How we got here

Down Memory Lane

Mindapples started as a social project in 2008 to encourage everyone to take better care of their minds. Our initial goal was to crowdsource answers to the question “What’s the five-a-day for your mind?” We created a simple blog and survey page and began asking people what five things they did to look after their minds.

The project evolved organically, first into a series of pop-up events and then a fully-fledged social enterprise. With sponsorship from Courvoisier and a small grant from UntLtd and the Nominet Trust in 2010, we built a website and developed the online campaign into engagement tools and offline installations, taking our large wooden tree sculpture to music festivals, communities and universities.

Now our 5-a-day campaign has harvested over 50,000 mindapples, attracted national press coverage and gathered a lot of wonderful supporters. Mindapples continues to grow as an organisation too, securing ongoing support from great partners and an impressive list of clients.

It wasn’t always this way though. The Mindapples journey started out back in March 2008 with an idle question that I put to my friends Dougald and Anna. I was frustrated at how pathologising the mental health debate seemed to be, particularly in the workplace, and also fearful of the potential damage it can do to people’s self-esteem and civil liberties. After some seemingly unrelated chats with my friend Paul about the original 5-a-day campaign, I found myself saying: “We need the mental health equivalent of 5-a-day.”

And the idea just stuck. So here we are.

Now, since I’m secretly a historian by nature, I’m going to use this page to keep track of the development of the project so that once we’re all rich and famous, you can see how we got here.

Andy Gibson, Head Gardener

Early beginnings, 2008-10

February 2008:
The idea of a “5-a-day for your mind” campaign emerges from conversations about preventative mental health care, the original 5-a-day campaign, and using the web to tackle social issues. I register and, but prefer the former! 🙂 On 29th February 2008, I submit the idea to Social Innovation Camp.

March 2008:
We aren’t selected for Social Innovation Camp. 🙁 But we decide to do it anyway. 🙂
4 results for ‘mindapples’ in Google

April 2008:
Nothing happens…

May 2008:
I pitch it at the first RSA Networks Exchange and meet lots of supportive people offering to help, including Ian Gilmour of OK2B. My friend Tessy Britton suggests I set up a Surveymonkey survey to start things rolling.
The first site is born, using and Surveymonkey.

June 2008:
A few people start talking about us and we rack up our first 100 responses. I have some nice conversations with folks at the Young Foundation and Mental Health Foundation.

July 2008:
We have our first round of media interest, including the Nag, i-Genius and some very random radio coverage.
We do our first Mindapples survey internally for a company, the Mental Health Foundation, thanks to Simon Lawton-Smith.
250 responses! To celebrate, Tessy does an amazing job analysing and categorising them all.

August 2008
Tessy and Very Happy Phil get us a few happiness gurus to take the test. I get overwhelmed with all the fame and take a month off.

September 2008:
The lovely Dr Liz Miller writes nice things about us, and some more happiness gurus come through.
Tessy and I start planning for The Future. A bit more sense of organisation, and Organisation, by now.

October 2008:
We are featured in the RSA Journal and picked up by various people including Maureen Rice at Psychologies Magazine
4000 results for ‘mindapples’ in Google
And we hit 500 responses – way-hay!

November 2008:
We agree a partnership with Psychologies Magazine, although we’re not sure what that means yet. Start looking for funding and planning for becoming a proper company.
Heleana Quartey joins the team to help with PR outreach work and targetting celebs
We get badges. (This is very, very important.)

December 2008:
Launch the Mindapples blogmeme – share your five, and invite five other bloggers to do the same. I start by asking my bloggy friends Euan Semple, JP Rangaswami, David Jennings and Stowe Boyd.
750 responses – yippee!

January 2009: Tessy starts collecting the blogmeme results and publishing them on the blog; there are a lot.
850 responses (bit slow over Christmas).
350,000 results for Mindapples in Google!

February 2009:
The delightful Lauren Currie joins the team and we start making interesting things to explain the concept – presentations, videos, images etc.
Coding marvel Tom Ten Thij builds us a basic prototype site in Ruby on Rails, we start working on a proper site design.
Marcia Brophy at the Young Foundation loves the idea and we start talking about how to work with them.

