Sunday Assembly and Social Impact Part 2

This afternoon I got a little upset. The wonderful Adam Lee wrote a great article in the Guardian about how atheist groups should do more about helping others and I though, yes, that is a good point. What upset me was this tweet:

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I thought: What? Our mission is to build a world where everyone finds and fulfills their full potential, how could anyone think we aren’t working to to help others. (I also thought ‘Sunday Assembly isn’t an atheist group, but a radically inclusive secular group that contains a lot of atheists, but also a lot of people who are all over the spectrum’).

Then, I realised that even though we are beavering away at this, doing social impact studies, creating partnerships with social sector organisations, producing Theories of Change, trying to work with marginalised people and such, we sometimes don’t actually do a great job of communicating that (FYI: Sunday Assembly still only has two paid staff members and we are busy).

Jack Reynolds, the COO, and I are 100% dedicated to turning this ridiculous, generous and intoxicating outpouring of community energy into a movement that helps as many people as possible as much as possible.

The decline in community across the world has led to an increase in social isolation, contributed to an increase in mental health problems and a decrease in subjective wellbeing. At Sunday Assembly we are working to make sure that our community building organisation fights against these trends at global level in a massively scalable way.

So, here is a small update for you as part of our effort to communicate more. In September last year we completed a 350 person survey of people who had attended the Sunday Assembly and of those who were in our communication channels who had not attended.

We discovered some really great things. Of people who regularly attend Sunday Assembly (they have been more than 5 times).

  • 88% said Sunday Assembly gave them a greater sense of community.
  • 87% said Sunday Assembly made them happier
  • 80% said Sunday Assembly gave them greater life satisfaction

What’s more, on average each person made 3.5 new friends through Sunday Assembly (pretty great news in the battle against social isolation).

Mental Health

Over 20% of people who attend (according to the survey) have some form of mental health issue and what is exciting is they also feel a profound impact from being part of our awesome community.

Our data showed that:

  • 85% said Sunday Assembly has made them happier
  • 77.5% said Sunday Assembly has given them greater life satisfaction
  • 80% said that Sunday Assembly has given them a more positive outlook on life
  • 76.3% said that Sunday Assembly has made them feel more part of a community

Even more promising were the answers to two questions about who folk with mental health problems spoke to about trying circumstances. We asked:

Q1: From time to time, most people discuss important matters with other people. Looking back over the last six months, think of the names of people with whom you discussed matters important to you. How many names are there?

Followed up by:

Q2: Thinking of the names just given, how many of them, if any, did you meet through the Sunday Assembly or activities connected to it?

The data showed that the 80 people with mental health issues had spoken to 682 people about important matters and that they had met 137 of these people through Sunday Assembly. That’s 20% of them! This is massive.

Having positive relationships that allow people to deal with problems is such a key part of helping out with mental health issues, and here we have create 137 of these supportive connections.

Now, before I sign off I should say this isn’t the finished impact report, and neither are these numbers. I dashed this off because one tweet made me feel very frustrated and desperate to share what we are doing.

This initial impact survey is up to Level 2 in Nesta’s Standards of Evidence Framework – ‘You capture data that shows positive change, but you cannot confirm you caused this’ – which is an appropriate level for where we are as an organisation, thank you very much.

Well, that feels a lot better – it’s good to have a rant, isn’t it? That tweet just got me because it is so important to us to make sure that our fantastic organisation has as large a social impact as possible. The embarrassing thing is that on re-reading it, I might have engaged passion before reason:

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It seems that the lovely Mark Hall might in fact be supporting us.  Doh! Well, rather than change the whole blogpost let’s just think of the whole thing as providential and let it show you how seriously we take making a difference. Thanks Mark, for spurring me in action!