At The Well

At The Well’s work is a direct response to the crisis of disconnection from body, community, and spirituality. We merge ancient Jewish wisdom and modern health science through a global network of content, curricula, events, and experiences that support holistic self-care and community building.

Location: San Francisco , CA
Year founded: 2015

Description

At The Well is on a mission to unify the practices of wellness and holiness. We connect millennial Jewish women (primarily in their 20s to early 40s) to their bodies, spiritual practices, and community through monthly women’s gatherings (Well Circles) based on the ancient ritual of Rosh Chodesh, the new Hebrew month.

The Rosh Chodesh model is perfect for creating spaces for women to gather, share experiences, and be empowered. These spaces, both in-person and online, allow young women to be seen and heard. Connecting with peers helps women struggling with depression, anxiety, and negative body image to develop relationships with wellness. At The Well fulfills a deep-seated need amongst young women for the interconnection of spiritual practice, physical wellness, and Jewish community.

Just as women gathered at the well in the biblical Middle East, in 1970s consciousness-raising groups, and more recently, in Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In Circles, our Well Circles follow this tradition of women supporting each other through monthly meetings. By inviting young women to customize their Jewish experience, Well Circles provide the opportunity to engage with sacred texts, create Jewish content, and experience Judaism in a modern way, rooted in ancestral heritage.

Our network is diverse; our members are secular and religious, Russian, LGBTQ, Jews by choice, Jews of color, and more. We are looking for funding opportunities to allow us to grow our network and bring Well Circles to every corner of the Jewish world.

Connecting and Empowering Women by Scaling Well Circles and Expanding Supportive Communities

About

At The Well’s most robust offering is its Well Circles. These circles are monthly, home-based gatherings of 6-12 women on or near Rosh Chodesh, the holiday marking the New Moon. At these gatherings, members participate in activities or discussions related to Jewish spirituality, holidays, women’s health, and overall wellness. There are now more than twenty Well Circles in ten communities around the world. However, demand--as demonstrated by the volume of women contacting At The Well--is high. At The Well aims to expand the number of Well Circles globally and increase the level of programmatic support available to members of both new and existing circles.

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What is the mission and purpose of this program?

The mission of this program is to create a sustainable on-boarding system for new Well Circle founders and to strengthen those Wells already in effect. The purpose of this program is to increase the number of Well Circles globally and to enhance the methods that support those circles

The ritual of Rosh Chodesh has largely been lost, which means starting a circle is the hardest part. Once a system is in place to appropriately coach a new circle founder, At The Well will be able to scale rapidly. Because Rosh Chodesh is a home-based, peer-to-peer model, a Well Circle could sprout in any corner for the globe where Jewish millennial women reside.

Our vision is threefold: revivify the Rosh Chodesh ritual, teach young women how to facilitate, host, and organize the gathering, and provide support on the programmatic level to the At The Well community at large.

To accomplish these goals, At The Well seeks to conduct targeted outreach to help shape new Well Circles, provide guidance and training for newly forming circles, and enhance curriculum and educational materials offered to Well Circle members.

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Program Description

To increase the number of Well Circles and strengthen the meetings themselves, our program calls for three elements:


  • A formalized on-boarding process for new Well Circles - While a beta version of an onboarding program is presently in use, At The Well envisions a future in which every new Well Circle member will participate in an At The Well retreat or receive in-person mentorship from an At The Well team member, in addition to receiving written and digital materials and continuing support through email correspondence and phone calls. This improved onboarding process will prime new Well Circles for success and increase Well Circle members’ feelings of connection to a larger global community. There is currently a retreat (funded by the Tikkun Olam Women’s Foundation of Greater Washington D.C.) in June 2017. Additionally, At The Well seeks to develop a stronger “HowTo” manual for new Well Circles.
  • Guidance and support for new and existing Well Circles - At The Well will hire two Community Managers. These part-time staff members will support new Well Circles, strengthen already existing Circles, and serve as a liaisons between Circles and the greater At The Well community. These Community Managers will act as bridges between the central At The Well leadership and the grassroots community-based operations of each individual Well Circle. Community Managers will check in with the Circle members monthly and coach each month’s facilitator (members of Well Circles take turn hosting the gathering). This model will also provide Well Circle members with a point person they can turn to for guidance on leadership, group dynamics, and other subjects that naturally arise through the formation and maintaining of a Well Circle.
  • Informative videos for Well Circles - While written materials can provide excellent information and insight into At The Well practices and Well Circle activities, different forms of media often lend themselves to different tasks . At The Well will produce a series of “welcome videos” for new Well Circle members. Topics will include:
  1. Welcome to At The Well
  2. What is a Well Circle?
  3. How to Start a Circle
  4. How to Host a Well Circle Gathering
  5. How to Facilitate a Well Circle Discussion or Learning Session
These videos will enhance Well Circle participants’ knowledge of hosting and facilitating. The videos will also offer a more personalized initial touchpoint for potential Well Circle founders, an increasingly important consideration to account for early as the number of Well Circles grows and our reach broadens. These three projects within the larger expansion initiative will play critical roles in helping At The Well grow in ways that are smart and sustainable, and setting the organization up for long-term success.

