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Introducing our Panel of Judges

MI Innovations Team
May 22, 2024

Introducing our Panel of Judges

We are thrilled and grateful to announce a panel of judges who bring experience, compassion and depth of understanding to the assessment of this year’s entries, as well as representing a diverse range of perspectives.

Once the closing date has passed, the anonymised applications will be assessed first by the Innovations in Mindfulness team. Those which most fully meet the criteria will be shortlisted for the judges to review. The winning project will be announced in a ceremony at the Manchester Mindfulness Festival in October.

Luke Doherty

Winner of the Innovations in Mindfulness Awards 2022, with his programme BAM! Boxing and Mindfulness, Luke returns as a judge for the 2024 Awards.

A former England U-18s rugby player, Luke left elite sports to train in mindfulness and study how contemplative practices support both high performance and mental well-being. He went on to design bespoke programs for elite athletes in the Premiership rugby and football world and has translated the learning to support leaders and teams, including working with global brands. 

The BAM! programme sits at the core of Luke’s company, Mindful Peak Performance, and provides a new access point to mindfulness for disadvantaged young people. Luke has a degree in Law and a Postgraduate Diploma in Law & Community Leadership, and holds advanced mindfulness training qualifications from Breathworks and the Oxford University Mindfulness Centre.

Uz Afzal 

Uz is a lead trainer for the programme Radical Self-Care, which was a finalist in the 2022 Innovation in Mindfulness Awards, in partnership with Mind.

With two decades of experience in teaching mindfulness, her areas of interest are mindfulness in schools, in mental health support and in arts organisations. She cites as a highlight the opportunity to lead silent mindful walks through the V&A museum in London.

Uz’s book, ‘Mindfulness for Children’ was published in 2018. Speaking about the book at conferences and festivals has been a welcome way to connect with people. She is known for her accessible, enthusiastic and creative approach to sharing mindfulness. 

Uz is particularly interested in welcoming all the intersecting aspects of people’s identities into mindfulness courses, and in teaching with trauma-awareness at the fore. A Trustee of the Mindfulness Network, Uz sits on the EDI board looking at ways to broaden the reach of mindfulness and make it more inclusive.

Cathy-Mae Karelse

Cathy-Mae Karelse (she/her) is a scholar-practitioner, facilitator and public speaker on issues of race, difference, bridging and belonging. She is trained in numerous transformation approaches, with more than 20 years of experience in deep systems change that addresses the underlying social norms and narratives keeping institutionalised discrimination in place.

Cathy-Mae has worked across four continents to advance racial and gender justice. As author of Disrupting White Mindfulness: Race and Racism in the Wellbeing Industry (paperback release on 28th May 2024), she advocates for global South, Indigenous, and queer knowledges that enhance communal consciousness. 

She leads the Mindfulness Initiative’s work on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, as well the Climate Youth Resilience project, and returns for the second time as a judge in the Innovations Awards.

Vidyamala Burch OBE

Vidyamala is the Founder of The Breathworks Foundation, a mindfulness and compassion teacher, award-winning author and coach. She began teaching her mindfulness approach for managing pain and illness following her own personal experience living with health challenges. At age 16, she sustained spinal injuries that required multiple surgeries and left her with partial paraplegia and chronic pain. She began to explore mindfulness and meditation as a way to manage her pain and found the results to be life changing.

In 2001 she developed the world’s first Mindfulness-based Pain Management (MBPM) programme which has now been recognised by the NHS and global health boards and has reached over 100,000 people coping with pain, illness and stress.

Vidyamala’s list of accolades includes an OBE for services to Wellbeing and Pain Management and an honorary membership from The British Pain Society for her outstanding work for the alleviation of pain. She has been recognised as one of the most influential disabled people in the UK for four years running by the Shaw Trust Power List.

Vidyamala’s enthusiasm for innovation in the mindfulness sphere leads her to join the judging panel for the Awards for a second time.

Robert Marx 

Robert is a new member of our judges panel, bringing significant experience in mindfulness research and teaching. 

He is co-lead for the Sussex Mindfulness Centre (SMC), which he co-founded and which is part of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust. A clinical psychologist and cognitive analytic psychotherapist by background, he has been teaching mindfulness-based interventions to NHS patients and staff for 20 years.

Robert believes happy staff and patients thrive where welcoming, respectful and appreciative cultures are being developed and - to that end - he has also been leading compassionate leadership and Mindful Self-Compassion groups.  SMC is committed to reaching the most marginalised communities, and to using a robust research base to guide innovative mindfulness and compassion-based practice.

Having adapted mindfulness teaching programmes himself, Robert will bring insights from his own innovative work to the judging process.

Koen Biggelaar 

Koen joins our panel of judges with a particular knowledge of innovation in technology.

Currently with Microsoft, he has 25 years’ experience in technology and consulting companies. As a principal at Accenture, he saw the potential impact of cloud computing and joined Amazon Web Services, where he developed a technology organisation that helped global companies to transform digitally. 

Alongside supporting companies in their adoption of generative AI, he is a personal coach, supporting people in finding peace in the workplace while being more productive and cooperative.

His experience of Buddhism led Koen to found a non-profit, the Suttavāda Foundation, offering retreats, talks and courses. He also works with the academic community to promote research on meditation. Koen is currently leveraging his technology expertise to support the development of generative AI bots for mindfulness meditation.

MI Innovations Team


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