Where the Mind goes ... the Body will follow Tai Chi for Busy People

HOW DO WE MEASURE THE SUCCESS OF TAI CHI?

If not by numbers, how?

By Denise and Mike Soric

Funding opportunities are becoming more difficult to acquire as organizations are finding resources stretched and what limited funds are available are generally oversubscribed. Selection criteria are difficult to meet and acquittal process are becoming more demanding.

How successful are your programs? And how do you measure your success? How many people will be impacted? And of course the best of them all, what is the expected return on investment? These seem to be the most common, relevant and appropriate questions asked by investors in your project. However the difficulty is always going to be how to quantify a suitable response. Many organisations are looking for a statistical reply, something that shows a lot of numbers or percentages. The more people exposed to the Tai Chi Program should equate to more benefit to the community and so on and so forth. Well that’s the thinking anyway, but what happens when no matter how much work and effort has gone into the project the numbers just aren’t there?

Our successful grants and funding opportunities are no different. We had to respond to these questions when we recently completed a year-long project for a local veteran’s recovery group in Townsville, Australia.

As a small amount of funding was given to the project by Mental Health, a government organisation, acquittals and reports had to be completed.

The project had multiple parts:

  • Deliver a program over 12 months and develop a strategy that is sustainable and continues to deliver value for money at the Soldier and Family Recovery Centre
  • To conduct weekly Tai Chi for Health sessions with veterans, ex-service personnel and family members
  • Identify and train participants to become Instructor/Leaders in the program
  • Mentor the new Instructor/Leaders after they received their qualifications

The number of participants grew very slowly and now has a small core group who come every week to enjoy the Tai Chi for Health gentle exercise program and the social activity after the class.

Firstly identifying, then training participants to become instructors was the most challenging part of the project. Some participants had difficulties that required additional time and patience to not only overcome some of their own challenges, but also to give them the confidence to be able to step out of their comfort zone to take on the challenging role of becoming a Tai Chi for Health Instructor/Leader.

Some of you may recall that at the instructor workshops on Day 1, it is a requirement for candidates to lead or teach segments in front of the whole class. The candidates had struggled, but found strength in supporting each other and finally helped each other to achieve their goals. It was very powerful stuff and there wasn’t a dry eye in the whole class. By Day 2, the candidates were full of confidence, volunteering to lead the class activities. They contributed in discussions and they fulfilled all the required components of this workshop, and all candidates received their qualifications to become Tai Chi for Health Instructor/Leaders. This was a massive achievement for them. So, to answer the project questions - how do we measure success? Only a small group took the opportunity given to participate in the funded tai chi classes and normally success is measured by numbers and statistics. We were struggling on how to write the report when we received the first of a number of testimonials from the participants and that answered our question. We should not measure success by numbers alone - the Tai Chi for Health programs are always about the people. When working with special interest groups, or any people for that matter, it is imperative to not define people by their inabilities to achieve certain outcomes, but to help them focus on what is possible for themselves as individuals.

I submit the following testimonial:

I have been attending Tai Chi for Arthritis classes at Mates4Mates Townsville these past 3 months and I have to say it has been a saving grace. The instructors, Denise and Mike have not only been patient but have shown me that my injuries/illness do not define me. Tai Chi has become that calming time I need. I feel energised at the same time as feeling at peace within.

Being shown the correct method, without pressure, and understanding the principles surrounding Tai Chi, I have been able to maximise the benefits, even through multiple injuries.

I have watched our class grow from a couple to many and this is due primarily to the outstanding instructors. Denise and Mike are approachable, friendly and clearly committed to enhancing our life through Tai Chi. As an ex Defence Member who has not felt whole for some time, the program they have offered is beyond description. I will be forever grateful that they have brought Dr Paul Lam's teachings to Mates4Mates. The calmness I feel whilst participating in these classes is something I have been missing for a long time and I find it is with ease that I can now continue to practice from home, especially when I feel it all become too much. I thoroughly recommend this class and the teachings of Dr Lam, by Denise and Mike to anyone, whether you are young, older, injured or able bodied, at peace or with struggles, this is the class for you.

Thank you Denise and Mike Soric. Truly Thank You

Name has been withheld for the purpose of this article

Success should not be measured by how many, but how we have empowered people to improve their own health and wellbeing and to achieve their own capabilities. It should always be about ‘people’, not ‘numbers’. The people define their own ability, and the people define their own success.