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Gratitude Blooming

A simple experience to help people embody gratitude by engaging with 39 nature-inspired themes that give gratitude a powerful, new twist.

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The goal of the Gratitude Blooming experience is to create a kinder, healthier, more authentically connected world through the powerful practice of gratitude. 

We developed the Gratitude Blooming cards, a collection of 39 mindful reflections and gratitude practices inviting people to explore the beauty and wisdom of nature. Each plant and flower drawing is accompanied by thought-provoking prompts that challenge us to release our old patterns of seeing the world and cultivate new perspectives and appreciation of the beauty that is often already present in the ordinary moments of our lives. Many of our themes intentionally align with the VIA research-based character strengths framework.

Example themes:
Tenacity, Vulnerability, Curiosity, Joy and Presence, Patience, Harmony

Since 2016, we have been focusing on designing and curating customized in-person and online gratitude experiences. Our goal is to build a gratitude culture among individuals, communities, teams and organizations by implementing rituals and routines to embody and spread the change they want to see.

Examples of ways to use the Gratitude Blooming cards:

  1. Individual Practice: Selecting a card each day to guide one's intentions and interactions with others.

  2. Team Practice: Selecting a card at the beginning of each team meeting and reflecting on the message of the card and how it might connect to the work being done that day. This practice often guides teams on how to approach the meeting and helps create a space for a shared experience.

  3. Group Experience: An ongoing customized journey for a team or organization, which may include in-person events and/or online experiences. 

Evolution of the Idea


Over the past month, after further prototyping, collecting feedback, attending the Greater Good Gratitude at Work Conference and brainstorming and strategizing as a team, our project has seen an exciting evolution. 

In response to user feedback, and to further our goal of creating a Gratitude Movement through our Gratitude Blooming cards and reflection prompts - we came up with the idea of Gratitude Gardens - physical spaces that connect people and help them embody gratitude, which can bloom in both the workplace and in community spaces. 

We aim to create experiences where gratitude is more than just saying “thanks”. What if gratitude could be like a garden that we intentionally plant, we tend, and where we can be inspired and share with others?

View our User Experience map and check out for more information

We are still developing this idea - and excited to learn more as we test it out in work and community spaces. We’ve taken to heart what Kate MacAleavey shared at the Gratitude at Work Conference. Specifically that “context is king”, to “keep it simple” and to “use your environment”. We understand that different individuals want to express gratitude in different ways. Also, organizations differ in their existing cultures and work environments. Due to these realities, we want to keep our work flexible and work with organizations to assess their environments and the needs of their employees to customize the experience. 

Add-ons to the experience could include:

  • live weekly meditations
  • in-person events
  • hidden surprises around the workplace
  • online space to share group insights and stories

We believe that what the world needs more than ever is in-person connection and physical tools and reminders to catalyze and support learning and growth in our daily lives. 

Idea Title

Gratitude Blooming

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

We have countless stories of how the simple act of giving people a physical card with an image of a plant paired with a beautiful reflection question created a conversation and deeper dialogue that would not have happened otherwise. With the gratitude gardens, we hope to bring a playful and interactive gratitude experience to the workplace. Using selections from our card themes, employees can co-create a space that promotes their core values and encourages people to contribute their own seeds of gratitude with the messages they leave behind. This simple encounter is meant to bring hope, awe, and meaning to inspire and connect people at work, especially during moments when they need it most.

Who are you innovating for?

Gratitude is for everyone - and it is needed now more than ever to bring us together as a community and help us overcome some of the challenges we face. This experience can benefit all types of individuals and groups, both at a personal and professional level, helping to develop a positive mindset, increase general well being, and connect more deeply at an interpersonal level.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

These cards and the accompanying gratitude experiences can be implemented in any sized organization across any geographical location. A small team can integrate the cards into their daily meetings. We can work with a large company to design in-person or online experiences that best fit their needs. Our Gratitude Gardens can help connect people and provide benefit in any workplace environment.

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

1. We connect with an interested “gratitude ambassador” in a leadership position at a organization. 2. We have an initial consulting session to assess their needs and goals for their employees. 3. We collaborate to customize a program for their organization, curating select themes for the garden that best align with their core values and culture. 4. The gratitude ambassador implements the experience. 5. We continue to check in and refine the experience to ensure optimal benefit for the group. 6. Employees receive a deck of Gratitude Blooming cards to continue the practice. Please view our User Journey for a closer look at the Gratitude Garden experience.

