Community Acupuncture: Transforming Community Health into Community Wealth

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Community Acupuncture: Transforming Community Health into Community Wealth

Victoria, CanadaCanada
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$10,000 - $50,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Implementing the Community Acupuncture model: high-quality sessions provided in a supportive group setting at sliding scale rates.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Heart & Hands Health Collective (Victoria BC) provides alternative health care solutions in an unique and supportive community setting. We operate with the belief that health care need not be expensive to be effective and our sliding scale fee structure makes our services more accessible to more people, regardless of socio-economic background. Our community-based model is a creative, sustainable and replicable business model that is inclusive to a broader variety of people, groups and communities. While the cost of many alternative health care practices prohibitive, the flexible fee structure we provide at Heart & Hands is innovative in this regard and it ensures that everyone in the Victoria community is able to access the healing potential of acupuncture.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Community acupuncture: a modern adaptation of the centuries old practice of acupuncture, a return to its traditional roots. High-quality acupuncture treatments are provided in a supportive group setting. Treatment fees are typically sliding scale, $15-40 and clients are encouraged to choose an amount that is not only affordable per session, but also for a course of treatment. This significantly increases affordability, hence, exposing a larger segment of the community to acupuncture. The objective is to make it financially sustainable for clients to get better and stay better. The typical market rate for acupuncture is $60-120 per session, which is inaccessible and unsustainable to the many, even individuals with medical benefits. Sessions are often provided in private, isolated setting as well as being unnecessarily clinical and lengthy. The cost is high and the volume of clients served is low. In contrast, the community acupuncture model is efficient, accessible and inclusive.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

Treatment rooms are often large open spaces hosting multiple recliner chairs (lazy boys) and sometimes massage tables. Multiple clients are booked per hour, often staggered every 10-20 minutes, depending on the speed and efficiency of the practitioner. A stream-lined treatment is provided – many practitioners adopt a distal style treatment to limit points to the extremities. Soothing music plays in the background as whispered conversation is kept to a minimum. Clients are welcome to choose the length of their treatment (on average 20-60 minutes) and will quietly notify the practitioner when they feel finished. Overall, a community room is a peaceful, nap-inducing yet flowing hub of clients coming and going with the practitioner quietly facilitating that flow. For clients, the open group-oriented nature of the clinic room allows for flexibility. At Heart & Hands, we often encourage clients to bring friends/family/co-workers/classmates to their sessions. Clients are able to drop-in for sessions during our office hours. Being able to choose how much to pay for sessions not only builds a relationship of trust and accountability, it also is a strong motivator for word of mouth and responsibility of one’s well-being. The Community Acupuncture model is infectious as it is in the spirit of generosity, gratitude and social entrepreneur-ism. It reduces isolation, creates a sense of connection to something larger than ourselves and creates a sense of gratitude.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

I see other community practitioners as both peers and competitors as we would operate under similar principles and competing for the same client-base. Peers would also include organizations, groups and agencies that are seeking complimentary, holistic and inclusive services. They would also have a focus and initiative to build community alliances and positive social change. Examples of specific peers would include advocacy agencies (ie. Sexual assault centres, HIV/AIDS agencies, MS society, etc.). These peers would also support the need for promoting, educating and maintaining community health and wellness, especially from a standpoint of preventative health care and accessibility of sustainable community services.

Founding Story

Community Acupuncture is both a practice/business model as well as a social movement first founded in Portland OR. When offered in a community setting, acupuncture becomes an accessible option to a wider range of individuals who otherwise could not afford the going rate for private sessions. It is also a modern take on how acupuncture is traditionally provided in Asia; in a large open space, treating many people at once, quickly, efficiently and effectively. Being treated in a group is a profound social experience. Reducing isolation can strengthen a person’s resistant to disease and improve mental-emotional well-being. By introducing acupuncture into a group setting, it increases efficiency of time, space, the practitioners while strengthening community connections. The potential lies in tapping into the power of acupuncture using this innovative practice model, being sustainable for the community as well as for the practitioners who provide the service.
About You
Heart & Hands Health Collective
About You
About Your Organization
Organization Name

Heart & Hands Health Collective

Organization Country

, BC

Country where this solution is creating social impact

, BC, Victoria

Region in BC where your solution creates social impact

Vancouver Island.

