We first met MAC-UK founder, Clinical Psychologist, Dr. Charlie Howard in 2011. She instantly stood out. An exceptional social entrepreneur with a vision to revolutionise the way mental health support is being delivered…
We had a chat with Charlie to catch up on the last few years and find out how they’re doing now…
Forward Foundation: When you set out, you wanted to use a youth-led approach to make mental health accessible to excluded young people. Was there a specific time or a ‘eureka’ moment that you can remember that sparked your approach?
Dr. Charlie Howard: We developed our model from the ground up by working with young people, and the whole inspiration for what we do has come from a whole load of eureka moments that have come through conversations with young people and working with young people themselves. They’ve been the inspiration.
I never set out to set up an organisation but it happened because of the young people I met and the need that I saw and the ideas that they generated in me to make things better. It’s young people that have sparked all the eureka moments and continue to do so.
FF: What’s been the most significant change since we first met you in 2011?
CH: When we met you in 2011 we had eight staff, now we’ve got over 30.
The most significant change for me personally happened in May this year when I stopped being the chief executive, and I’m now the founding director. I still have a role with MAC UK, but I’m also working with things on the agenda of transforming mental health services, trying to open the door higher up at a strategic level to make way for MAC UK’s work and approaches.
MAC UK is now run day to day by the COO and the head of finance. That’s a significant organisational shift and one that I’m really proud of; the organisation is now sustaining itself without me on a day-to-day basis.
FF: Was there a moment where you thought ‘We’ve done it’? Are you content with where you and MAC-UK are at?
CH: So far, MAC UK has achieved everything that it wanted to achieve. That’s not to say we haven’t made mistakes, but they’ve enriched our learning. I guess our biggest ambition was to set up four projects, and to do it in absolute genuine partnership with the NHS and local councils in four areas (of London). This was massively ambitious, and we’ve achieved it; the fourth and final project starts in November.
The three that are running are going well, and are starting to get statistical research findings coming out of them which say that we’re not only meeting high-level unmet needs, but by using the ‘Integrate’ model that we created, we’re reducing that need by 30% in terms of mental health.
FF: In what way has Forward Foundation’s most recent grant affected MAC-UK?
CH: Forward Foundation’s most recent grant has funded us to do two things. One was to put in place an IT system that was fit for purpose, and it has honestly transformed the organisation. We used to have clinicians spending hours trying to fix computers and we were falling over ourselves because we didn’t have a centralised system.
The other part of the grant was to employ a start up director, because we’re founding a youth-led training school, learning from MAC UK and its partners to scale by training people across the country in the integrate approach that we’ve created.. The idea is that the training school would generate revenue and become the tool to self-sustain everything.
FF: If you were carrying out another interview with me in one year’s time, what would you be hoping to say?
CH: I’d be hoping to say that the academy is up and running, and that it’s co-owned across a number of organisations, and that it’s rolled out training to at least 1,000 front line professionals.
FF: What’s the hardest part of your job these days?
CH: I think it’s finding out what my ongoing relationship is with MAC UK, and the fact that it runs day to day without me, but I care deeply about what happens to it. It’s knowing when to voice an opinion, and when that opinion’s useful, and then when to step back because other people need to lead.
FF: Conversely, what makes you happy about work on a Friday evening?
It’s seeing the change that our work makes. That might be like hearing an example of something that might have happened that day that was tangible to a young person from one of our therapists; that’s what makes it the most exciting of all.
The other thing that makes me excited is seeing things change at a policy level. For instance, mental health is now part of the mayor’s office for police and crime strategy, and it wasn’t six months ago. Seeing that change at both the front line and at the policy level together makes me really excited.
Take a look at the many ways we worked with MAC-UK over the last three years.