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

Our biggest obstacle is getting organizations to join the movement. We’re collaborating with a Corporate Social Responsibility leader to guide our outreach strategy. Another obstacle is embedding gratitude-inspired rituals and routines into the existing culture of an organization. We’ll continue to finetune our offerings and implementation strategies by piloting directly with gratitude ambassadors that understand the unique needs and experiences of employees at their organization.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

As shared above, we want to continue to pilot in different types and sizes of teams and organizations, to ensure that our offering is the most impactful it can be. We would follow a similar strategy to that outlined above, working with someone in a leadership position in an organization to customize an experience to be most powerful for their population.

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

We want to start by bringing the gardens to places where people are most in need of hope. We’ll work with hospitals, libraries and retirement homes where the gardens would benefit both employees and the community. At the same time, we’ll work with organizations, fine tuning the offering to achieve the best outcomes. We would also work with the mentoring organizations to ensure that our content and strategies make best use of the gratitude research available.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • Piloting: You have started to implement your solution as a whole with a first set of real users. You may have started to develop a business model for your idea, including identifying key customer segments, relevant partnerships, go-to-market strategy, and draft financials.
  • Full-scale roll-out: You have developed a pilot, tested, and analyzed the impact of that pilot as it pertains to the problem scope. You are ready to expand the pilot significantly and begin to scale.

Please describe from where your Idea emerged

Belinda and Arlene met through a mutual friend and bonded over a shared desire to make a difference in people's lives. They initially collaborated on a startup project centered around helping communities develop their inner purpose, passion and wellbeing. Together they won a CCARE Compassion and Technology Award to support this work. Through their learnings during this experience, and with the inspiration from Arlene's nature inspired art work, the Gratitude Blooming project emerged.

Tell us about yourself

We are a community of lifelong learners: artists, social entrepreneurs, teachers, communicators and designers. Arlene Kim Suda: Artist and Visionary Belinda Liu: Founding Partner Melissa Shaffer: Team Member Anca Mateescu: Designer Stephanie Ervin: Event Support

Where are you / your team located?

We are mostly centered in the San Francisco Bay Area. Our designer Anca lives in Romania.

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

Gratitude Blooming currently lives under HiveQuest (C-corp) but may be established as a separate legal entity in the future, depending on its success.

Company / Organization Name

Gratitude Blooming (project under HiveQuest)

Website (and

Tell us about your experience

Melissa Shaffer - background in psychology, with experience in nonprofits and businesses for social good Belinda Liu - teacher, community builder, and entrepreneur Arlene Kim Suda - lifelong aspiring painter, musician, poet and designer Anca Mateescu - communication designer Stephanie Ervin - heart-centered coach and thought leader in adult learning

Please describe, in detail, how you will test and get feedback on your concept.

In the past months we’ve experimented and received feedback in the following ways: (See attachment for details) Prototype 1: Online Gratitude Journey for Comcast Women’s ERG A 6-week online experience for 250 employees. Got helpful feedback from discussions with a Comcast leader, direct observation, one-on-one sessions with participants and surveys. Program was successful in increasing gratitude, but top takeaway was a hypothesis that an in-person and more hands-on experience would be more successful at engaging and connecting people. Prototype 2: New and improved card deck We already had a working prototype of our deck, but decided to do targeted market research to produce a deck that would be more durable and more impactful in inspiring gratitude and helping people engage meaningfully around the provocative themes. Future Prototypes: -Friends will test out gratitude gardens in their offices -Contact at Comcast is interested in testing Gratitude Gardens with her employees

Please describe specifically how you plan to scale your idea. What are the key next steps you will take, and how will those steps inform the evolution and growth of your concept?

We have added a page to our website about the Gratitude Gardens ( Our goal is to prototype the garden concept in a few spaces first - to see what needs refining. We’ll do this prototyping in the workplaces of friends and will also inquire with a few community gathering spaces and organizations (library, cafe, hospitals, etc.). Simultaneously, we’ll begin outreach within our networks to reach more businesses. We are working with a thought leader in the CSR space to see if we can build an initial adoption in workplaces and spaces that need gratitude the most, such as corporations with large campuses where connection is hard. We will learn from each experience and adjust our offerings according to what works and resonates with employees, and what does not. By using CSR as an entry point, we can also encourage companies to sponsor gratitude gardens in their local hospital, library, retirement home, cafe, and any community space. We also hope to create a global map on our website where people can view all the Gratitude Gardens in a city. People can visit different gardens to explore and contribute to the conversations around different themes. Employees can share their gardens and their experiences on social media using a special hashtag. We are seeking funding to help us scale this project and pursue our goal to create a global gratitude movement.

