George Family Foundation Launches Catalyst Initiative to Introduce Mind-Body Practices to a Variety of Communities and Groups


 The health of Minnesotans is about to get another boost from the George Family Foundation’s newest program, the Catalyst Initiative.

Catalyst Initiative of the George Family Foundation

The $3 million, 3-year program is designed to tap into the innate healing capabilities of individuals and communities by funding mind-body practices that are culturally meaningful to a variety of communities and groups.   

Established by Bill and Penny George in 1994, the George Family Foundation is a $70 million family foundation based in Minnesota. The Foundation has provided leadership in the integrative health and healing movement, working to transform healthcare delivery and community wellbeing across the continuum from institutions to the grassroots level.  

Board Chair Penny George has long been a philanthropic leader in integrative health and healing. By co-founding the Penny George Institute for Health and Healing at Allina Health in 2003, George has helped build a national model for integrative medicine – within the health care system. But she realized she had to go one step further to truly transform the concept of health and healing within the broader society.

“Catalyst is grounded in our firm belief in the power of the human spirit and in the individual’s innate wisdom about his or her own health,” George says.

Through convenings and small seed grants, Catalyst is helping groups, such as the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center (MIWRC), experience their capacity to support health and wellbeing using mind-body approaches that are culturally meaningful.

An early grant has supported training in mind-body practices for MIWRC staff, including certification of two key staff members in a two-year mind-body training program through the Center for Mind-Body Medicine in Washington, D.C.

A complete list of the first 12 grants is enclosed; representative grantees range from women veterans to resettlement resources for Somalis, and grant amounts range from $15,000 to $25,000. All told, $262,500 has been committed in this initial grantmaking round.

According to Suzanne Koepplinger, director of the Catalyst Initiative, the key ingredient is listening carefully to, and then working with, respected leaders from within their communities to combine today’s mind-body practices with traditional healing. Koepplinger notes that Catalyst also has recently begun working with Curanderas from the Latino community, and with Imams from the Somali community.

“We aren’t about telling anyone what they need – we are all about listening to what they need, and helping them get there – often through only small seed grants or convenings,” Koepplinger says.

Grants awarded in this initial round include:

$25,000 to Altair, the Accountable Care Organization sponsored by Lutheran Social Services, to build the capacity of organizations that serve the long-term disabled, and to enhance mind/body/spirit healing practices for caregivers and clients. These caregivers provide a meaningful introduction to integrative self-care practices for the long-term disabled population.

$25,000 to Centro Tyrone Guzman, to support their Train the Trainer model to build traditional healing practices, leadership and a network of healers in the South Minneapolis Latino community. These new community change agents will shift the social norm to embrace relevant self-care practices, while newly enhanced networks will foster expanded integrative health practices in the community.

$25,000 to the Hennepin Health Foundation, to conduct evaluation on the Resilience Training Program by Dr. Henry Emmons with the Whittier Clinic and NorthPoint clinical staff. Dr. Emmons is a psychiatrist who integrates mind-body practices and insight into his clinical work, and is a consultant for other medical professionals.

$25,000 to Kwanzaa’s Northside Women’s Space, to support community leaders in their “Creating, Incorporating, and Expanding Integrative Health Practices” project, and for the planning and visioning for a Northside Healing Center.

$25,000 to the Community Health Workers Alliance, which builds leadership and mental health intervention skills based upon the mind-body medicine model for community health workers. This grassroots change agent is revising statewide curriculum to include more integrative self-care practices.

$20,000 to the Minnesota Humanities Center and Women Veterans Initiative, to support their Train the Trainer project to build capacity among Minnesota’s women veterans for mind/body/spirit healing and community outreach. Female veterans experience integrative self-care methods to help them heal from trauma.

$22,500 to Open Path Resources and the Islamic Civic Society of America, to develop messaging and toolkits for Islamic mind-body medicine to be disseminated in Somali mosques. These organizations support community engagement, training and faith leadership.

$20,000 to the Southeastern Minnesota Area Agency on Aging, to expand the Chronic Disease Self-Management Program, increase clinical referrals and build local capacity to lead CDSMP support groups, particularly among rural men. New networks of support for integrative self-care are emerging and flourishing in rural Minnesota.

$20,000 to Voices of East African Women, to support Somali women healers teaching traditional healing practices, and to build capacity for women leaders to shape messaging around wellbeing and self-care among Somali women and children.

$15,000 to the Minneapolis chapter of MAD DADS, for the training of core leadership in mind-body medicine training, and for supporting community engagement in integrative self-care practices, as preparation for a sexual health intervention with college student outreach.

$15,000 to the Rochester Healthy Community Partnership and Somali Resettlement Services, to support piloting a digital storytelling project featuring Mexican and Somali voices sharing success stories of using integrative self-care to manage diabetes.

$25,000 to the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, to support building out mind-body medicine (MBM) in Indian Country work, host Native gatherings on mind body healing, and support two elders’ training in MBM community outreach. American Indian elders and spiritual teachers are working to incorporate meaningful mind/body/spirit healing practices to promote enhanced wellbeing and healing from historical trauma.