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The Appreciation Station: A community-centric public forum for thanks

A website that has: 1) A weekly gratitude story in which one colleague thanks another and 2) An anonymous "thank you" feed

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A web-based journal publicizing a featured story each week thanking a community member for their contributions or act of kindness. The writer for a given week is nominated by the previous week’s writer. Each posting will share a story of gratitude and gratefulness for the community to see. To encourage community engagement and smaller acts of gratitude, the page would also include a scrolling feed where community members can receive “kudos” in an easy one-click, emoji-based nomination, similar to a Facebook “Like” or Slack channel tag. 

Community members will be:

  1. Primed to look for opportunities to thank their colleagues / friends to boost colleagues’ / friends’ presence on the scrolling feed with easy input
  2. Inherently encouraged to interact regularly with the website since they will be curious as to whether anyone publicly thanked them
  3. Rewarded for helping others through nominations to the feature story or scrolling feed and encouraged to develop reputations as giving people
  4. Pushed to think deeper about gratitude to craft and share a story on another community member’s impact through the weekly update of the featured write up

There are a few recommended ways in which schools and workplaces could implement this including, but not limited to:

  • Setting aside one week to focus on gratitude (including trainings on the mutual benefits of greater workplace gratitude) and launch the website at the end of this week
  • Incorporating the website into community resources (slack channels, Facebook groups, etc.)
  • Encouragement of off-line recognition of acknowledgements

Idea Title

The Appreciation Station

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

The Appreciation Station makes giving gratitude a public, social experience, encouraging recognition of others’ efforts. The idea would remain internal to the community and community members in question. Because nominations are voluntary, the website would encourage authentic gratitude. Furthermore, with easy implementation and low-touch maintenance, the page can be implemented broadly within the community with ease. The page would strengthen relationships between those who are expressing gratitude and those nominated. Positive affirmations can encourage positive mental health. By seeing the impact others have had, community members can be motivated to positively influence others.

Who are you innovating for?

As a group of students currently in graduate school, our primary audience is other millennial students. These individuals will benefit most because once they go into the workplace, they will be able to inspire others to participate in expressions of gratitude. They also have many opportunities to help others and will be more concerned about online reputations.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

To prioritize, we would like to introduce this to universities in the US. Down the line, this idea could be implemented in schools and workplaces, particularly at start-up companies or companies that place high value on community and culture.

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

Graduate students are a great target audience because they are part of an established community - while many people may not know every person they attend school with, the prospect of being thanked by one’s peers (anonymously or not) brings a sense of excitement and buzz. The steps to introducing this page would be: 1. Develop a website where posts can be moderated posts 2. Get the “buzz” going by having a small group of students write gratitude blurbs and pass the online “journal” (i.e., website) to others 3. Provide a format for the submissions so that there is a standard look and feel 4. Describe the benefits/impact of grateful cultures on the website

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

There may be individuals and organizations who do not think the website is a good use of time; to overcome this, the moderators of the website should post relevant content from professionals or other academics on the importance of acknowledging events for which they should be grateful. The website may seem like “hype” and ultimately submissions may die down; to overcome this, the “pass-it-on” element of the website will need to be steadily sustained.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

This experiment would need to start in a smaller community (e.g., at one school). The website would need to be built and its activity can be measured after launch to see how readily students post to the site - as nominated posters and as anonymous posters. To ramp up efforts, the community can start with less frequent posting of grateful acts (e.g., once a week). As the website gains traction - likely through word of mouth - the frequency of posts can increase and the online community can grow.

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

Next steps: Recruit a website developer and speak with professors, professionals, and researchers specifically about the optimal format of this website and what barriers might exist that might make someone hesitant about posting acts of gratitude or recognizing others through an online forum. Additionally, we would spend time with professors here at The Wharton School to understand applications for this to the workplace (as opposed to a school 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

This idea came from one contributor's undergraduate experience where there was popular “missed connections” type website where gratitude was posted anonymously (e.g., “To the person in the blue shirt who helped the old woman cross the street, I see you! Thanks for being a kind member of our community!”). Well-written positive affirmations on the site were often discussed among students offline, creating a sense of needing to “pay it forward” and a higher sense of appreciation for one’s peers.

Tell us about yourself

We are a group of five MBA students at The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania. Having experience working in finance, consulting, and technology backgrounds, we have come from a broad spectrum workplaces (i.e., places that have been excellent at sharing thanks to places that barely recognize others).

Where are you / your team located?

The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA.

Tell us about your experience

I worked in management consulting for four years where gratitude was expressed different based on the manager's working style and team culture.


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