As a newly qualified psychotherapist living in Reading, I looked around for a service that could address a need I had identified while I was working in community development projects. The need was for appropriate mental health support for multilingual people. But no suitable service existed. “Why not?” I asked. “You’ll need to conduct a consultation to establish evidence of need,” I was told.

During my years working in community development I had observed how frequently communities were consulted, and how no follow up action was taken. The evidence of need already existed. I had trained as a psychotherapist so that I could provide a service. What was required was not more research, not even more social activism, but something that would make a difference to people in their everyday lives. What was needed was social action.

So, I developed the Social Response Cycle to act on what I had observed. I set up a service myself. That was in 2000. I had imagined that in 20 years’ time the Social Response Cycle would no longer be relevant. However, it seems that the Social Response Cycle is more relevant, and that the environmental, political, and social issues are even more urgent today. Communities are mobilising. Activism is increasing. People want to implement the ideas from activism but sometimes they don’t know how.

At the heart of the Social Response Cycle is the belief that very small initiatives can be of disproportionately large value to individuals and communities; that central to the success of social action projects are our willingness and ability to address our relationship with power, authority and knowledge; that waiting for the evidence from formal, well-funded research often means inaction and lack of funds to implement the findings; that a more reciprocal process means that the data do not have to justify the service, the service provides the data.

Through the Pásalo Project I have created a free online resource to teach people about the Social Response Cycle. The resource aims to help people who are concerned about social justice and discrimination to build their confidence to take ethical, socially responsive action (from small, unfunded interventions to longer-term, resourced projects) when they identify a need. Although the action is therapeutically framed, the principles and ethics behind the therapeutic considerations apply broadly to all initiatives which involve people.