The Catalyst Initiative's Seed Grantee Convening


Catalyst Initiative of the George Family Foundation Seed Grantee Convening - February 23, 2016

On February 23, 2016, the Catalyst Initiative hosted its first convening of all seed grantees from 2015. This was a chance for our community partners to share lessons learned and begin to explore how their networks can be enhanced and communities of practice built. Each organization was invited to bring up to four representatives. We invited each group to share a 5 minute presentation on their project and lessons learned to date. The stories were compelling, inspiring and creative examples of the innate power to heal that resides in each of us. A brief summary of each presentation is offered here:

 1. Toni Gillen – Living Well/Altair

They are providing social, physical, and emotional wellness kits to the disability community through Altair. Using mind/body wellness techniques such as relaxing by wrapping in warm blankets, drumming, tactile experiences and the use of one-on-one time. Very positive results!

2. Lori Christiansen – SE Area Agency on Aging: MN Partnership for Community-Based Health – WellConnect.

This extensive SE MN collaborative is linking health systems & chronic disease self-management programs (CDSMP), an evidence based model. Focus is on weekly action plans and group-problem solving for those struggling with chronic conditions. Working to become a hub to connect other programs and engage health systems and community providers.

3. Patricia Harmon – CornerHouse

They provide home visits, social support and advocacy for youth, training on forensic interviewing for traumatized children and teens. Key staff are now trained by the Center for Mind Body Medicine (CMBM). They are integrating mind body practices throughout the organization and client services, providing tools to empower people to do their own healing. 

4. Autumn Brown – Reclaim!

They provide mental healthcare services for LGBTQ youth, particularly trans and gender nonconforming youth. Focus is on the impact of systemic and historical oppression. “Healing the Healers” explores what support the organization needs to have a transformational internal culture to support radical wellness and self-care.

5. Patricia McArdle – Catholic Charities of St. Paul & Minneapolis

Ten staff were trained at CMBM fundamental training, with five of these going on to advanced training. Some surprise at the need for direct service staff to do some healing as well. They created a personal care space, acknowledging the impact of trauma on staff – incorporated tools and techniques learned in trainings.

6. VJ Smith – Mad Dads

Focused on Healing from Trauma gatherings through Intentional Social Interaction (ISI) training with Marnita’s Table and how it can impact their street outreach and youth work. Developing a range of mind body spirit healing including the role of food as medicine for staff and community.

7. Michele Schramm– Women Veterans Initiative

WVI conducts outreach and advocacy for women veterans, focusing on integrative healing. Two staff attending the CMBM training in addition to weekly MBM trainings and a retreat for women veterans to connect, relax and create community. Board is all women veterans serving women veterans – an all-volunteer organization.

8. Ellen Cleary – YWCA of Minneapolis

The organization does outreach & community engagement around improving health outcomes, racial equity & justice. Project with Mind Body Solutions is creating welcome, inclusive spaces in the organization, building capacity around how to do this through multiple team strategies.  

9. Abdi Ali – Consultant for Headway Emotional Services

Working to address stigma of mental health needs in the Somali and East African community. Two trained at CMBM training. This community has a history of limited access to healthcare, but now can also incorporate techniques of culturally relevant self-care into personal wellness.

10. Eva Wood, Anti-violence Program Director – Outfront

This project focused on the need for self-care training for service providers in LGBTQ community. Created “Friday Floortime” – an opportunity to connect with one another. It is easy to “talk-the-talk,” but MBM training provided tools of accountability for practicing and living self-care.

11. Mary Auger & Becky Schueller – Evergreen Youth & Family Services

This rural homeless youth service provider works in an area with highest poverty rates in MN. Seed grant supported two events to promote personal and professional wellbeing and healing from trauma. They are fighting the stigma around seeking services and low availability of care.  

12. Anne Ganey – Community Health Worker Alliance (CHWA)

Community health workers (CHW) are an emerging workforce being recognized by the state that go beyond clinics and the institutionalized system. They are integrating mind body strategies throughout the CHW certification program and curriculum, and providing MBM workshops and leadership development opportunities for CHWs working.  