March 2009:
A short lull to focus on ‘paying the rent’ is followed by a serious drive to hit 1000 responses by Twittering the entire universe.
Tessy and I work out how to explain the project to grownups and start booking meetings with potential funders.
7,000 results for ‘mindapples’ in Google now – how strange?

April 2009:
Can’t remember what we did this month.

May 2009:
Or this month…

June 2009:
Sophie Howarth from the School of Life loves the idea and we start plotting how to sell Mindapples products in their shop.
I get a bit tired again and take some time off to sleep.

July 2009:
Still asleep…

August 2009:
Channel 4 interview me as a “mental health expert”(!) for their study in isolation, Alone in the Wild.
More sleeping, and some reading too…

September 2009:
Channel 4 turn us down for funding :-(, but they’re very nice about it.
Eddy Pinkney at the Student Mental Wealth Project gets in touch about working with us on a student unions campaign.
I meet Tanis Taylor to talk about her book projects (including Change the World for a Fiver) and she joins the Advisory Board.

October 2009:
Neil Flintham joins us as Head of Research and does a full analysis of the first 1000 results.
Kate Andrews joins us on the campaign side and starts working with Eddy on a student unions campaign for early 2010, although it doesn’t really go anywhere.
I chat to Alnoor Ladha about how to turn Mindapples into a wider campaign.
The web team (Tom, Ana Garcia, Sangeet Gyawali and me) push on with the site design and hold our first Mindapples hack day at the School of Everything offices.

November 2009:
I go to South America (oh yes) but the team press on without me, making progress on the site and brand development. Kate, Ana, Sangeet and I tie ourselves up in knots with too many design ideas, and we get a bit stuck for a while.

December 2009:
I come back from South America bursting with ideas and plans for how to make Mindapples BIG, and start writing new pitch documents.
Hege Saebjornsen joins the campaign team and we start plotting how to do a Mindapples art exhibiton and campaign coalition.
The Observer publish a day-in-the-life piece about me and Mindapples gets a nice mention and some more attention.
I have a really good meeting with South London and Maudesley NHS Trust, who really get the idea and want to help us.

January 2010
Cassie Robinson joins us to help with designing our consultancy services and finding funders.
Hege and I start pitching to people and asking for cash for research, pilots and the core site.

February 2010
Neil and I have a big falling out and he leaves. 🙁 Hege and I write lots of funding applications, and I start wading into political meetings to position Mindapples in the big wide world.

March 2010
We secure our first donation from a private donor, which we use to start setting up our basic infrastructure.
We also have our first team away day, and lots of wonderful people commit to helping Mindapples grow.

April 2010
We do lots of business planning and funding application writing, and Hege and I argue a lot about whether we need a vision. I meet Esther King at an RSA Social Entrepreneurs Network event, and somehow persuade her to come and get involved…

Growing the campaign, 2010-12

May 2010
Big month this. on 25 May 2010, Mindapples incorporates as a Company Limited By Guarantee – woohoo! Tessy, Hege and I are the first guarantors, but we agree that the rest of the volunteers, and later the wider community, will be added, hopefully through the One Click Orgs platform.
Unboxed Consulting start building the new website, and Webstars offer us a Facebook app on the cheap, except we don’t have the money yet.

June 2010
UnLtd make a Better Net Level 1 Award of £5000 to Mindapples, to cover the costs of the site. Whew.
Courvoisier partner with us to create the Big Treat, a pop-up urban health farm filled with healthy treats for your mind and body.

July 2010
We launch our new website, thanks to amazing work from Unboxed Consulting, Tom Ten Thij, Ana Garcia and Sangeet Gyawali. Thanks guys!
We also launch the Big Treat and our summer festivals campaign at an exclusive private party at the Future Gallery, 15 July 2010. The Big Treat is a big success, and gets us press coverage in Wellbeing Magazine, View London, Timeout and others.
The Mindapples Tree makes its first appearance at the Big Treat, and then goes on to star in the Secret Garden Party, Camp Bestival, the Big Chill and Playgroup Festival.
We also run our first paid corporate workshops, for BBC Careerlink, and do some stuff with Edexcel too – and we have a lot of very interesting meetings with partners and potential clients.

