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  • Grainne O'Dwyer

One year of the Essential Mix

I can hardly believe that a year of our Essential Mix project has gone by (Happy Birthday EM! 🎂🥳). Time has passed at lightning speed, and yet so much has happened over the last year…


This country has had 3 Prime Ministers, the death of one monarch and instatement of another, a war on the European continent and the onset of the Cost of Living crisis. 2022 has been a turbulent and challenging year for all of us. Launching a project like the Essential Mix in such a volatile context was an intimidating and uncertain task - would people be thinking/caring about social connection at times like this? But we were blown away by the response that the work has received - the universal appreciation for promoting more micro-interactions in communities and the important role that essential workers play in these interactions. The widespread need to make everyone’s day that little bit lighter and brighter with a hello, a good morning, a how’s your day. Something we need in 2022, more than ever perhaps.


If you asked me a year ago what success would look like in the Essential Mix, I could not have imagined that we would achieve what we have today: Partnering with local Governments and big names like Tesco and Transport for London to develop large-scale behaviour change trials with widespread reach into communities. Together we made small shifts to contexts that can have a long-term positive impact.


Now, I always said that I would never be a parent that harped on about how brilliant their baby is, but the Essential Mix has done a lot in her first year (she’s very advanced), so I’m going to break that rule. Here’s a snapshot of what EM has achieved in her first twelve months…

None of these successes would have been possible without the hard work and dedication of our brilliant Essential Mix team - Emma, Tanya, Iain, Marnie and Harry, thank you for all that you’ve done and continue to do to make this project what it is. To the rest of the NeighbourlyLab team for chipping in as/when needed and keeping the ship moving on other projects when EM has demanded our time - you rock.


The unsung hero of this project is our academic partner Gillian Sandstrom, Senior Lecturer in the Psychology of Kindness at the University of Sussex. Who not only practises what she preaches, as one of the kindest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of working with, but is also a brilliant mind that helps us to design and evaluate our trials. Thank you, Gillian. We couldn’t do it without you.


Thanks also to our partners in this work - Hammersmith and Fulham Council’s Law Enforcement Team, Transport for London, RATP Dev, Metroline, Abellio, Tesco Maryhill, Tesco Port Glasgow, G15 Youth Club, Drumchapel High and many more. Your openness to trialling something new and desire to make a positive change in the communities that you serve has been an invaluable asset to the Essential Mix and a key ingredient to its success.


The biggest thanks of all goes to the Essential Workers who have been so willing to work with us and try new things to encourage more positive interaction. We hope you feel more seen and appreciated as a result of this work.


Last, but certainly not least, thanks to The National Lottery Community Fund, and their Bringing People Together Grant for believing in this innovative idea and giving us the opportunity to bring it to life. We are eternally grateful.


As we look ahead to the rest of the Essential Mix project, we are excited for what is to come - completing our trials, evaluating the impact and working to disseminate the learnings and grow the work across the nation so that further social connection can be promoted in other communities.


If you’d be interested in learning more about what we’ve been doing and if there might be an opportunity to work together, please get in touch - grainne@neighbourlylab.com .



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