At Mental Health Collective we have been blessed with support from an incredible range of people. Achieving our mission as a new not-for-profit is a challenging (if wonderful!) business, and for me, it sometimes feels like climbing a mountain. We’ve been incredibly fortunate so far. At those moments when the climb has taken its toll and my knees have started to give way, one of our fellow travellers has turned up with some metaphorical mint cake and a flask of tea, giving me the encouragement and resolve I need to walk the next mile.
Recently though, we’ve been given some support that is truly transformative. It hasn’t been about helping me take the next step; or helping us navigate a patch of tricky ground: It’s been the not-for-profit equivalent of building a cable car that will allow us to travel with ease across the steepest and most treacherous section of our mountain – not just once but lots of times in the future.
OpenCredo, a technology consultancy specialising in cloud native architecture and data engineering, have generously been giving their time pro-bono to build an online platform for our Kindness-by-Post project. This project enables members of the public to send a homemade card with a message of goodwill to someone they don’t know, and have someone allocated to send a card to them. We were fortunate to be in touch with OpenCredo about the project just as they’d made a decision to increase their charitable contributions as a company – an incredible stroke of luck.
We piloted Kindness-by-Post in February this year through the #GreatBritishValentine, and were completely overwhelmed by the response. Over 1000 people signed up, with participants from every county in England and two-thirds of the counties in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Extraordinarily gorgeous cards criss-crossed the country with blessings, affirmations, suggestions for songs and favourite books, and just simple messages of good wishes and positivity. Tea bags and coffee sachets were sent through the post, so that the recipient could have a nice brew. Beautiful, poignant, heart-felt letters, with words crafted for someone to hold onto when life is at its bleakest. Funny, silly, cheesy cards, with puns and dancing pineapples. A handful of confetti, each piece inscribed with love and affirmations. A card with all the different meanings of love from ancient Greece. A card ordered from an online greetings card company by someone who is too unwell to get to the post-box.
It was incredibly moving and beautiful – but also absolutely exhausting from an organiser’s point of view! We had organised it using free tools from the internet, a mail merge and a few favours from friends – a very rudimentary system which required an enormous amount of elbow grease to prevent it from falling over. There is no way we could have coped with higher numbers of participants (although research was suggesting that demand was high). The labour involved wasn’t sustainable. If we carried on this metaphorical mountain path, we’d soon be reaching for the emergency whisky and a lick from a Saint Bernard.
We needed a proper system and, to my enormous delight, OpenCredo pledged to help us build it.
The online platform that OpenCredo are building for Kindness-by-Post will lift huge chunks of the organisational burden. With a robust system for organising and managing the data, it will help us to match participants and keep things organised, designing away some of the most labour-intensive organisational tasks and giving us a reliable system for Kindness-by-Post that we can use again and again. All being well, the online platform should give us the capacity to welcome participants to Kindness-by-Post at significant scale without finding ourselves overwhelmed, and use this technology whenever we want to run a new exchange. We’ve been working with their fabulous team over the summer and are aiming to take the new system for a test run in October.
Achieving our mission is a long journey and there will doubtless be lots of challenges to come. But it’s been incredible to realise that we don’t have to take every step on our own.
When you’re facing what seems like an impossible climb, it’s just possible that someone might build you a cable car.
#techforgood #kindnessbypost #mentalhealth