It takes time to grow a marrow / Outstanding Activities gave a seed to Forest Healthcare and their glorious harvest continues to improve quality of life!

It’s been my pleasure recently to hear some wonderful examples of the enduring impact of change in services working with Ladder to the Moon’s Outstanding Activities programme. As our company name suggests, you can’t get to the Moon in a single step. Change takes time. It takes effort and it takes intentionality. I’d like to share a recent story of success in one of our participating services and look at the steps that were taken to create such good news.

For those of you who don’t know, our Outstanding Activities programme develops and supports participants to become leaders of outstanding social engagement in their services. The programme supports a whole service approach to life enrichment, using creative approaches to improve the quality of life for people working and living in care.

Every month, participating services receive a creative resources box. Earlier this year one such box was the Bird Box Bonanza! Forest Healthcare’s The Grange recently won our Evidence of Outstanding Activities Competition with an entry in which use of this box led to the creation of a vegetable patch in the back garden.

Since then, a Gardening Club has been established, run by the Maintenance team, which led to a meal using a stuffed marrow grown on the premises - a resident chose the meal, grew the marrow in the garden and the kitchen cooked it!

This wonderful example of whole service approach and personalisation has led to menus being based on what the residents want - they've chosen the entire list.  And a Cookery club is about to start.

What fantastic developments! If a home grown food and cookery club sounds like quite a step from a creative resource box called ‘Bird Box Bonanza!’ you’d be right. It’s many more than one step - you can’t get to the moon in a single step - but the steps are linked. And every idea has a seed.

Let’s have a look at the steps:

  1. The Bird Box Bonanza box arrives at the Grange (a seed is offered!)
  2. Inspired by the box, bird feeders are made by residents and staff
  3. The residents pick a place in the rear of the garden for the bird feeders that could be seen from the lounge
  4. “The residents loved doing this activity so much that they asked to use the rest of the garden at the back for a vegetable patch”
  5. “Betty and Dorothy had been observers at the making of the bird feeders as they did not want to get involved but decided to join us when we placed them in the garden - they led the discussion about the vegetable patch and they are now keeping this going and watering it regularly and keeping an eye on its progress”
  6. A weekly Gardening club is established, run by the Maintenance team
  7. A stuffed marrow recipe is requested and a marrow is grown by the Gardening Club.
  8. Kitchen staff are enrolled and the stuffed marrow recipe is cooked
  9. The stuffed marrow is eaten
  10. Residents are offered greater choice over menus

By way of disclaimer, I ought to point out that there are many more steps here not illustrated. Not least the fact that The Grange began participating in the Outstanding Activities programme some four months before they received the Bird Box Bonanza! box. Every step also has the potential to be a first step on a different line of development.

Outstanding Activities participant Naomi Mead observed “The vegetable patch seemed to just happen as a result of the bird feeder activity and it was a surprise to us all when this activity grew in to something different.”

The staff at The Grange were open to this surprise and responsive to letting these steps develop. They protected new ideas and gave them the space to grow and develop. Residents were involved at every step. You can’t get to the Moon in a single step. You can’t grow a marrow in a day. But, given a seed, amazing results are possible in time!

Ladder to the Moon’s creative approaches help Notting Hill Housing provide “the best job in the world!”

“After years battling to get the staff more involved in activities, I've now got the best job in the world!” Chloe Burrow, Activities Officer, Notting Hill Housing

What a thrilling thing to hear on a Coaching Call! Our Outstanding Activities programme provides a number of creative tools to support positive change in participating services. Coaching Calls and Development Days provide the Continuous Professional Development which deliver lasting results.

Chloe went on to reflect:

“I've realised that gaining support informally is a skill in itself. There are many ways to make everybody like you. It's not about getting what you want - you need to find their lemons!

Chloe refers here to an anecdote shared on the most recent Outstanding Activities Development Day. My colleague Jude, Director of Quality and Enjoyment, has observed that it could be easy to move into a care setting and never see a lemon again. However you respond to this prospect, for Jude, this would be a significant missing. She likes the taste and smell of lemons, she appreciates a slice in a good gin and tonic. But they also hold personal associations and significance, a single lemon linking her to a specific lemon tree in a certain garden in Crete.

On the Development Day we considered that bringing a lemon to Jude would create a very different connection and opportunities than to the next individual. And that every individual, client, resident or colleague, has their own items of significance. To quote Chloe again, “You need to find their lemons!”

The tool shared on this Development Day – the Creative Teams Framework - supports making requests of colleagues to shift their contribution by reframing perception of colleague disengagement. The tool demonstrates that all individuals have different responses and behaviours in different contexts… and that behaviour can change! 

Using this Creative Teams Framework, Chloe has supported staff members to move from inaction and a lack of ideas to providing ideas, offering solutions, and putting creative ideas into action. Innovation!

This contribution from staff is already supporting an improved sense of home identity and gives Chloe an additional connection with her colleagues:

“It's nice to have that extra thing to talk about. Staff are thinking about me in terms of their wider personal network. I have allies in the care team.”
“After years battling to get the staff more involved in activities, I've now got the best job in the world!”
Chloe Burrow, Activities Officer, Notting Hill Housing

Surprise and Enduring Impact with Residents who “don’t”

“Donald doesn't want to eat. Or drink. We can't get him to talk.”

