Consider the Conditions: Growing a Psychedelic Ecosystem

Julia Mande North Star

Julia Mande

Managing Director, North Star Project

Part of our Year in Review series

Julia Mande is a facilitator of awareness-based systems change, working with impact and values driven organizations. She is currently stewarding the North Star Project as Managing Director. North Star is a nonprofit that serves psychedelic companies committed to building transformational businesses shaped by psychedelic wisdomNorth Star supports the practice of integrity in business and facilitates the growth of a multi-stakeholder professional community who will steward, advocate and implement values-aligned structures and standards for the emerging field. Find resources, communities of practice, and learn more about North Star here. Consider a contribution to support their work

In this short perspective piece, Julia calls for more focus on investing in the social infrastructure and systems of support that might reduce harm and, “ensure availability, affordability, and viability for all stakeholders, especially prioritizing support for practitioners.”

Rapid shifts in technology propelled 2022 forward. How we experience the universe expanded with novel images from the Webb Space Telescope, possibilities for a sustainable future sparked as the gap between what is conceivable and what is achievable inched closer together with a breakthrough in fusion energy. Artificial intelligence accelerated into the hands of the mainstream. Yet the current state of the world is marked by both these illuminating milestones and a range of crises: income inequality, environmental degradation, workplace dissatisfaction, and an epidemic of isolation.

What does it mean to grow a psychedelic ecosystem in this context? To address a mental health crisis, it is important to consider the societal conditions in which psychedelics are being considered. The Mix, a UK-based youth charity that provides confidential support for young people seeking help with mental health and emotional issues, reported a 75% increase from the previous year in the number of individuals who said they used drugs for escapism. We cannot separate mental health treatment from the societal context that produced the need.

The psychedelic field can be transformative for the health and care sector. The path towards increased access, economic viability, and scale is paved by investing in community models of care and building the needed support infrastructure for responsible growth. This will require a conscious effort to design structures and systems that prioritizes social repair, psychological safety, and collective capacities to build trust, resolve conflict, and make sense of societal change. Collective capacity building for the support of practitioners, patients, and communities is a precondition to growing a healthy psychedelic ecosystem.

The psychedelic industry has the potential to be a driving force in transforming the health and care sector. The path towards increased access, economic viability, and scale is paved by investing in community models of care and building the needed support infrastructure for responsible growth.

States of consciousness are dimensional, and as professionals, we’re learning to integrate personal journeys into everyday life, including the workplace. Navigating the challenges of our times requires self awareness and collective capacities to evolve our social fabric, to better cope with existentialism and an inherently interconnected world. As technology allows for advances in society, cultivating inner and collective aptitudes also allows for growth in social consciousness. Just as digital technologies are widening our scope of possibilities, so too can social technologies that widen our ways of being and belonging.

We have an opportunity to practice these ways as the industry matures. There are somatic, behavioral, and even ancestrally informed manners of working that lead to more meaningful and fulfilling workplace cultures. In creating a safe and responsible professional psychedelic space it is essential to explicitly define cultural values and grow abilities to align behaviors with values. Collaboration, conversation, and listening sessions with diverse stakeholders, including Indigenous groups and cultural stewards, are key catalysts to shaping a values-driven industry. Ethical Principles of Traditional Indigenous Medicine to guide western psychedelic research and practice outlines how institutions that research, practice and capitalize on psychedelic work have a responsibility to acknowledge and include Indigenous support in governance actions and behaviors. Despite economic profits expected to grow to $6.85 billion by 2027, there is little evidence of any health or economic return to Indigenous communities. However, leverage points for change are within the power of entrepreneurs and leaders of emerging psychedelic companies. Values-aligned structures of ownership and governance, and models of mutual benefit can become operating standards, along with the explicit acknowledgment of Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC). These arrangements will require deep dialogue, and a willingness to embrace diverse ways of being for a new kind of business culture that operates with kinship and integrity.

To design companies that prioritize care, it is important to understand the structural and cultural positions that drive systemic change in terms of ownership, decision-making, company culture, and team dynamics. As we look ahead to 2023, our ecosystem should focus on investing in social infrastructure and systems of support to reduce harm and ensure availability, affordability, and viability for all stakeholders, especially prioritizing support for practitioners. It is essential to center this work on meaningful connections within ourselves and within communities to create a safe environment that opens ourselves to the awe, joy, and beauty this world provides.

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Part of our Year in Review series

This content is part of our 2022 Year in Review, which looks back at the past year through commentary and analysis, interviews and guest contributions.

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