There have been many times over the years we have worked with care organisations when we have faced the despair and demoralisation of staff.

Even the idea of providing creative activities for residents could prove a real nightmare to some of the less confident members. One told us how she used to hope that the Bingo sheets would be in the cupboard when it was her turn. If not, then perhaps she could manage to get residents to colour in some of the printed outline drawings. She kept saying –‘I can’t paint! I was no good at art at school. I don’t know what to do!’

Over a period of three months, gaining in confidence, she learned how to facilitate activities, how to include other members of staff, how to teach others! She developed a clay workshop and when she eventually left this home going to another some way away, she found herself training staff and devising a whole activities programme. And she never encouraged her colleagues to hide behind Bingo!

So when we were asked by a manager of a home faced with closure and a staff team very demoralised indeed, we set up a shared enquiry programme to enable them to pool their ideas and compile a team manual which they could use with agency staff and take with them to whatever their future held. It was to encapsulate their shared learning and insights, build their confidence and provide them with evidence of their professional expertise.

Some of the issues they faced as a group concerned the way the home was run and using a version of Forum Theatre they were able to voice all their issues and come up together with the manager innovative approaches to age-old problems.

Finally they devised a whole celebration of the creativity shown by the residents working alongside them and in reviewing their programme with the business and school volunteers and the Head of Training for Richmond Borough they said, as so many had before: “You haven’t just changed how I see my work – you have changed how I see my life!” Finally they closed the programme with a vote of thanks: “Thank you for showing us we can be more…. We will be, we promise you!”

Hearing this the local Registration Officer turned to us and said: “Have you any idea how long trainers have to wait to have that kind of feedback? This training is filling a gap by attending to social interaction. This social core training with spontaneous and continuous work on creativity fills a great need in training provision. It’s brilliant.”

And brilliant was just how the staff, manager and volunteers all felt!