August 2010
We all take some time off to recover!

September 2010
Lots of follow-ups from the Big Treat lead to some great conversations with the Department of Health and Gregor Henderson at the National Mental Health Development Unit, and a partnership funding bid with Tony Coggins and the South London and Maudesley NHS Foundation Trust.
Hege leaves the core team to focus on her new project, All We Need, and Tessy, Esther and I start planning some serious fundraising and product development work.

October 2010
Lucy Smith at NHS Lambeth hires us to engage local residents at the Brixton Reel Film Festival, and we take the tree there and on to Brixton Village Market and to CityCamp London for World Mental Health Day 2010. The People Speak make us a lovely video of the occasion which proves very popular.
Tom, Andy and Sangeet make some improvements to the new website, including creating our first sub-communities within the overall platform.

November 2010
Building on the success of our Brixton adventures, Tony Coggins at South London and Maudsley NHS Trust partners with us to secure funding from Guys and St Thomas’s Charity to pilot Mindapples’ engagement tools in GP surgeries in Lambeth. We also do various talks and conferences and start having some rather interesting conversations at policy level about our engagement work. We also start the long process of fundraising for our core activities.
Esther takes on an increased role handling our operations and project management, and sorts out our business processes so we can deliver proper contracts.

December 2010
We shut up shop at the end of a pretty epic year for Mindapples. What a very busy year it has been. I disappear to Australia for a while to get drunk and watch the Ashes.

January 2011
Work starts in earnest on our GPs pilot project, with Esther leading the way. We start meeting and briefing the surgeries and are overwhelmed by the positive response from GPs and practice staff. Tony at SLaM negotiates an additional set of funding for us to extend the GPs pilot from four surgeries to seven to meet the extra demand from practices. Dr Stephani Hatch and Prof Andre Tylee at the Institute of Psychiatry, Kings College, agree to work with us on our project evaluation.

February 2011
The Big Society folks promote Mindapples as part of their showcase of new projects. I meet Nat Wei and chat about some interesting ideas on how we want to live and work in the future, and think about ways to host a new conversation about the society of the future. I also meet Marc Lewis at the School for Communications Arts and they agree to rebrand us and come up with a campaign for the summer – although we never manage to make it happen.
Hen Norton joins us as creative producer, running the production side of our GPs project, and recruits Helena and Merlin to do our product design and illustration. We take offices in Somerset House and have our first proper base of operations. Very posh.

March 2011
Mindapples wins two Cabinet Office innovation prizes from the Innovation Hub and the NHS Innovation Centre! We agree a contract with Mind to deliver a set of public engagement events at festivals over the summer as part of the Time to Change campaign. Our partners at South London and Maudsley ask Mindapples to join the Kings Health Partners wellbeing services network, offering a joint public health and mental wellbeing promotion proposition to local authorities. We also agree with Secret Garden Party that we will have our very own Mindapples Tent this year. What a good month that was.
Kat Pesaran joins us as a sales consultant to help get our offer to businesses right, and Ofordi joins us as policy adviser to help navigate the changing political landscape.

April 2011
Mindapples participates in the launch of Action for Happiness and picks up some seriously good media coverage, including featuring in the Guardian and being broadcast live on BBC Breakfast News. Woo! We do our first Mindapples Training session with senior management at British Gas. Double woo! Tom and Unboxed also release some new features on the website and put the Brixton video on the homepage in time for all that media coverage. (Oh come on then, one more woo.)
Jenny Reina rejoins the team (hooray!) to run our festivals campaign for the summer. Amanda and I have some good chats with former Innocent Ted Hunt about how we can get brands involved in Mindapples.

May 2011
Mindapples is featured in the Telegraph, a half page spread in the main paper – our first major national press coverage!
After several months of tricky negotiations with both Mind and Apple, we finally secure in-principle agreements to trademark the Mindapples name. We also hire Ruth Miles, our very first intern! Then she gets a job so we hire our second intern, Ruta Marcinkus. My friend Laura Billings also joins the team to help with fundraising and building our Gardeners Network.

