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Making our Space a Thankful Place

Promote gratitude via a welcoming environment by redesigning our surroundings to create a comforting space for staff and clients.

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James Weldon Johnson counseling center is the mental health and wellness clinic of Union Settlement located at the Thomas Jefferson Housing (part of New York City Housing Administration, what is referred to as "the projects"). Our team is formed of psychiatrists, psychotherapist, care management, and administrative staff who serve children, adolescents, adults, and older persons living in East Harlem and surrounding neighborhoods.

The mission of a settlement house is to help provide services to those within the communities they serve. Therapy offices are set up within previous apartments of NYCHA facilities to increase accessibility for our clients. The facilities come with challenges that our consumers often face, such as tight spaces, lack of windows, or run down walls. Staff members are devoted to the work and helping marginalized communities, often re-decorating each space out of pocket.

The Gratitude Project would allow our clinic to provide a space where staff members feel appreciated and valued. When providing a space that employees look forward to returning to each day, the gratitude would subsequently provide benefits for the clients, many whom are survivors of trauma and experience anxiety or depression. Studies show that improved interior design contributes to wellness and decreased stress in healthcare environments:

Idea Title

Making Our Space into a Thankful Place

How the Idea will inspire the experience and expression of gratitude within an organization.

Working together to create a space that we all enjoy coming to every day can create a collaborative work environment where we feel acknowledged and appreciated. Working on this common goal can make us feel more motivated, build teamwork, and ultimately help us feel grateful for each other and the space we inhabit.

Who are you innovating for?

We are innovating for our team to feel at home in their surroundings and to build a more collaborative culture. A comfortable environment will also positively affect the population we serve because it will provide a positive and inviting space where they can feel comfortable.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

Union Settlement is a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization serving marginalized communities in East Harlem. We have 50 staff members at the clinic and serve roughly 1100 clients.

How you envision the Idea being introduced to your selected organization?

We have a team of therapist with backgrounds in art, design, and housing that would be in charge of designing and managing the project. We visualize our entire team taking ownership of this to promote teamwork and appreciation for every team members contribution. We all are interested in improving the space and will use our skills to contribute to enhancing environment.

What obstacles, if any, do you foresee in implementing this Idea, and how would they be overcome?

Office spaces and bathrooms would be temporarily out of use, and we plan to overcome this by sharing the spaces that are available. Time constraints could also be an obstacle, but this funding would allow us to take some time out of our week to work on this project.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

We will start with a survey to understand how each member of our team feels about their surroundings and what changes they believe need to be made. Since we are now working on making our front desk area look more inviting, we will pursue feedback once it is finished.

What immediate next steps will you take if you receive an implementation grant.

1) Create an inventory and budget of supplies needed (from paint to furniture), 2) choose design elements (for example: calming colors, day lighting, motivational images/quotes, or additions of plants) 3) partner with local shops for resources (for example Goodwill, Ikea) 4) Use tech startup office designs as a model that have had a positive impact on their employees as examples from work spaces that have proved to promote increased productivity in the environment.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Research & Early Testing: You are exploring an idea, gathering inspiration and information needed to test it with real users.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

When brainstorming ways to promote gratitude at our workplace, we realized that besides scheduling regular meetings (like coffee time, monthly team lunches) we realized that improving the space would have benefits to promote further and continued gratitude projects for staff.

Tell us about yourself

Jennifer is a bilingual psychotherapist and a yoga instructor that brought us the idea of promoting gratitude to our work environment. The rest of the team working on this proposal is formed by two music/art therapists, one supervisor with a background in housing policy/administration and two psychotherapists with experience in marketing and design.

Where are you / your team located?

New York City, East Harlem

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Non-profit 501 (c)(3)

Company / Organization Name

Union Settlement, James Weldon Johnson Counseling Center


Tell us about your experience

We are all psychotherapist with different backgrounds: Yoga Instructors, Designers, Expressive Arts Therapists, and Social Workers. The inspiration for this project came from the study of Ecopsychology and how one's environment effects mental health to promote sustainability and self-care.

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Join the conversation:

Photo of Mário Monteiro

"...provide a space where staff members feel appreciated and valued. When providing a space that employees look forward to returning to each day..."
I couldn't agree more! Our workplace is a second home, if not, for many, the first. To have a familiar and "homie" workplace helps us to bring out the best in us. Sometimes we don't even need a big investment. Involving the wole team in designing and participating in the rearrangements is enough to built a team spirit and create a space of our own team. According to the beneficiaries of your work you could even create thematic rooms.