Scattergood Foundation

Advancing Innovative Strategies for Change in Behavioral Health

Wellness Wordworks

Name of Innovative Program: 
Poetry for Personal Power
Sponsoring Organization
Wellness Wordworks
Name of Innovative Program Lead: 
Corinna West
E-mail Address of Innovative Program Lead: 
Corinna@PoetryforPersonalPower.com
Project Description: 
 Poetry for Personal Power (http://poetryforpersonalpower.com/) is a social inclusion or stigma reduction campaign using hip-hop, spoken word poetry, and job development for young artists. Our key messages are that 
  1. everyone goes through adversity
  2. the best way through is to talk to someone who's been through it before
  3. to f ind what gives you personal power.
Many stigma reduction campaigns face a Catch-22, because it's hard for people to learn more accurate information when programs focused on “Mental Health” are avoided and shunned by “cool kids,” or people concerned about their social standing. Our theme of overcoming adversity breaks through this fear since everyone has struggled, but now we can use it as material for our art while learning grant writing, networking and event documentation skills. Our poets then can share nationwide by increasing their clout and funding leveraging skills in the new internet based economy.
Creativity and Innovation: 
 Poetry for Personal Power shares how adversity is universal. Many of our artists speak enthusiastically about sharing their stories, poems, and songs via (https://www.youtube.com/user/poetrypersonalpower) our You-Tube channel, Facebook and our project’s website. They told us how helpful it was to see talent of other students, share their struggles, and talk about how they overcame their darkest moments in an open and safe setting.  Some students said the most suprising part of our events was how many other students had overcome so many similar difficulties. They no longer felt alone in their struggles. Many students spontaneously said they would be more tolerant, reach out, support others, and sign on to our Listening Challenge. Our key innovations are to use the language of struggle rather than illness, and then to develop and fund students' organizational and entrepreneurial skills so that our program is self-replicating and nationally expandable. 
Leadership: 
We developed a passionate and loyal engagement from young African-American people, two communities that don't often interact voluntarily with mental health programs. We did this with respect for culturally relevant and extremely powerful art forms like hip hop and spoken word poetry. We share a need to speak out against oppression and injustice. We speak #realtalk  and #truth about mental health. We have moved "Wellness Wordworks" (http://wellnesswordworks.com/social-inclusion/) beyond stigma reduction into true social inclusion by showing how powerful, human and common it is to build resilience in the face of adversity. We are creating social norming messages that people can be OK on the other side of challenges. Fully 46%, or 118 of 254 evaluations our second year included unsolicited positive comments about our main program idea. We are moving towards national expansion by developing our artists' careers and skills with powerful messaging tools to build one of a kind social inclusion campaigns.
Sustainability: 
We are creating a self-funding, sustainable virtuous cycle by developing artists' skills in the new interactive online economy as they share our messages. We have created a platform that will be funded by ongoing social messaging projects provided by our team of youth "Social Entrepreneurs" (http://www.madinamerica.com/2012/04/why-we-need-mental-health-social-ent...) mental health social entrepreneurs. This allows our artists to tell stories of recovery that are accessible to a whole new audience, while minimizing the need for centralized coordination. Our national expansion plan is very close to becoming automated via online form submission, group based social media marketing, and challenges for making events with the most impact. One of our goals is to spread the idea nationwide that "Emotional distress is temporary" (http://wellnesswordworks.com/emotional-distress-is-temporary) . Emotional distress can be temporary and transformative if people have the right information and tools. This is possible by tapping into the energy and creativity of our most thoughtful and inspirational young rappers and poets.
Replicability: 
Poetry for Personal Power works so well because the concepts are based on one very short and simple sentence:“Everyone overcomes adversity, and the best way through it is to talk to someone who's done it, and find what gives you personal power.” Our theme of adversity gives our program a universal appeal that also includes a significant mental health aspect. We have included national replication into our program design by creating a highly accessible resource kit for marketing, branding, funding leveraging, and sharing of our overall project concept. We are developing (https://www.facebook.com/PoetryforPersonalPower/photos_stream) a strong network of advocates that have often been previously disconnected with anything related to mental health, social inclusion, or even the job market in general, with the highest unemployment rates of many social segments. Giving these youth access and skills to build their own jobs is a powerful way to share their stories and contagious enthusiasm.
Results/Outcomes: 
We measure project effectiveness using both qualitative and quantitative means. We averaged 46 people per event our first year and 55 per event our second. Last year 93.2% of our program participants said that they agreed or strongly agreed to the statement, "I understand more about how to take care of my mental health".  Also 95.5% said they, “feel more able to connect to and impact my friends who might be having difficulties.” Ratings were also collected for the:
  •  overall show quality (3.58 out of 4.0 average),
  • the feature poet performance,
  • the MC comments,
  • the open mic entrants,
  • the event tempo,
  • the references to further information (3.55 out of 4.0),
  • the overall usefulness of the event (3.69 out of 4.0).
 We fully understand the importance of honest effectiveness surveys, and this is why we have an academic manuscript in preparation for the Psychiatric Rehabilitation Journal.
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