As we have seen in the Challenge, there is a tension between authentic expressions of gratitude and mandatory gratitude. How does your idea inspire truly authentic expressions of gratitude versus mandated ones?

The fluidity of our gardens, choice of themes, and the various ways to contribute, helps all types of people engage. Some people may feel most comfortable visiting the gardens alone and sharing thoughts anonymously on sticky notes. Others may visit and start a discussion with their colleagues. Some may also take a postcard back to their desks - preferring the daily visual reminder and internal reflection. People will naturally engage in the expression of gratitude most authentic to their nature.

Gratitude often thrives when opportunities for connection are created. How will your concept create new opportunities for human connection?

Our themes are wide ranging and nuanced to prompt deeper reflection than a surface-level discussion of gratitude. People crave to connect on a human level at their workplaces. We encourage them to spend time with aspects of life beyond just the positive, which may be dark or uncomfortable, and find the opportunities to be grateful nonetheless. Our Comcast pilot participants were eager to be vulnerable and valued the safe space to do so. Our spaces help facilitate more fulfilling connections.

Who (specifically) will benefit from your concept, and how they will interact with it? What design considerations have you included to ensure easy and intuitive interactions? 

We originally tried a higher tech option in our pilot with Comcast (see attachment for more details), but given the feedback, decided to make our idea simpler and low tech, to be more accessible to all who wish to be involved. Our Gratitude Ambassador at Comcast loved the idea of the Gratitude Gardens. She particularly liked the language - saying it felt very approachable to soften these important topics with language around plants and gardening. We’ve purposely focused on including aspects of awe, beauty and inspiration in the experience. She also gave us helpful advice to consider people that work and lead in different ways, and how the garden might be made most impactful for both groups. We feel we’ve captured this by offering multiple ways to engage. People can reflect individually, share anonymously or discuss with others. There’s a way for all to engage, whether thinkers or feelers, introverts or extroverts, so there are no barriers to participation.

Please describe how you intend to use the prize funding, if selected as a Top Idea. Be specific.

We seek to transform the Gratitude Blooming experience into a global movement to spread joy, peace, wellbeing, and meaningful connection. We want to "plant" metaphorical gratitude gardens in cafes, schools, hospitals, workplaces, and community spaces. Funding will help us produce gratitude garden kits, including compelling posters and creative tools, add a gratitude map on our website to show each garden, get the word out via digital marketing, and cover staff costs to further develop the idea.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Melissa,

This is a final reminder that the deadline for all submission materials is 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time TODAY--that's in less than 4 hours. Excited to see your final post on the platform!

Please don't forget to hit "publish post"--your submission is currently in draft mode.

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Melissa and the Gratitude Blooming team! I wanted to remind you the deadline for all challenge materials is less than 4 days away. We encourage you to update your concepts before the final deadline so our community can provide some feedback on your concept.

Also, don't forget the Refinement Phase questions are mandatory to complete! These can be found by following the link below and clicking "edit contribution" at the top of your page and scrolling down to the additional questions in the post.

Can't wait to see more!

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Melissa!

A friendly reminder the Gratitude in the Workplace Storytelling Workshop is tomorrow, November 30th at 9:00 a.m. PT! This workshop is designed to help your team present your Refinement Phase work and core concept with clarity. Hope to see you there!

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Melissa,

Congratulations on advancing to the Refinement Phase of the Challenge! Please tag me in the comments @Lauren Ito with any questions and for feedback on your user experience map, evaluation questions, and prototyping. We recommend updating your post throughout the phase to allow for our community to engage, collaborate, and share feedback on your post.

Excited to see how your idea develops in the coming weeks!

Photo of Melissa

Thanks Lauren Ito ! Can you direct me to where I can update my post and view the additional questions? I'm not able to locate an "edit" button! Thanks!

Photo of OpenIDEO

Hi Melissa,

We are in the final hours of the Gratitude in the Workplace Challenge Ideas Phase! We would love to have your idea included. The Ideas Phase closes on October 25th--TODAY--at 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

To publish your post please select the "Publish" button at the top of your contribution.

See you in the Challenge!