Leapers supports the mental health of the self-employed.
We are a community of support; we create tangible things to help anyone working differently; and partner with businesses who want to make modern work more sustainable and supportive.
Employers have a legal and moral responsibility to their employees - but when you’re self-employed, you are responsible for your own workplace wellbeing. Unfortunately, it is often not thought about, not prioritised, or you might not know what to look out for, or how to put positive support in place.
We’re here to create awareness, discussion, prioritisation and adoption of positive behaviours to support your mental health at work when you’re self-employed.
Since 2017, we have:
Our aim this year is to very much accelerate what impact we’re able to have, and how many people we can support, whilst ensuring that our core community continues to be nurtured. We will also be aiming to add advisory support to the project, and look towards creating a commercial model to enable the project to continue, whilst being true to one of our core principles: free to all individuals who need support.
The community within slack has grown considerably - and whilst we have still only had two situations where I’ve had to ask someone to mind their behaviours, I expect with increased numbers, this could may not be the case forever. This means writing of a number of ‘principles’ for which we agree to when we’re a member of the group. This will also be useful for the growing number of ‘local groups’ which are springing up, so we’re able to guide on what it means to be “Leapers”.
There is so much wonderful, smart, open, honest and caring experience within the core community, that if you’re not an active member, you’re not really able to access the most valuable content. We want to open up some of the conversations, themes and insights from the community, and turn them into more portable and accessible content which sits across other channels which might support those who aren’t registered or keen to use slack. This includes techniques like the podcast, where our members stories are represented to others, but could include articles, contents, guides, webcasts, AMA, etc. This may also require us to invest in a writer who can help us package up on our content, and write for other platforms.
To pretend our audience is a single homogenous group is not helpful - we’ve avoided any sort of profiling to date, as it hasn’t really mattered, but in order to have the most impact, we need to start better understanding what ‘groups’ of our community exist - from the “I’m exploring changing how I work” to the experienced career contractors, as their needs differ. We’ll put things in place this year to better understand who our audience are, how we can better serve them, and how we can better connect them. This might include things like a members directory (as has been requested frequently), but will all be ‘opt-in’, so you’re not obliged to share anything more than you want to.
We have a very small audience for our insights currently - and many more would benefit from it, if they knew it existed. Our content isn’t well distributed, so we’ll be working this year on finding ways of better getting our resources to a wider group of people in the most effective ways. This is likely to be via partnerships with other communities and platforms who share our values, or as part of materials which other organisations provide to their members. This may require investing in someone who helps get our message out into the world.
We don’t have many resources which help people on their journey without becoming a member, so we’ll be investing in creating more useful guides and content which focus on specific themes or stages of the journey, for instance, when you’re just starting out. Additionally, we want to get better at signposting to brilliant resources for our members and others, which exist beyond our domain. We don’t want to replicate all of the wonderful stuff which already exists, but we’re not very good at curating useful resources either.
We want to continue with developing prototypes which fill the gaps - tools like Manual of Me and Welcome, although in the past, they’ve been created on a whim, rather than understanding the impact and value of each tool. We’ll look to identify just two or three high impact resources which we can develop that have disproportionate impact on our aims to support the community. These are likely to be around better finding / connecting together our members; better working relationships with clients; and establishing better/habitual behaviours.
We’ll be aiming to build an advisory team of accredited specialists in the field of self-employment, and mental health, who can provide us with rigour and guidance, so our advice is rooted in scientific basis and professional experience. This is especially important when looking at mental health, but also around the topics of working relationships.
We’ll be looking to build a number of key strategic partnerships with organisations who very much share or align with our goals of values, and where there is mutual benefit in working together. For example, we’ll be working with Mind UK to develop content for the self-employed. These partnerships may be commercial in nature - for instance, we might be able to access reduced cost services from a partner, which we can provide to our members, in return for us providing the partner content or time. We will be careful that partnerships align to the principles we will establish (under “Protect the Community”), and we will be transparent over any arrangements in place. This may require us to work with someone who can help us develop effective partnerships.
We’ve identified that a huge impact on self-employment comes from the hiring organisations, and we cannot ignore this - so a large focus of 2020 onwards will be about working with businesses to provide support, advice and insight to organisations to help create better effective experiences for the self-employed and freelancers. We’ll be developing a programme of activities with businesses who support our mission, for example - interviewing organisations with existing positive practises that others can replicate; or hosting workshops on mental health for an organisations’ freelancers. These relationships may be commercial in nature, and may require us to invest a group of people who are well placed to advise, consult and work with organisations.
We don’t want to be only passive, but also actively changing the way in which modern work can be more supportive and more sustainable. We believe there are a number of new models which need developing to better understand, evaluate, support and make sustainable modern work, freelancing, ad-hoc and rapid teams and long-term self-employment. We want to work with either our advisory team or external partners to create new ways of thinking about high performance and supportive self-employment, which can become effective ways of working for the future, along with empirical data. For 2020, we’ll start to explore what this could be, by finding case studies and prototype projects with organisations to gather data.
Currently, the project is and has been funded wholly and personally by Matthew Knight. Whilst our project hard costs beyond time are at the moment relatively low, it is clear that our ambition, impact and sustainability of the project will require some form of effective commercial model. This year we will investigate a number of models for how we can ensure the project the can maintain its integrity and continue supporting our members in a way that aligns to our values. This is not about charging our members for membership, but rather looking towards how we can work with business to subsidise or fund our activity - whilst protecting our community from any undue influence from its sponsors. This may require Leapers incorporating as a business entity, in order to receive and make payments.
We are driven almost entirely by our members - and one of our core principles is transparency. Decisions made, conversations being had, the direction and focus of the community has always very much and will always be in the open. We are always looking for people who want to help commit to and invest in the Leapers project, by offering time, advice, feedback or taking on ownership of certain projects. Join #project-leapers to get involved, or share your thoughts on this plan.