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Whole staff team gets involved with a culture of activities

This article was originally published 29 February 2016 on

One of the initial difficulties with creative practice lies in the amorphous nature of creativity itself. The limitless possibility of a broad request - ‘do something creative’ ‘draw me a picture’ ‘write a blog’ – is at best challenging and at worst immobilising.

I was speaking to Marie, an Activities Coordinator the other day. Marie is a participant on Ladder to the Moon’s Outstanding Activities programme, and receives a monthly Activity Box of resources, instructions and inspiration. We were talking about the ‘Coat of Arms’ box, which invites homes to design and fashion a Coat of Arms, with symbols representing what people value most at the home. By a variety of means, Marie asked residents, staff and family members to contribute and…

‘I waited for some feedback from everyone but realised that no one could think of a symbol representing their categories’

Initial uncertainty and hesitancy across the interest groups... at best challenging, at worst, immobilising. Resolute, Marie used her coaching call support with Ben (Ladder’s Head of Creativity and Connection) to discuss a reconsidered approach. The box contained the answer!

‘He suggested that I give each group some ideas by showing them symbols and examples [in the Activity Box] that could be relevant to the task. I did exactly that and was given so many suggestions by staff, relatives and residents that having to make the Coat of Arms become really easy.’

By providing context and parameters, Marie had removed the unintentionally obstructive effect of her initial requests and instead inspired contribution.

‘The result was that it was easy for everyone to get involved.

Our coat of Arms was cut by a relative using a piece of wood from an old wardrobe. The paints and brushes came from our gardener for our residents to use. The handyman fixed it to the wall and our residents cut the symbols and chose where they were going. Even our bookkeeper helped choose a symbol for our location.

It was a real team effort.’

Transformations such as this one occur frequently and can often be inspired by minimal, subtle interventions. Hesitancy which at times can be seen as a reluctance to engage may just be the result of uncertainty and an unclear understanding of the request. The recipe for achieving positive results within creative practice, however, remains consistent with Marie’s practice: persistence, awareness and a willingness to assess and, if necessary, change one’s approach.

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