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for 1‐5 years

Which of the following best describes the barrier(s) your solution addresses? Choose up to two

Access, Cost, Quality.

Social Impact
Please describe the goal of your initiative; outline what you are trying to achieve

We want to make acupuncture available to as many people as possible.

Due to a variety of factors, many people in North America aren’t getting enough acupuncture to truly experience the benefits. And, as practitioners and business owners in addition to being proponents of alternative health care, the goal is allow everyone to get more acupuncture and to make this valuable service more mainstream.

By making cost less of a barrier, it becomes financially sustainable for clients to comply with treatment plans and therefore producing more favorable outcomes. By implementing the Community Acupuncture model, it becomes easier for clients to receive as much treatment as often as they need.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Heart & Hands opened in October 2010 and presently, we serve a diverse client-base of different ages, occupations, orientations and ethnicities. We serve on average 70-100 clients a week, many of which are able to receive treatment multiple times per week because of our flexible fee structure. Our most common feedback is that our sliding scale makes it possible for people to receive acupuncture regularly enough for their conditions to resolve and their quality of life to improve.

What is your projected impact over the next five years?

As a relatively small and grassroots social enterprise, we hope to continue to grow and stabilize over the next 5 years. This would entail more of the same outreach, education and providing high quality services at sliding scale rates.

We also wish to build further alliances and collaborations with other complimentary and like-minded community groups, agencies and organizations with the intention of providing Community Acupuncture as a resource for health care, personal wellness and complimentary therapy for pre-existing services and programming.

Our goal is to potentially serve up to 150 or even 200 clients a week at our practice, which will allow both the business and its practitioners to be financially secure and self-sufficient.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

- Financial - we would implement better budgeting and strategically plan for specific larger expenditures and create a future purchase wish-list.

- Language barriers - we would receive diversity training with local intercultural agencies. Otherwise, we are limited if clients are non-English speaking.

- Staffing - hopefully advertising with local educational institutions and conducting rounds of hiring from new graduate pools. Also implementing an internship/training period to integrate potential employees into our practice model.

- Community apathy - constantly striving to improve marketing and encouraging our existing client-base for word-of-mouth. This is to ensure that there is continual interest in our innovative service.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Strengthening and solidifying our business and clinic infrastructure so that it remains resiliant through economic changes.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Hire an administrative assistant/office manager.

Task 2

Plan and implement regular staff meetings/trainings and set deadlines and delegation for task completion.

Task 3

Complete a comprehensive manual for staff training, marketing and clinic/business procedures

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Convert our business/economic structure to a co-operative.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Choose the appropriate co-operative structure to pursue, possibly seeking out a consultant for the process.

Task 2

Investigate all of the legal and legislative procedures required to register as a co-operative entity.

Task 3

Educating our staff and collective members about the co-operative structure as well as its advantages/disadvantages.

Tell us about your partnerships

We have partnered with health/policy advocacy agencies/programs such as AIDS Vancouver Island, Victoria Best Babies as well as midwifery clinics, Eves of Destruction Roller Derby League and other community-based collectives that facilitate skill shares and informal education. We provide outreach, workshops, wellness/burn-out prevention education and acupuncture demonstrations as well as sponsorship (services or financial).

We intend on exploring and pursuing more partnerships of this nature.

Are you currently targeting other specific populations, locations, or markets for your solution? If so, where and why?

We would like to focus more of our marketing towards post-secondary institutions such as Universities and Colleges as the accessibility and affordability of our service would be desirable to the student/staff population, all of which also have medical benefit plans.

We would also like to target individuals employed in the social work sector to provide accessible services for self-care and burn-out prevention. We hope to achieve that with our current outreach partnerships.

What type of operating environment and internal organizational factors make your innovation successful?

Our clinic operates on mutual trust and generosity, which is openly communicated to not only our staff, but our client-base. Since the Community Acupuncture model provides a sliding scale fee structure and group setting make it accessible and simple for most clients to get the treatment they require. Hence, our business procedures are structured around flexibility, consistency and convenience. It is the transparency and non-discrimination of our organization that ensures everyone feels welcome and included and that our success lies in the established way of how we treat our clients.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

- We would require consultation on how to establish a co-operative business structure.

- Specific assistance with producing a promotional/educational short film about our business and practice model.