The staff at the Residential Home were nervous. Welcoming a group of businessmen into their environment was not something they had ever done before. They did not number international consultants amongst their acquaintance and found the idea of hosting a day for such visitors intimidating. It was a challenge to their already fragile sense of self-esteem, faced as they currently were with reorganisation, possible redundancy and chronically low pay scales.

For their part the business people felt that all their undoubted communication skills would be severely challenged by working with people with both cognitive and physical problems, being cared for in a rundown residential home. It was not something they had ever done before and they wondered what issues it would raise for them. They were very uncomfortable.

What neither group realised was that during the course of the day they would come to share a common understanding of both organisational and human problems, advising each other, coaching each other and learning about their shared community, experienced from such different but complementary view points. The respect they each showed the other brought many close to tears.

‘I have always been seen as a black care-worker, of no real account. Sometimes I have just been seen as black. Today I was seen as a person!’

‘Today you reminded me of why I went into my work, of things I have long taken for granted and forgotten to appreciate. I see my work so differently now and feel humbled by what you achieve with a budget a fraction the size of mine! I am inspired!’

In the months that followed the relationships were built on with the business volunteers offering pieces of work to the host organisation, including in one case, becoming a trustee and developing a whole volunteering programme so that others too could have a chance to learn and contribute their skills.