Updated: Oct 23
For decades, holistic practitioners have watched in frustration as diseases that could be cured become chronic and grow to epidemic levels as the incumbent system actively continues to discredit, underfund or actively criminalize spiritual and earth-based healing practices with great potential to address our growing disease load and protect us against future illness.
Because these practitioners have walked their healing path, they are aware of the damage that our cultural, political and economic systems inflict, driving them to practice independently (although they thrive in collaboration with others, if/when the opportunity arises). Knowing this, the most strategic, efficient and effective way to scale the availability of community-based holistic healing networks is to connect these individuals at a local level, infusing these networks with the land, plants, animals, elements and infrastructure necessary to serve their communities. Think of it as a prosthetic mycelium, empowering humans who are evolved enough to act like the trees in the forest to share wisdom and allocate resources where they're needed most for the benefit of the collective.*
When you start using case studies from the natural world and describing humans who operate from a heart space that honors are interconnection and the sacredness of all things, eyes become wide and brows furrow. You get labeled idealistic and naive. How could we possibly grow from a small community mental health nonprofit into a global healing network, focused on making humanity capable of realizing a better vision for our future? Like this...
Step 1: Segmentation
Because safe and efficacious care requires guiding the whole person through their holistic healing path, with each step relying on the successful completion of the former, Lichen is by nature a horizontal play. Thus, segmentation and prioritization will need to be what vertical within healthcare to focus on, and what subset of the horizontal process we want to own and operate, partner with or outsource to third parties.
In developing monetization strategies for social networks, I consistently leveraged a strategic framework taught to us during our Kellogg Business School MBA Bootcamp while working at Facebook. Using the Iam's Dog Food case study as a framework, we decided what to build first, and then what to build next by asking ourselves these questions at each stage in our platform's evolution:
Who likes us most best (e.g. not only likes you, but likes you better than any other option)
Who doesn't mind what you're bad at
Who's being underserved by the competition
If we ask ourselves that question surrounding the horizontal healing process (e.g. Advocacy & Education, Harm Reduction, Preparation, Training, Treatment and Research); and, by vertical within the healthcare industry (e.g. Departments, Treatment Modalities and Symptoms addressed); here is the profile of our show dog:
Department: Mental Health clients who are not experiencing relief within the incumbent model, actively seeking holistic and alternative treatments. Because 82% of those accessing mental health services presently are dissatisfied with the $24.1B they spend each year on care,* this is a $19.7B market in the US alone. As a 501c3 nonprofit contracted with Medical in California and various insurance panels in multiple states; we have the capacity to provide in-person therapy in CA and WA State and tele-health nationally that is covered by insurance and more scalable due to the Supervisor/Supervisee model. Contracted with 4 graduate schools and collaborating with a vast network of non-licensed healers across the continuum of holistic healthcare; we are uniquely positioned to help address the lack of holistically trained mental health professionals.
Symptoms & Treatments: The capacity to treat (vs. manage) Anxiety, Depression and PTSD is poised to be revolutionized by the FDA approval of MDMA Assisted Therapy in 2024 and various decriminalization efforts poised to make Psychedelic Assisted Therapy possible in multiple states. With a strong community mental health background and our groundbreaking use of low-dose Ketamine (paired with bio-lateral stimulating EMDR music to relax the amygdala); we are poised to integrated Psychedelic Assisted Therapy modalities int our practice, thereby offering state-of-the-art training to existing holistic practitioners within the field. In the interim, we spend a great deal of time educating those seeking care internationally; and, provide crisis stabilization for those having challenging experiences, thereby establishing our credibility and brand as highly experienced and competent providers
Where: Lichen’s existing network in the Northwest contains the privilege, safety, expertise and resources necessary to integrate Holistic Psychedelic Assisted Therapy into community-based healing systems that provide the social and environmental support necessary to empower deep healing and transformation. That said, because health is balance and inequity is imbalance; 50% of funds raised to serve privileged populations are redistributed to healers and organizations in underserved and under represented populations, nationwide. This ensures that diversity, equity and autonomy are non-negotiable, prioritized from day one; and, unattached to profitability
Advocacy & Harm Reduction: Own & Operate by aggregating and disseminating network member content via Social Media and Industry Events
Education: Own & Operate by organizing holistic healing content by Department, Symptom and Treatment, to bridge to the incumbent healthcare industry
