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Carolyn Barber


The first Strong Minds Programme for social entrepreneurs started in January 2015 for people recovering from serious health problems. Students completing the programme presented their enterprise ideas in March to an invited audience at the Queens Hotel in Southsea, Portsmouth.

Funded by the European Social Fund Community Grants South East England 2014 – 2015, the Strong Minds programme recruited 8 individuals recovering from mental or physical ill-health who were interested in developing an idea they had for a social enterprise.

Delivered by Carolyn Barber and Lynda Panter from The Good Mental Health Cooperative, the course focused on the business skills needed to build up their enterprise ideas, and also explored issues around good mental health and well-being and how to take care of yourself and prepare for self-employment.

All the students had experienced long term unemployment, and as a result of the programme moved on either to work or volunteering opportunities, or some kind of further training.

The students presented enterprise ideas ranging from using triakkes to help children with special needs, to Tai Chi classes in hospitals, to delivering photography workshops to help people recovering from addictions. The thirteen day course included action learning sets, visiting speakers (all social entrepreneurs themselves), and a very practical hands-on approach to developing both a business plan and a personal well-being plan to sit alongside each other.

One of the students, Galadriel Phoenix, said “I would never have believed a year ago, that I’d be standing here today in front of an audience, talking about my idea for a motorised car club in Southsea.”

Sue Dovey, Chief Executive of Action Hampshire and the Hampshire School for Social Entrepreneurs, handed out the certificates to all the students after their presentations, and a lively networking session took place afterwards. Photographs were taken by Elliot Cranston, pictured below receiving his certificate for completing the course.

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Following this successful pilot programme, the Good Mental Health Cooperative is currently seeking other sources of funding to run the programme again. Other projects run by the Good Mental Health Cooperative include the Human Library, the Hampshire Festival of the Mind, and Mental Wealth Trialogues. Find out more here:

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