June 2011
We rebrand and get a new logo thanks to the wonderful Laura Yates, and commission all-new engagement materials and five new mindapples trees, designed by Helena Ambrosio. We also do our first Mindapples Training session for British Gas, and Nina Burrowes joins the team to help us design our research programme to prove our social impact.
We are refused NHS ethical approval for our GPs pilot though. We are also finallists in NESTA’s People Powered Health programme, but ultimately lose out to some of the major charities in the UK.

July 2011
We kick off our summer festivals campaign, funded by Mind, with the Larmer Tree festival in Dorset, and then with our first Mindapples Tent at Secret Garden Party! Laura heads to Camp Bestival too. Much fun, cider and massage is had by all. We sell our first mindapples toolkit to West Cornwall Women’s Aid, and also lend a tree to Young Scot in Edinburgh for their summer engagement work.

August 2011
Mindapples increasingly feels like a cross between a band and a travelling circus, with simultaneous appearances at Playgroup Festival and the Big Chill, and our partners Young Scot engaging 500 young people at Belladrum too. Then we chill out at Wilderness Festival and Andy does a couple of big talks in the Forum Tent there. And then we sleep.
We get turned down for the UnLtd Big Venture Challenge because they feel we “haven’t commercialised enough”.

September 2011
We round off our festivals campaign in style by Tower Bridge and City Hall at the Thames Festival, and Nathalie Nahai joins the team to help me develop our Training product, which we deliver successfully to one of the major city banks. We’re turned down again for ethical approval though, this time because there is apparently “no discussion of mental health” in the mindapples 5-a-day process. We also do our first major corporate training session for an unnamed but very famous investment bank….
Over the summer we collect a record 7899 mindapples cards! Most of them end up in Ruta’s flat, who by this time has moved from intern to full-time obsessive volunteer. Thank you Ruta.

October 2011
Busy month this. We have our first major public fundraiser, Feed Your Head, at Cargo in London, take the tree to Future of Web Apps, launch our partnership with SOAS student’s union, and deliver the first paid corporate appearance of the Mindapples Tree, at Roche Products. Nathalie and I also deliver some training for Business in the Community.

November 2011
I go to New Zealand to give a half an hour talk, and the team regroup and start improving our sales and delivery processes to cope with the flow of enquiries we’re starting to get. With wonderful post-modern irony, by now I am seriously burnt out.

December 2011
We do various bits of corporate work, including a Mindapples Tree installation for Centrica. We finish the year by bringing the team together to plan for 2012. 2011 was hard, but the future looks bright for Mindapples…

January 2012
We start the year as we finished it, planning for the year to come, and we engage Nathalie and Nina to help us with developing our research, strategy and products. Tessy leaves the project, and we wish her well.

Growing the business, 2012-2015

February 2012
We announce £120,000 of grant-loan investment from the Maudsley Charity to scale up our services. Hooray!!! We are also contacted by six universities around the UK about Mindapples Trees and toolkits, and we help to launch the new universities mental health and wellbeing day at the University of Warwick. Whilst searching for our incorporation date for a funding application, I find the original email to social Innovation Camp that started it all, and on the 29th of February 2012, we celebrate our fourth birthday. Yes, we are a leapling. 🙂

March 2012
We do our next major piece of work for our investment bank client, and continue to develop our corporate services. Jenny joins us as Head of Marketing and Campaign – yay!

April 2012
I go to see Lord Stevenson to discuss his thoughts on taking Mindapples to the next level of growth, and we also do some work for Pepsico, thanks to an introduction from our friends at Mind.

May 2012
We start talking to JP Morgan about working with one of their technology divisions, and the Mindapples Tree makes an appearance at the Future of Web Design.

June 2012
We discuss working with SAB Miller to promote a culture of mental wellbeing in their UK workforce, and Ruta gets things moving on our 2012 festivals campaign with pop-ups at Lovebox and the Isle of Wight.

July 2012
We do some training work with social investment firm Actis, and also with our partners at Guy’s & St Thomas’s Charity and Mental Health First Aid. Ruta has a very muddy time at Secret Garden Party.

August 2012
There are some Olympics on in London. We run around in the fields at Wilderness Festival and take a bit of time off.

