• Social Entrepreneur Index

Social Entrepreneur Index Nominee: Innovating Minds


Dr Asha Patel, CEO of Innovating Minds and qualified Clinical Psychologist, talks to us about their early intervention model for delivering specialist psychological support within education and the community and how they are impacting young lives.

Dr Asha Patel, Innovating Minds


What does your social enterprise do?


Innovating Minds, a social enterprise that cares about helping individuals with their emotional and mental health throughout education, training and employment. We are a team of Clinical Psychologists working from an early intervention model, delivering specialist accessible psychological support within education and the community. We have a track-record in connecting students with the help they need, enabling staff to focus on teaching, reducing behavioural incidents and lowering HR spend.


Working together, we create a package of support that transforms the school’s culture around mental health. Our unique approach has been recognised by Ofsted. Through equipping individuals with skills to live with their mental health problems enables engagement in education, training and employment. With our profits, we have created the ‘Healing Together’ programme to provide group support for primary and secondary aged children that have witnessed domestic abuse.


What made you start your business up?


Following my training to become qualified as a Clinical Psychologist, I worked in a medium secure forensic mental health hospital with high profile males and females that were experiencing severe mental health difficulties such as schizophrenia and had committed serious crimes such a murder and sex offences. I was there to provide psychological therapies and support in their journey of rehabilitation. After 2 years, what struck me was that my patients were telling me the same thing - if they had received this type of help when they were younger, maybe things would be different for them now. They all remembered that they were struggling to cope, feeling low in mood and unhappy.


I had reached a point in my position where I had achieved my goals wanted, I had supported my Assistant to progress onto the next stage in her career and I felt stuck. The culture of promotion was also not in my favour; I was the last one in.


So on leap year day in 2016, I handed in my resignation. I took a leap of faith on a leap year day and began my journey as a social entrepreneur. A year prior to this, I had an idea to take specialist psychological support into education. Children and young people are experiencing mental health difficulties and not able to access the support they need from national services. So why can’t they receive the support in school from an early intervention approach so we can prevent young people from experiencing severe mental health difficulties? But I did not have the confidence within myself to set up an enterprise, and I actually sought comfort in having a stable job.


I was asked the question - if you don’t do this who is it going to impact? I could not sit with the uncomfortable feeling that if I did not pursue this venture then children and young people were going to continue to suffer from mental health difficulties and not be able to access psychological therapy. So my journey with Innovating Minds CIC begun.


How do you measure your impact?


We utilise expert help from UnLtd (the leading provider of support to social entrepreneurs in and around the UK) and our partnership with Keele University. I am experienced in conducting doctoral research, therefore, my skills are also used to ensure social accounting processes are robust. The organisations liaise with us and conduct research to identify the key variables to measure outcomes. Each year we review the method we use to measure social impact and ensure that we continue to use valid and reliable tools such as the strengths and difficulties questionnaire and the recovery star.


What help did you have to start your social enterprise?


I personally invested £7,500 after selling my first home. I attended the School of Social Entrepreneurs programme for 1 year. I surrounded myself with others that had successful businesses and learnt from them.


How did you decide on what legal form would work best for your business?


It was important for me that we could still operate as a business, but I wanted to ensure an asset lock was in place to prevent greediness from occurring. Setting up as a social enterprise also surrounded me with like-minded people. So, a CIC limited by shares fitted with my business needs and my values. Having a CIC limited by shares also limits the grants you can apply for. This makes me think about how we can generate an income that is sustainable.


What’s the best thing about being a social entrepreneur?


You get to run a ‘business’ and do good. The more successful you are at running your business, the more people you help.


What has been your biggest challenge when setting up and running your social enterprise?


At the start, it was just me doing everything. From delivery, marketing, finance, sales… the list is endless. It was exhausting. Then you have to transition when more people join the journey. Letting go and redefining my role was a personal challenge.


What advice would you give to aspiring social entrepreneurs?


There is a lot of negativity out there. People told me there is no point in trying. A lot of people also don’t want to help others because they may see you as a threat. Move on and find people that want to help you.


What information sources would you recommend to help someone just starting their social enterprise journey?


Natwest Accelerator programme has been amazing. It has really pushed me to challenge my own mindset. As a result, Innovating Minds has grown substantially. Also, School of Social Entrepreneurs programme is a great foundation to start off on.


What are your plans for the next 2-5 years?


Our plans are to develop a digital platform so more schools can access the services we offer. We will also be the leading providers in early intervention and mental health within education. Our Healing Together programme that supports young witnesses of domestic abuse will also be a national programme.

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