Letters to Sue Ryder
Using your lunch-break to give someone else a break from COVID-19.
4 weeks, 2 day event
Creating a framework for a group of NHS staff to make an ITV
Corporate employees working from home feel disconnected from the harsh realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. Every year, the company’s UK offices hold a charities day where they hold fundraising initiatives, but this had been cancelled because of the pandemic. People had screen fatigue and didn’t want to do another virtual event.
A series of online workshops in partnership with Sue Ryder where employees hand wrote letters to a stranger in a hospice which shared a moment of positivity. 181 of these letters were then posted were delivered to 11 different hospices around the UK.
Research and development
Mazars is a global auditing firm with more than 40,000 employees in 91 countries. Most employees are auditors and accountants working long hours on a number of high profile cases. As such, the outcome had to be:
- Able to engage hundreds of employees at once
- Adjust around time-poor employees and their schedule
- Not be completely reliant on a screen
- Encourage empathy when writing to an audience with very different circumstances
- Involve a variation of the ‘Ministry of Loneliness’ event, as this was why Mazars had approached us in the first place
Our first task was to find a charity to partner with. We wanted to target somewhere with wide reach, who also needed somewhere to grow. We spent two weeks interviewing charities to understand what their needs were, and created a package of proposals for Mazars staff to decide which group they would like to write letters to.
It was important for us to include a range of charities, for grassroots local groups to those with a national reach. In the end Sue Ryder was chosen because the hospice environment and how patients and hospice staff would need a particular boost at this particular time.
There were three main groups of users to consider when designing this project:
Mazars employees – who were time poor and needing a quick activity which would also make them feel like a part of a local community.
What did we do?
We wanted to really focus on sharing moments of positivity, being mindful that the employees were writing to strangers and might not always have been aware of their individual circumstances. The aim was to dissuade We led some mindfulness exercises to ground the employees in the moment and created smaller breakout rooms to share experiences. To add a personal touch, we numbered each letter and introduced a tracking system, so that employees could see where their letter had ended up. This protected patient confidentiality while also making each person feel as though they had made a unique contribution.
Hospice residents – who had been in isolation since March 2020 and could not be around their friends and family.
What did we do?
We had to be very careful about the materials and objects we were sending to the hospices, guaranteeing that they would be free from traces of the virus. This ended up being a very difficult back and forth between Sue Ryder staff, hospice management and our design team. In the end, we created a template for the Sue Ryder staff to scan and make posters of the letters, which were then sent to each facility and printed as posters to hang up in communal spaces.
Sue Ryder Staff – who had to coordinate the sanitising, sending and distribution of the postcards entirely remotely.
What did we do?
We consulted with postage companies to create a bespoke posting service, and supplied a stamp to each employee so that they could send their letter back directly to the Sue Ryder staff without any delay. Each postcard had a QR code which allowed staff to track where the letters had been. We provided poster templates.
“A reminder that helping someone else helps me as well. Also that I have a creative side in writing that I almost never use”
“I came away with a smile and the presentors were lovely”
“The variety of work Sue Ryder do was much greater than I realised and how big of an impact something small can have”
“I enjoyed thinking about the simple things in life that bring me positivity and hopefully inspire others too through my letter”
These projects can often be very time consuming for charities, especially when we only have 1 full time staff member in the corporate partnership team and I personally only work around 1 full day a week in this department. So to have your input and the on the mend team dealing with the delivery and logistics of the project meant that the project was completed to a high standard and on time.
Sue Ryder Staff
- 100% of people said they would consider returning to another On the Mend workshop.
- 95% of people found the event very positive, and 100% found the workshop positive overall.
- 325 sign ups
- 200+ attendees
- 181 letters received
Sent to the following hospices:
Leckhampton Court Hospice, Cheltenham
Manorlands Hospice, Oxenhope
St John’s Hospice, Bedford
Thorpe Hall Hospice, Peterborough
Wheatfields Hospice, Leeds
Duchess of Kent, Reading
Palliative Care Hub, Wallingford
NCC The Chantry, Ipswich
NCC Dee View Court, Aberdeen
NCC Lancashire, Preston
NCC Stagenhoe, Hitchin
At On the Mend, we are honest about our successes and our failures. We know that we can never fix every single problem with a single interaction. Below are some of our key reflections, and things we would change if we could repeat this work:
Speak with hospice staff personally – Some hospice staff had expressed concern about receiving a bulk of letters – not just for the extra workload added but out of concern that they could be carrying the virus. We of course did not want to be the cause of any staff burden, and in the end we managed to make things work by providing a printable poster. But we should have thought to consider the staff much sooner in the process.
Order a copy of the postcards for ourselves
We made over 300 copies of the postcards to be sent to the employees, but we didn’t think to send any to ourselves. This meant it was slightly harder to lead workshops without the postcards in front of us. It also meant that we never got to see the final result of our design!
Misaki Hata – Workshop design and facilitator
Minh Huynh – Letters distribution and logistics and facilitator
Mathilda Della Torre – Letter design and facilitator
Sophia Luu – Charities outreach and project coordinator and facilitator