There’s nothing particularly exceptional about this story so far. As a resident in a care setting, Donald’s experience of life is by no means unique. It’s the start of a story I hear regularly on coaching calls with care home staff on the Outstanding Activities programme.

What’s thrilling to report is that although I can never predict what path the story is going to tread, I can be pretty confident that I’m going to hear a tale of transformation. That the participant in question has made a breakthrough. And that someone somewhere is surprised.

“We opened the box.”

(Outstanding Activities participants receive a box of resources every month, filled with resources, instructions & inspiration)  

“He straight away grabbed the bowler hat… Started spinning in, starring at it, looking inside... It's been transforming him.”

Staff have been taking the bowler hat to him everyday.

"And now we can get him to eat!"

On another call recently I heard that Betty is “quite depressive... when she comes out of her room she's in a good mood, but she can refuse to come out for some time."

Betty responded to the box contents with “surprising interest and excitement.” Her  daughter - who is used to seeing her mother upset and in her room - visited and "was over the moon!"

Following this use of an Outstanding Activities box, Betty was in a good mood for a fortnight.

It’s a delight to hear value and enduring impact arising from small interventions inspired by our programme. What also strikes me though is the surprise. The interest, the engagement, the shift, the transformation is so often unexpected. As if the natural state of the individual in question was to be fasting, or unresponsive or disengaged with life.

Sometimes the greatest act of generosity we can give someone is withholding our judgements and expectations for long enough to give them space to be unusual. To be open enough to make a creative offer which could lead anywhere. As creative acts so often do!   


And the Winter Winner of the Evidence of Outstanding Activities Competition is...

§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§*drum roll*§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§§  

*Vanessa Duggan at Hamble Heights!!! (Chorus Care)*

For her whole home approach to the Coat of Arms box  
For demonstrating leadership by:

... investing in the process
… influencing: Vanessa communicated effectively - and with evident skill! - enrolling of staff          across four floors with bold requests, clear instructions, support and feedback loops. She          also modelled by getting involved on one of the floors
… inspiring and motivating colleagues with a clear vision
... attaining goals: the results! 4 different coats of arms, one from each floor, and the possibility    of two floors producing more

For sharing the good news with the CEO.
For the CEO supporting Vanessa’s ‘yes let’s’ attitude and enthusiasm, with the prospect of a final professionally made Coat of Arms chosen by the community.

Hamble Heights' Coats of Arms made by residents and staff

Hamble Heights' Coats of Arms made by residents and staff


The following two entries have been *Highly Commended*:

*Marie Dasylva - Torkington House (Greensleeves) *

For her ‘use everything’ approach
For taking on the coaching to achieve results in the face of challenges
For including family members & enabling colleagues - including non care staff - to contribute

_"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 chose the sign for our location. It was a real team effort.”_

It’s lovely to hear the community building effects of this box.

Torrington House Coat of Arms

Torrington House Coat of Arms


*Beverley Hillier - Roseacres (Advinia)*

For excellent evidence - beautiful photos and a very impressive video
For enrolling a volunteer to produce an astounding video
For the film maker - who should be highly commended for bringing their talent to work! 
For being creative and adding arts and crafts activities to the box
For being open and including residents who were not initially engaged

from Roseacres' Icons Photo Shoot [photographer: Loz Hill]

from Roseacres' Icons Photo Shoot [photographer: Loz Hill]

Lighting up the lives of those at risk of isolation

Our Outstanding Activities ‘Festival of Light’ box has been lighting up care settings across the country. Ladder to the Moon help place Wellbeing, Leadership and Creativity at the heart of services. Wellbeing is so much more than ‘happy’ – the positive emotions generated by Madalena recently at Rosemary Mount (Keychange) included gratitude, joy, interest, inspiration and a little awe…

Cultures all over the world have festivals of light. When the nights draw in people use light to create vibrant celebrations. From Diwali, to Halloween, to Guy Fawkes and Hanukah we all do it in our own way. Every month participants on Ladder to the Moon’s Outstanding Activities programme receive a box of inspiring resources and potential. The Festival of Light box is an opportunity to explore different ways of playing with light.

All our boxes are designed to provide offers of engagement for different group sizes, from one-to-one engagement to whole home events. I’ve been thrilled to hear recently about how this box has been used to access those who often miss out on activity provision.

Outstanding Activities participant Madalena requested staff to collect and bring in plastic bottles and, using the Festival of Light box, ran lantern making arts and crafts activities. Initially in the lounge in a group, then in a number of rooms with bed-bound residents. She found that a halved bottle would balance well on someone’s arm and they could decorate it using their other arm.

“I realised it was a simple thing to do, gluing the bottles, using the lights, and when I turned off the lights in the room and turned on the lights in the bottles - everyone loved them.”

Madelena reached out to the night staff to share the lanterns with the residents when dark. The night staff, who can often be unsure whether social engagement is part of their job description, were thrilled with the suggestion. They took took photos and this led to lantern lit sing-a-long.

“The night staff said they were happy to have something to do.”

Bedbound residents thoroughly appreciated having their environment changed by changing the light.

“One family member was moved to tears seeing how her mother responded.” 

Another resident, Maude Smith, never normally comes to the lounge but was inspired to by the beauty of the lanterns. Maude is seen her in the lounge, entranced. 

Maude Smith, Rosemary Mount (Keychange)