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The Starfish Recognition Breakfast

Employees will be supplied with starfish shaped paper in which they will be able to write a gratitude filled comment to another staff member

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Staff will be able to write gratitude filled comments on a starfish shaped paper that will be supplied to them -- they will then personally deliver these starfish. After delivering a starfish, an email will be sent to a designated person with a list of who received the starfish -- a tally will be kept. Four times a year, the tallies will be counted and names will be put into a raffle corresponding to the amount of times a person received a starfish and a staff breakfast will be held in which the raffle is presented and a prize is received. We use a starfish based on the story of a young girl walking down the beach hurling starfish into the ocean -- when told she won't be able to save all the starfish on the coast she responds with, "Well, I made a difference to that one."

Idea Title

Recognition You Can Sea!

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

This idea will inspire staff to work hard while acknowledging the efforts that their coworkers are displaying. Further more, because it is not obligatory to write a starfish for someone, staff will not feel as if this is an added task to their workload.

Who are you innovating for?

We are innovating for the entire staff -- all of our members would benefit from this idea. Staff are directly showing their gratitude and all will be rewarded with a breakfast, regardless of who is picked from the raffle. Clients will also benefit from this idea because they will be in an environment which promotes team work and appreciation for one another.

What type of workplaces are you innovating for?

Our workplace is a small Mental Health Clinic in an urban setting -- the clinic is under-resourced, has a high volume of clients, high-stress, and a high risk population. The Organization has approximately 35 staff members.

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

The program director would be responsible for implementing this idea by sending company wide emails as well as announcing it in the weekly staff meetings. Further more, another staff member will be appointed as the contact person for counting tallies and other logistical requirements.

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

The obstacles I foresee are that staff members will not keep up with sending starfish -- thus, to overcome this company wide email remainders must be sent regularly.

How will you test and prototype your solution?

We have implemented this starfish idea; however, tallies were counted only once for the whole year and a breakfast was held. We noticed that we need to be more regular with the email updates about the starfish. This solution is viable due to the fact that even with only a yearly recognition breakfast, staff relationships greatly improved.

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

If we receive this grant, we will start by increasing the starfish recognition breakfasts. We are hoping this will increase our staff retention rate and thus increase client satisfaction as well. Having our Clinic work with mentoring organizations could possibly increase staff-client relationships.

At what stage of development is your Idea?

  • 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

From a gratitude event at my company

Tell us about yourself

I am one of the bilingual psychotherapists at the Union Settlement Mental Health Clinic and am working with a group of other individuals to come up with possible solutions to increase workplace gratitude.

Where are you / your team located?

East Harlem, New York.

Company / Organization Name

Union Settlement Mental Health


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