Climate Change Vol 8: 259 p. 275–281. 

Cunsolo Willox, A., 2012. Climate change as the work of mourning. Ethics and the Environment, 17 (2), pp.137-164.

Doppelt, B. (2016). Transformational Resilience: How building human resilience to climate disruption can safeguard society and increase wellbeing. London: Routledge.

Hathaway, M. D., 2017. Activating Hope in the Midst of Crisis: Emotions, Transformative Learning, and “The Work That Reconnects”. Journal of Transformative Education, 15(4), pp. 296–314. https://doi.org/10.1177/1541344616680350.

Head, L. (2016). Hope and grief in the anthropocene. Reconceptualising human nature relations.  London: Routledge.

Henfrey, T. W. 2018. Designing for resilience: permaculture as a transdisciplinary methodology in applied resilience research. Ecology and Society 23(2):33. https://doi.org/10.5751/ES-09916-230233

Henfrey, T., Maschkowski, G., and Penha-Lopes, G., editors (2017. Resilience, community action and societal transformation. East Meon, UK: Permanent Publications.

Herman, J.L., 1992. Trauma and Recovery: The aftermath of violence – from domestic to political terror. USA: Basic Books.

Hoggett, P., and Randall, R. (2016). Sustainable activism: managing hope and despair in social movements. Open Democracy.net. Available from: OpenDemocracy.net/transformation/paul-hoggett-rosemary-randall/sustainable-activism-managing-hope-and-despair-in-socia [accessed 12th June 2018]. 

Hollis-Walker L. (2012). Change Processes in Emotion-Focused Therapy and the Work That Reconnects. Ecopsychology 4.1 25 – 36. 

Howell, R.A., 2011. Lights, camera… action? Altered attitudes and behaviour in response to the climate change film The Age of Stupid. Global Environmental Change, 21(1), pp.177-187.

Johnstone, C. (2002). Reconnecting with our world. In A Chesner and H. Hahn, (Eds), Creative Advances in Groupwork (Chapter 8 pp186 – 216). London: Jessica Kingsley Publishers. 

Key, D. and Kerr, M., 2012. The Ecology of the Unconscious. In: M. Rust and N. Totton, eds., 2012. Vital Signs: Psychological responses to Ecological Crisis. London: Karnac Books. Ch. 5, pp. 63-77.

Kerr, M. and Key, D., 2012. The Natural Change Project. In: M. Rust and N. Totton, eds., 2012. Vital Signs: Psychological responses to Ecological Crisis. London: Karnac Books. Ch.18 p.239-250.

Lilley, R., Whitehead., M., Howell, R., Jones, R., and Pykett, J., 2016. Mindfulness, behaviour change and engagement in environmental policy.  [pdf] Aberystwyth University. Available at: https://pure.aber.ac.uk/portal/files/9157407/Mindfulness_Behaviour_Change_and_Engagement_in_Environmental_Policy.pdf [Accessed 12 April 2018].

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Macy, J., and Johnstone, C. (2012). Active Hope: How to face the mess we’re in without going crazy. Novato, California:New World Library. 

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Evidence base suggestions

Suggestions for additions to the evidence base welcome. Please include as much information as you feel happy to.
  • Please include a brief description, together with a link to where it can be found. Thank you.