Through Here to Be, a new community-based social impact program, lululemon is partnering with best-in-class nonprofit organizations to create access to the healing benefits of yoga in at-risk and underserved communities that routinely experience chronic stress as a result of trauma, illness, socioeconomic status, or ongoing adversity. This includes at-risk youth, victims of violence and conflict, people affected by illness or disability, and first responders/aid workers. Here to Be programs will take place in all cities and states where lululemon has retail locations, with additional programs in East Africa (through Africa Yoga Project) and the Middle East (through the United Nations Foundation).
Here to Be builds upon lululemons previous community-based grant work that covered a myriad of causes, aligning focus and resources toward yoga service programs designed to support healing and resilience for all. Yoga Service is the intentional sharing of yoga practices that support healing and build resilience for all regardless of circumstances, taught within a context of conscious relationship rooted in self-reflection and self-inquiry (Yoga Service Council, 2016). The current yoga service movement is localized, fragmented, and often duplicative of efforts. Here to Be is designed to A) fund initiatives that create access to yoga service programs, through four impact pillars; and B) build a community of practice among nonprofits, academics, and public sector institutions that are developing and applying yoga service programming.
Here to Be distributes grants through lululemons global network of 375+ stores, and invests in national and international partnerships that create access at scale. Existing partnerships in the national and international categories include the UN Foundation, Africa Yoga Project, Give Back Yoga Foundation, Yoga Foster, the Yoga Service Council and LoveYourBrain Foundation. This diverse group of nonprofit partners is representative of the breadth of the yoga service community, and aligned in the opportunity for community among diverse programs that apply yoga as a tool for healing.
Here to Be grants funds for activities that fall within four central program impact pillars that were designed (in partnership with nonprofit partners) to address and break down barriers to accessibility. All impact pillar activities are implemented through direct services provided by nonprofit partners.
1. Collective learning: lululemon will provide grants to universities for research on the healing benefits of yoga, most-effective practices and curriculums for specific populations, and creating research-based tools and resources for yoga teachers.
2. Skill delivery: lululemon will provide grants to train practitioners (via scholarships) with the skills needed to work with specific underserved populations. Practitioners include existing yoga teachers seeking domain-specific skills, new teachers who are representative of beneficiary communities, and those who work in public sector organizations, such as low-income schools and hospital/rehabilitative settings.
3. Direct access: lululemon will provide grants to enable nonprofit partners to expand access by funding yoga teacher salaries, funding spaces to practice, providing supplies, and delivering print and digital resources for communities where in-person classes arent feasible or practical.
4. Capacity building & overhead costs: lululemon will provide grants to fund operational costs such as administrative salaries and office space, as well as organizational development and capacity building projects to enable programmatic scaling.
Community of Practice
lululemon recognizes that the largest opportunity in the yoga service space is to act as a catalyst for network building activities, connecting people, ideas and resources. This community-based approach creates the conditions for an emerging coalition that creates value and impact greater than the sum of its parts. Ongoing network building activities will include annual impact summits, training lululemon staff in yoga service, development and sharing of best practices among nonprofits, cross-pollination of training and resources, alignment on consistent measurement standards, and a shared commitment to personal and professional development.
2017: In its first year, the focus of the Commitment is to create the conditions for an emerging network. Alongside grant allocation through the four impact pillars (and in-kind support for partners), lululemon will invest in program monitoring and evaluation (Q1), a nonprofit relationship management platform (Q2), and third-party programmatic evaluation for national partners (Q1 - Q4). Network building opportunities focus on cross-pollination of training programs (Q2 onwards), an annual impact summit (Q3), and an online training program for intrigued/engaged practitioners (Q3).
2018: In the Commitments second year, lululemon will focus on building momentum within the Community of practice. Alongside grant allocation through the four impact pillars (and in-kind support for partners), lululemon will establish an integrated scholarship strategy for yoga teacher trainings (Q1), ongoing programmatic evaluation for national partners (Q1 - Q4), and a staff training/engagement program (Q3). Network building opportunities focus on an annual impact summit (Q3), and exploration or regionally-driven or topic-based opportunities for network building (Q4), and focused discussion on shared standards for measurement.
2019: At the midway point in the Commitment, lululemon will develop annual strategy and activities based on the learnings from the first two years. Lululemon will continue to grant funds within the four impact pillars and continue to provide in-kind support for partners. Network building opportunities will focus on the self-identified, emerging needs of the community. In 2019, lululemon plans to host an annual impact summit, and regional or topic-based summits based on the size and engagement of the community. A focused on shared measurement drives alignment among community-based groups looking to scale. lululemon will evaluate the need for a dedicated online community space.
2020: lululemon will continue to develop annual strategy and activities based on the learnings from the first three years, including continued granting within the four impact pillars and ongoing in-kind support for partners. Network building opportunities will focus on the self-identified, emerging needs of the community. In 2020, lululemon plans to host an annual impact summit, and regional or topic-based summits based on the size and engagement of the community. At this point in the commitment, the community of practice is beginning to realize its potential, engaging and enrolling large-scale public sector organizations. Cross-pollination of people, programs and resources enable scale.
2021: In the last year of the Commitment, the Here to Be community of practice is operating to its shared potential as an efficient network. Nonprofit organizations are working closely to reduce redundancy, duplicative efforts and are operating efficiently. The community has collectively built a library of shared tools, resources, and best practices. Network building and scaling activities are dependent on the emerging network and its needs.
Stress is a normal and healthy part of daily life, but high levels of unmanaged stress can have serious physical and emotional effects on an individuals long-term well-being (American Psychological Association, 2015). Chronic stress and toxic stress related to a traumatic event can lead to life-changing health risks, such as anxiety and mood disorders, immune system dysfunction, and structural changes in the central nervous system (Schneiderman, Ironson & Siegel, 2005).
Stress is pervasive, with widespread societal impacts: almost two thirds of children in the United States experience a traumatic stress event during their childhood which, if left unmanaged, can impair long-term physical and emotional development (American Psychological Association, 2010). Additionally, as many as one in five post-9/11 veterans returned from combat with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (US Department of Veterans Affairs, 2014). Globally, 615 million suffer from depression and anxiety, and that number is on the rise as conflict and forced migration persist (World Health Organization, 2013).
Those who routinely experience the highest, most dangerous levels of stress are typically the most underserved: people living in poverty, dealing with a chronic illness or disability, experiencing dangerous working conditions, or coping with the personal effects of war and conflict (Harvard School of Public Health, 2014).
A growing body of research shows that yoga (including meditation, breath work and physical postures) can help reduce stress (American Psychological Association, 2015) and offer a number of physical, emotional, and social benefits that have the ability to increase quality of life (Woodyard, 2011;, International Association of Yoga Therapists, 2004). These benefits include building resilience (Ross et al., 2014; Wayment et al., 2011; Black et al., 2009, Lazar et al., 2005), promoting health (Yang, 2007; Ross & Thomas, 2010; Tran et al., 2007;) and creating community (Ross et al., 2014, Sing et al., 2007; Hutcherson et al., 2008, Carson et al., 2004; Barnes et al., 2007). With these preliminary US-based findings, there is an opportunity to explore further how yoga and meditation can play a role in the lives of those living with chronic stressors, coping with trauma, and experiencing health challenges globally. Yoga programs can provide low-cost psychosocial benefits in a variety of settings where infrastructure is limited.