13. Imam Sharif Mohammed, Nasra Noor, Michael Van Keulen – Open Path Resources

Working with the Islamic Society of America and CMBM faculty to create a toolkit on mind body wellness & the science behind it that is grounded in Islam. Also creating a Somali women’s leadership program around mind body practices and an awareness video for Somali television.

14. Patina Park & Linda Eaglespeaker – MN Indian Women’s Resource Center

Two Elders are now fully certified from CMBM and building out MBM in Indian Country. Now focused to address historic trauma. The seed grant was used to leverage more funding from other sources in order to expand the work regionally across Minnesota and South Dakota. New partnerships with tribes and urban Indian communities developing.

15. Selma Sroka, Kim Hart representing Centro Tyrone Guzman

The seed grant is growing a community of traditional healers in South Minneapolis, using traditional Latino healing known as curanderismo and other indigenous teaching. Their goal is to empower people with tools for self healing and care. They are intentionally building a network and have leveraged the seed grant for additional resources to expand outreach.

16. Selma Sroka representing Hennepin Health

This was a Resiliency Training project with Dr. Henry Emmons at Whittier Clinic that included a team from Northpoint. HCMC is now allocating resources for MBSR and MBM trainings in the HCMC system to address staff burn out. A full evaluation will be done by the Center for Spirituality and Healing.  

17. Marcelo Hanza – Rochester Healthy Community Partnership (RHCP)

Project uses community-based participatory research to address health disparities related to marginalized communities. They are using real life stories to help inspire others to manage diabetes. Based on additional research that demonstrated storytelling was as effective as taking medication. Pilot tested 8 stories – next step is to do randomized clinical trial to prove efficacy, then expand throughout the state and possibly country.

Following the reports, we broke for two high energy experiential sessions – first with Dr. Joi Lewis and then Samba Fall with healing African Drums. A nutritious and delicious lunch was served and people broke into groups to start mapping their networks.

 We then moved into a mapping exercise to explore networks. Here is what we heard:

Learned a lot through this process – our organizations are very different but we also found a lot of common ground – both experiencing staffing crises”.

Began with just two people, but once connected a huge discussion opened up. Different ideas but a common goal. Something started – the main thing is that we connected, so we can continue this project (in collaboration)”.

How do we sustain the manageability (of our network)? If one or two people hold this work together, how do we decentralize leadership?”

“Found out we need to connect to our Somali brothers”.

 We closed with Circle Share-in, here are some of the thoughts people shared with us:


  • Amazing that we could share this relaxing, invigorating experience. Learned that I need to take breaks from my phone during the day.
  • Great to see so many committed to holistic healing and wellness, and I think self-care is at the heart of this.
  • I’m blown away with the creativity, integrity, vision & commitment in this room to the healing work that you’re all engaged in.
  • I’m grateful for this program. Every time I come to a workshop I learn new techniques that I can take away. I have two people I’m connecting with when I leave here – grateful for that.
  • I love the idea of bringing everybody together – as a physician, I am interested in thinking more and more about how to support systems of self-care. Excited about the possibility for networks to interact and collaborate with doctors and systems to support health.
  • Something about self-care in community is really, really powerful and that’s what I feel like everything was really about today. It really fed me, thankful to be part of this community.
  • My take-away is the breath work and the back-to-back exercise, feeling the warmth and the breath. Connected with 2 or 3 people here today. I plan to continue my practice of being able to say “no” gently.
  • Brings me so much hope when we come together. I hear the passion, the love, the frustrations and the joy in the work. I loved everything, but I have to say I loved the drumming, the music, all of us standing together in that timeless rhythm – feeling the rhythm of life.
  • Yes, it’s always such a joy to get to be in a community of people who are doing such good work – and also a community of healers. Self-care IS community care.


Follow this link for a 3 minute video of the day


“Now What” for Catalyst - continue to act as a network connector and intentionally expand the circle of communities. Explore how this emergent “community of practice” can become resilient and self-sustaining.


Seed Grantee Organizations who could not join us:

Casa de Esperanza                                                                 Pillsbury United Communities

Sacred Spirits First Nations Coalition                                      Voices of East African Women

Kwanzaa Northside Women’s Space