September 2012
We continue to develop our corporate training offer, whilst mindapples trees sprout at Tenacres School and Winchester University.

October 2012
Busy month for us. The Mindapples Tree pops up outside Southwark Cathedral for World Mental Health Day, and then at the Royal College of Psychiatrists annual conference. I also speak at a Happiness conference in Dartington Hall with Action for Happiness, where I meet David Gold and he offers to help make Mindapples grow…

November 2012
We start working with Bupa, supporting their sales team, meet with the Institute of Psychiatry and Paul Farmer at Mind to discuss partnership projects, and attend a student mental health conference in Oxford where Student Minds was beginning to emerge.

December 2012
We start working with JP Morgan, supporting their Rates Technology team to work smarter, and apply to Comic Relief’s innovation grant to build an app to support young people’s mental health. We also have a nice Christmas Party.

This is the year we developed the Mindapples toolkits and started working more with partners to support young people’s mental health. Our biggest project was a partnership with the youth volunteering charity VInspired, who we worked with to train up 100 young volunteers to promote mental wellbeing in their communities. We were also one of the founding partners for University Mental Health and Wellbeing Day, putting the spotlight on student mental health, which is still going strong today.

Our commercial work was really taking off now too, with clients like L’Oreal, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley.

The big story this year was the launch of our app Moodbug, funded by Comic Relief and the Nominet Trust. The app helped young people share their moods with friends and offer support to people who were feeling low. It was based on our mood management materials and was very popular – though like so many funded innovation projects, the funders weren’t willing to support it beyond the pilot stage.

We didn’t stop there though. This is also the year we conducted the first independent trials of our training programmes. The University of York published two reports into our work, one with students at London South Bank University, and the other with mental health service users via NSUN. Both reports found that our training was safe, effective and created significant increases in the wellbeing and resilience of participants, even months after the programmes had finished. Thanks to Guy’s Charity and Comic Relief for funding these evaluations.

We also continued our commercial client work, adding clients like News UK, LexisNexus, the Corporation of London and the Wellcome Trust to our roster and continuing to pioneer new approaches to workplace wellbeing.

This year began in style with the launch of A Mind for Business, our first book, with content drawn directly from our training programmes. The book was WH Smith’s Business Book of the Month and went on to win Gold at the Management Book of the Year Awards. Eloise Cook and Pearson published it, and hat tip to Rebecca Alexander of Psychologies Magazine for introducing us to them the previous year.

We went on to win new clients like Tesco, Lend Lease and Accenture on the back of this success, and launched the book with our friends at the RSA, and again at LexisNexus (hey, it was so good we launched it twice). We also worked with Mental Health First Aid to help them improve their wellbeing materials, and began discussions with London Youth which led to a project to train up their youth workers to use Mindapples tools to support their young people, funded by the Big Lottery’s Awards for All scheme.

(You can read more about all these projects and achievements on our Projects page.)

Going mainstream...

At this point we took stock, looking back over a successful few years. I declared victory, noting that most of the key messages Mindapples had been promoting since 2008 were now mainstream within public health. Here’s the blog post I wrote about it at the time.

Since then, Mindapples has gone on to develop more training products, build apps and e-learning, work with dozens of major employers, publish two books and help thousands of people look after their minds. We also established Mindapples as a full UK charity in 2017, enabling us to target more resources towards helping young people, frontline workers and vulnerable groups.

Take a look at our ten-year anniversary round-ups to see how far we’ve come:

Healthy minds, healthy business: 10 years of Mindapples at work
(PDF, 3MB)

Healthy minds, healthy communities: 10 years of the Mindapples campaign
(PDF, 3MB)

We aren’t done yet, and our organisational story continues. The world is very different than it was in 2008, and the conversation about mental health and wellbeing is much more advanced – but it is striking how much the simple messages of our initial campaign still resonate today.

Look after your mind, because it is the only place you have to live. We’ll keep helping people do that, and thanks to everyone mentioned here, and everyone who isn’t, for all your support on this crazy journey. We won’t stop until we’ve made looking after our minds as natural as brushing our teeth.

Lots of love,
Andy Gibson, Head Gardener