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Demonstrated Need

In its first year alone, At The Well has revealed a significant thirst for relevant Jewish wellness content. On a regular basis, women across the country have written to At The Well expressing a deep desire to launch their own Well Circles and connect to women in their communities through the Rosh Chodesh ritual. That so many young women are requesting support and resources elucidates the way the Jewish tradition speaks to feminine and feminist issues. To date, Well Circle members have provided positive feedback regarding their Well Circle experiences. That said, they are also seeking more materials and guidance related to forming and facilitating even-better monthly Well Circle gatherings and discussions.

Currently, Sarah herself coaches each woman launching a Well Circle for her community. This approach must necessarily be altered as Sarah will soon be unable to meet the ever-growing demand for Well Circle launch coaching. Lastly, because of the larger number of Well Circles already running, it’s challenging, with very limited staff and only a few volunteers, to keep a close relationship between the broader At The Well community and the individual circles. Efforts to connect the diverse circles to each other and to provide more access points where Well Circle members can exchange information are not yet possible to implement, though they are mission critical to the overall movement At The Well is working to create.

Through increasing the number of Well Circles, improving support for new and existing Circles, and enhancing curricular materials, At The Well can empower young women the world over to be the drivers of their own spiritual Jewish identities and self-expression as women.

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Program Accomplishments

At The Well has accomplished a tremendous amount since launching in October 2015 and will begin the UpStart accelerator program to build on this growth. Successes include 25 thriving Well Circles in ten cities around the world, nearly a year’s worth of engaging, relevant and current materials for Circles to utilize, and two well-attended, successful retreats to train Well Circle members and potential members on Rosh Chodesh and other related wellness topics.

At The Well has attracted a diverse cohort of women A modern Orthodox Circle meets on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, a “secular” Circle meets in Detroit, and an interfaith Circle meets in Washington, D.C. What each of these groups have in common is a diversity in opinion and knowledge base. They share a deep desire to connect--to each other, to Jewish text, and to themes related to spiritual, emotional and physical wellness.

Anecdotal feedback from Well Circle participants indicates this updated Rosh Chodesh approach resonates with these women. As Well Circles continue to meet, members request additional materials and resources, and women around the world express interest in forming Well Circles of their own.

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How do you measure the success of your program?

The success of At The Well has been measured by the number of Well Circles operating and anecdotal feedback. By these measures, At The Well has been successful to date, growing from zero circles to more than 20 in just ten months without any marketing or infrastructure. As mentioned earlier, feedback is extremely positive and demand continues to increase.

However, there is far greater potential for At The Well to come. Growth has mostly happened through word of mouth. At The Well is still a mostly unknown factor in the global Jewish landscape; once it is known, who can say how outsized the impact could be.

In the next year, the organization’s success will look like meeting the following benchmarks by December of 2017:

  • 100 established Well Circles
  • Well Circles in 20 cities in 5 countries. Target expansion cities include:
    • Paris, Melbourne, Sydney, Baltimore, Portland, Chicago, Austin, Philadelphia, Seattle, and San Diego.
  • The synthesizing of a survey administered to all Well Circles in January 2017, along with a follow up survey in September of the same year.
Through the guidance of UpStart, At The Well plans to conduct an initial survey to measure our success to date and assess the needs and pain points within the existing Well Circles. The September follow up survey will track our progress in addressing these issues and further ensure the organization is meeting its stated goals. Additional qualitative interviews will happen on an ongoing basis throughout the year with monthly check-ins from the community managers to each established Well Circle.

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