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Appreciation Station (Gratitude E-Board)

A virtual space for individuals across the organization to share messages of gratitude, reinforced by email reminders and in-person sharing.

Photo of Fred Shaykis
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We will create a joint online board (“Appreciation Station) using the Trello webapp ( Everyone in the organization can use this board to give appreciation cards (A-Cards) to others - either on their own team or on another team - to express their appreciation for someone’s specific action. Employees will be encouraged to add A-Cards to the Appreciation Station on an ongoing basis, with a weekly email reminder sent to everyone. Everyone will be able to see the cards they’ve received by searching for their name in the Appreciation Station. A-Card senders will also tag or cc the recipient in the card so the recipient will get a notification that they’ve received a card. In addition, A-Cards will be tagged by the team of the recipient so that each team can see all of the cards that members of the team have received. People will be able to submit cards anonymously, since some people may be shy about showing gratitude, but will be encouraged to include their name on the card. We will print out all of the previous week’s A-Cards in the Appreciation Station and display them in the office so everyone can see them in person, since not everyone may feel like visiting the Station online. 

As part of the roll-out of the Appreciation Station system, we will devote 5-10 minutes during our weekly All-Staff meeting to sharing a subset of the A-Cards from the past week. In doing so we will create Appreciation Trains: a small group (5-10) of people will be selected to start the trains by sharing one of the A-Cards they submitted (written on a post-it) during All-Staff meeting. At the next week’s meeting, the people who received A-Cards at the previous meeting will share one of their sent A-Cards and add it to the train. After several weeks we will have chains of A-Cards posted on the wall, illustrating the flow of appreciation through the staff of the organization. 

In order to incentivize participation, for every 10 A-cards someone sends, they will have their name entered once in a raffle for a prize.

Idea Title

Appreciation Station

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

This idea will formalize the practice of publicly expressing appreciation for someone else within the organization. Hosting the Appreciation Station online will enable people who are traveling or who work remotely to also participate in giving and receiving A-Cards (unlike physical notes or a mailbox system). Formally incorporating the sharing of A-Cards and the gradual creation of an Appreciation Train into the weekly All-Staff meeting will encourage buy-in and will also allow show staff examples of how Gratitude is consistently felt and expressed throughout the organization. The Appreciation Station will serve as a hub for expressions of interpersonal gratitude.

Who are you innovating for?

Individuals in the organization will benefit from this idea because it will help cultivate a culture of publicly sharing expressions of gratitude, which will lead to the double-benefit of people giving and receiving appreciation. Behind-the-scenes and typically underappreciated staff in particular will benefit because they would see and feel that others from across the organization appreciate them. Managers and senior staff would benefit by having a fun, informal way of showing appreciation.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

This idea would be ideal for mid-sized organizations where many people are familiar with one another but may not work closely with everyone. This idea would be ideal for socially-oriented organizations for whom outcomes and achievements are less financial and possibly more difficult to measure or celebrate. This idea could work in any geography but may be more appropriate in more individualistic societies, where people would feel pride and accomplishment for being individually commended.

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

This idea would first be piloted for a few weeks in a handful of select teams (of about 3 to 15 people) that are interested. Any refinements would be made based on feedback and lessons learned at the team level. After a final model for the Appreciation Station is developed, the idea will be explained to all staff members at the organization both in person at the All-Staff meeting (which is live webcast for all remote staff) and in an email. The implementation of the idea organization-wide would be led by senior leadership, including the Executive Director / CEO and the head of H.R, who would explain the rationale and what is being asked of staff.

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

The primary obstacles in implementing this idea would be (1) staff’s hesitation to use the online platform selected (Trello) and (2) making the regular sending and receiving of A-Cards a habit for individuals across the organization. To overcome the first obstacle, everyone will receive be able to send their appreciation cards directly to the Station by sending the Card text to a custom email address that will automatically create a Card. There will also be a physical drop-box for A-Cards.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

- Hosting focus groups to identify unanticipated barriers to participation and further refine the idea and implementation plan - Using A/B testing and have a handful of teams try out various versions of the system and provide feedback and recommendations for improvements. A-card submission rates (cards per person per week) would be used as a key metric of how much staff are engaging with the program. - An anonymous feedback box for staff to submit their thoughts (positive or negative)

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

I would work with GGSC as well as a core group at my organization to refine the design of this idea to make it more sustainable. The guidance of GGSC would help us make sure that our plan for implementation stays true to best practices for gratitude, and would help us adjust course as needed. The implementation grant would help fund the implementation coordinator and would allow us flexibility to offer incentives for participating (i.e. a raffle for everyone who has submitted A-Cards).

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 emerged from the ways that people at my organization express gratitude and trying to build on them to make them more habitual, public, and part of organizational culture. We held a brainstorming session for all staff to think about how we could express more gratitude in the workplace, and this idea emerged from that brainstorming session. The idea was then solidified with the help of the Wellness Committee (of which I’m a part) as well as with input from organizational leadership.

Tell us about yourself

I'm Fred Shaykis, Research Coordinator at The Food Trust. I serve on the Wellness Committee, which is always seeking new and innovative ways to improve health and wellness of The Food Trust's employees. The Wellness Committee is made up of several employees from different teams and various seniority levels.

Where are you / your team located?

Philadelphia, PA, U.S.A. We have some remote staff in San Jose, CA, and Cleveland, OH

Please describe your legal and organizational structure

The Food Trust is a registered 403(b) nonprofit. We have approximately 140 full-time and seasonal employees.


Tell us about your experience

I personally work in Research & Evaluation of U.S. food access and nutrition education programs. I have studied positive psychology in college, which is where my passion for gratitude emerged.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Lauren Ito

Hi Fred Shaykis ,

Great to see you in the Ideas Phase of the Challenge! I'm curious about what would incentivize people to participate in this initiative?

Also, is there any chance you could find an image to go along with it? Images help grab attention and tell a story. You should be able to use the Edit Contribution button on the top of your post and follow the instructions to add images from there. Looking forward to seeing more of your inspiring insights on OpenIDEO.

Please update your post within the next hour! The Ideas Phase closes today at 3:00 p.m. Pacific Time.

Excited to learn more!

Photo of Fred Shaykis

Hey Lauren Ito , thanks for the suggestion! I added a photo. In terms of your question about what would incentivize participation, I have a few responses. First, it will come from the leadership of the organization (whom I've already talked to and they're on board (get it?)). Secondly, each week at our all-staff meeting some people will share their posts to the board (A-Cards) so everyone will see that this is something people are really doing, it will be fun for people to share and receive appreciation, and if it's someone's turn to present he/she will feel pressure to have given an A-Card so he/she can share. Thirdly, (if we receive funding) we can incentivize people to participate through a raffle or prizes. For example, for every 10 A-Cards sent someone gets a free drink at the next happy hour, or gets entered into a raffle to win a wellness-related prize.