Training: Partner with holistic, trauma informed trainers and programs to steward healers through the supplemental experience they need, organized by Didactic, Experiential and Clinical offerings
Treatment: Owned & Operated Mental Health Services, Nationally (via Telehealth); Partner with healers across the continuum of care and refer out to diverse members of the holistic care team via holistic healthcare concierge services
Research Owned & Operated tracking of all holistic health measures that the client would like to bring on to the platform. Partner with universities, foundations and other organizations to fund targeted research studies surround the safety and efficacy of holistic care
Step 2: Product
Build a pilot of our solution, funded by philanthropy, with key measurement plans in place to prove efficacy in pursuit of scale
Test and validate efficacy via an alpha cohort from a local pilot network spanning The Pacific NorthWest, which will translate into multiple, local networks as the platform expands
Translate proof of concept platform into scalable infrastructure and IP, which is shared openly with additional communities and used to tap into government programs and private ensurers to expand network footprint and care coverage
Building a walled garden and spinning up proprietary infrastructure is costly and inefficient. By consolidating and sharing what can be centralized surrounding the horizontal healing process via Lichen Central, the network benefits from a shared social media footprint, a free public education and harm reduction platform, a centralized administrative support for client management and pooled fundraising support for client care, freeing practitioners to focus on training and treatment, which expands access to care.
Holistic healing professionals are often averse to significant time spent online, wading through administrative tasks, building a brand or promoting themselves. By creating a digital profile on their behalf that seamlessly plugs into Lichen Local Search, we empower holistic healers across the continuum of care to connect with clients directly, and/or with each other surrounding a client's care.
Business Profiles allow grass-roots organizations to plug in to the network as well, with options to drive donations directly to 501c3 organizations; or, through Lichen as network members, thereby circumventing the cost, logistical overhead and labor associated with becoming a tax exempt organization.
Due to the severe shortage of holistic mental health professionals, the low pay, high case load and inadequate working conditions offered by nonprofit and for profit organizations within the incumbent mental healthcare system; the majority of our best healers choose private practice, to offer adequate, comprehensive care. Because private practice is not an adequate container for severe cases and demand for providers outweighs supply, these clinicians are often forced to focus on the wide swath of affluent individuals with good out-of-network insurance coverage in order to make a living and provide an adequate container of support, when they'd rather be collaborating with other healers across the continuum of care, serving clients from all walks of life.
To grow the clinician pool and expand access to underserved populations, Lichen Network must invest in salaried positions for Clinical Supervisors and the license-track trainees and associates they serve. Licensed clinicians who would prefer to be part of a collaborative clinic receive salary supplementation to close the delta between the payout of insurance panels and government programs and what they'd make in private practice. This is the fastest, cheapest and most sustainable way to expand access to care via the current healing infrastructure and outside of it:
Since our current political and economic systems make it nearly impossible for sole proprietors and small businesses to restore, protect and work with the land, animals, plants and elements they need to serve their community; Lichen's Community Fund pools the expertise and resources necessary to spin up local facilities, which are shared and maintained by the community to meet their in-person training and treatment needs. In conjunction with Central's marketing, education and administrative support, plus Network's technology platform and Local's Business presence, Lichen aims to support local healing with central expertise, infrastructure and resources:
Step 3: Monetization
Early on in the platform's evolution, less profitable business units (e.g. training treatment and research) will be subsidized by philanthropy in targeted "pilot" locations. When clients join the platform, insurance coverage and health benefits are assessed centrally, maximizing revenue from established channels and minimizing client and practitioner time assessing treatment costs. As such, the portion of training, treatment and research costs that are not manageable via coverage or out of pocket spend are subsidized by tax-deductible, philanthropic gifts in the near term.
Long term, the platform becomes sustainable via multiple potential revenue streams, some that are user-growth dependent, some that are not. Platform profits are used to subsidize less profitable business entities (e.g. training, treatment and research) within the existing network footprint. Once the current network is sustainable, profits are channelled to open up new network locations, thereby growing the platform ethically and sustainably.
Over time, the platform will become both self sustaining and scalable: