Interview

Interview: Being Mankind

At the recent NOI Club Christmas Party, I was fortunate enough to meet Jenny Corrie and Priya Dabasia, two inspiring young women who had an interesting project to share – Being Mankind – taking on the mission of addressing the unique issues that men and boys face in the 21st Century. (Learning about this initiative felt perfectly timed after my recent realisation that I need to work on extending the conversation beyond the women in my circle, to include men as well!)

Being Mankind involves the publication of a beautiful collection of heartfelt stories from men from all walks of life (including a foreword by Anthony Joshua, MBE) and the challenges they have faced in being men in a modern world, but also includes a campaign for social change by donating a copy of the book to local youth organisations and schools with every one sold. With Christmas coming, this is a perfect opportunity to get a meaningful gift for the man in your life, and contribute to a worthy initiative at the same time.

I’ve asked Jenny and Priya to share their story here – both the background to Being Mankind, as well as more information about the project itself. Enjoy, and get involved! 

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Jenny Corrie and Priya Dabasia of Super Being Labs

1. How did Being Mankind come about and how did you get involved?

We are part of an inspiring social impact studio called Super Being Labs (SBL), which focuses on tackling social challenges using creativity, entrepreneurship, and technology. We do this by working on our own ideas, working with partners and working with clients. Our aim is to help humans live out their full potential because we believe this is the best way to create positive change. Our company logo features a young child which epitomises our manifesto – to ‘be childlike smart’: imaginative, adventurous, curious, fearless and above all, to always have fun along the way. Ultimately, we believe that business and ‘doing good’ should be one and the same, so everything we do at SBL works towards this aim.

Being ManKind is one of a number of SBL’s own projects. The idea was conceived during a conversation between our founder and CEO of Super Being Labs, Darshan Sanghrajka, and an SBL client, Mark Lazarus. Mark has a young son and expressed his concerns about the lack of positive role models for young boys. At the same time, one of Darshan’s biggest focuses at SBL is on improving the lives of young people, and he felt it was important to tackle the issues caused by gender stereotypes and, ultimately, explore what it takes to be a kind human and an individual. Very quickly, the idea was developed for a project that would start off with a book. The brand was created and so the Being ManKind mission began. On hearing Mark and Darshan’s idea, we instantly knew we wanted to be involved. It soon became clear that we both knew men who had suffered as a result of the unfair expectations that is placed on them by society. The concept strongly resonated with us and we couldn’t wait to get started.

2. How did you get involved with Super Being Labs in the first instance?

We joined SBL around the same time just over a year ago. We were both unsatisfied in our previous jobs and wanted to be involved in something meaningful which would help people in some way. The Being ManKind project was the perfect fit for us both. Coming from different backgrounds meant that our skill sets complemented each other; one through their love for photography to capture beautiful images of the contributors, and the other through amazing communication skills to find and meet new and interesting people, and draw out their incredible stories. This was an exciting combination, alongside the rest of the SBL team working on the project, in particular Joe (who edited the stories) and Beez (who designed the book). We are a small, but dynamic team and each member brings their own set of unique skills and experience to each project. For this reason, we were so lucky to be able to create the book and develop the project all in-house, using our pooled knowledge of research, academic teaching, publishing, editing and design.

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3. How did you collate the material for the book?

The process of finding stories was initially quite an intimidating one. How do you go about asking men – both friends and people we’d never met before – to open up about their most intimate experiences? But we were so surprised and overwhelmed by the support we received for the project and the stories soon came flooding in.  We have learnt a lot from the men that we have met and something different from each and every one. What astonished us most is that, almost without exception, each man we approached felt that their story was not worthy or inspiring enough to share with others. It was this humility and honesty which made them so worthy of featuring in the book. When working intensively on a project such as this, it is easy at times to lose sight of the ultimate goal. However, the candid stories that were submitted from contributors, and the emotional and positive responses we have received from those who have read the stories, keep us on track. Above all, these stories have shown us that the human body and mind can achieve incredible things. We never cease to be in awe of these men, and are inspired and thankful to have the privilege to be involved in this initiative.

4. How do you think Being Mankind could benefit women in the future?

While we have chosen to start by focusing on boys and men, we intend for both men and women to take part in these important conversations as the topics raised are relevant to both genders.  We believe that positive change can only happen if we all work towards this common goal by listening to one another, and in turn helping one another.  Going forward, we are already thinking of strategies to bring men and women’s perspectives together in a future publication, as well as to raise these issues from a younger age, so watch this space!

5. What are your plans for the future of Being Mankind?

Our ultimate aim is for these stories to create conversations everywhere, but especially in schools and youth organisations. We want to inspire young people to be confident in themselves and become the greatest individuals they can be. Through this, we can create a community that lives by the ethos that the only unbreakable code in humanity is kindness. We know this cannot be achieved through this book alone, but this is the beginning of something bigger. Now that we have completed this first phase and have our beautiful hardback book in hand, we are beavering away to ensure the stories are being used in the most positive and effective way. We have developed educational lesson plans to accompany donated books, and these sessions are currently being piloted in schools and youth groups before the wider distribution takes place.

We can then embark on the next stage of the Being ManKind project and continue to grow it with videos, a documentary, a stage play and further volumes. New stories are already starting to come in and we are impatient to see what the next phase holds in store for Being ManKind. Darshan has many plans for the project in 2017. The best is yet to come!

6. Other than buying copies of the book, what can I, and my readers, do to help with this worthy initiative?

As you can see, we have massive plans for Being ManKind, and while we never lack the enthusiasm, we need a healthy injection of funding to drive us forward and keep growing. In the New Year, we will be launching a Kickstarter to raise funds. Please join us and help to Kickstart this conservation!  If you would like to find out more about our project, please visit us at http://www.beingmankind.org and get in touch.

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